A panel of FT reporters finalised the list of individuals across politics, economics, business and technology and culture, media, science and sport.
FT described the list as: “The game-changing politicians, influential businesspeople, record-breaking sports stars and brave activists…”
Abiy was listed under politics along with others like Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey President) Donald Trump (US president), Xi Jingping (Chinese president), Barack Obama (Ex US president) and Angela Merkel (German Chancellor).
Abiy’s mixed 2018
Abiy has been in the news arena very prominently since April 2018. It took only months for him to be branded a reformist Prime Minister back home in Ethiopia.
Abiy on assumption of office ordered the mass release of dissidents held in the country’s notorious jail facilities. Most of the beneficiaries were political opponents and journalists.
He went on to open the country’s political and democratic space by extending an olive branch to political actors and opening the hitherto restricted media space. A number of websites were unblocked and critical media allowed to operate.
Then across the border his peace offer to Eritrea in July 2018 thrust the Horn of Africa into the media spotlight. Abiy will go ahead to try to build a strong region by attempting mediation in some crises across Ethiopia’s borders.
The deal with Eritrea and reforms at home resulted in him being named the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate – the 100th in the award’s history. In his Nobel lecture, Abiy said he received the award on behalf of the two countries.
The Nobel Committee expressed concerns that the peace process had stalled echoing concerns by some experts in the region. But Abiy said the deal was irreversible referring to it as “iron-clad” and to Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki as a “comrade-in-peace.”
What FT said about the list
The second decade of the 21st century began with austerity measures to deal with the downturn caused by the global financial crisis and ended with populist governments and illiberal regimes throughout the world.
The FT’s 50 People of the Decade reflects these developments, with game-changing politicians and influential executives from banking and industry. The explosion in and dominance of computers and smartphones in every aspect of our lives is evident in the number of technology figures.
And in a decade where individuals showed themselves to be capable of wrenching power from long-established institutions, those who have made advancements in science, broke new sporting records, protested bravely against persecution and called out institutional harassment could not be overlooked.