11 year-old Nigerian girl among list of top 100 most influential Africans

Young, Gifted & Black Series

By Taki S. Raton

Zuriel Oduwoli

Zuriel Oduwole

Our YG&B feature this week was headlined in the August 2013 edition of Forbes Africa, thereby being at the age of 10 the youngest person ever to be interviewed by Forbes.

She is young, gifted and Black. Zuriel Elise Oduwole has been touted in the August 6, 2013 post of Naij as the next Larry King or even an up and coming future Oprah Winfrey.

In the December 1, 2013 posting of Naij, young Zuriel “has dominated the list of top most influential people in Africa.”

Sponsored by New African Magazine, this listing, according to a published descriptor, is chosen by their respective “impact on public, social and political discourse.”

Strongly culturally identified as the “NewAfrican 100,” the descriptor adds:

“Over the next few pages, you will find a breadth and wealth of Africans of all nationalities and ages, both women and men, whose actions and reach, we have determined, significantly impacted and realigned the continents’ landscape in their fields of endeavor.

They contributed in redefining the African narrative in 2013 and we feel they will pay a big role in 2014 for Africa’s good.”

The contributions of Zuriel Oduwole most impressively justifies her listing among today’s notable African greats.

Described in published accounts as demonstrating “amazing media and communication talents” in the area of in-depth personality interviewing, a Pan-Atlantic School of Media and Communication press release on one of her many presentation invitationals cites that as of November 2012, Zuriel has “become the youngest global international media representative ever on record.”

She has stood toe-to-toe with seasoned correspondents from CNN, Reuters, Super Sports, CNBC, the UK Guardian, South African and local media houses.

Her international repertoire of interviewee listing include Fris Back, Minister of Economic Development of Denmark, Civil Rights Leader Jesse Jackson, CNN 2008 Hero Award Winner and CNN 2008 Hero Award winner Marie da Silva.

Zuriel has additionally sat down in a one-on-one interview with Aliko Dangote, one of Africa’s most successful and wealthiest businessman.

Her invitation to the African Union 50th Anniversary celebration in Ethiopia allowed her the opportunity to schedule an interview with the world class tennis duo of Venus and Serena Williams when they gave their world press conference in Nigeria.

As noted in the August 6, 2013 Naija Carry Go, Zuriel received a standing ovation for her “provocative and creatively intelligent” questions to the Williams sisters.

The year 2013 marks the 50th anniversary celebration of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

In 1963, OAU was founded by African leaders of the independent republics of Liberia, Ghana, and Guinea to work towards decolonization.

A goal of OAU as noted in a web account is “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”.

Consequently, the Heads of State declared the year 2013 the Year of Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.

Our multi-talented teen is also committed to this vision.

She has produced to her credit two historical documentaries enhancing this discussion, “Educating and Healing Africa Out of Poverty – The 1963 OAU Story” released in 2013 and “The Ghana Revolution” in 2012.

Her personal profile is themed with her presentation mantra – “Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up,” her interview listing continues with Ghanaian Presidents Jerry John Rawlings and John Kufour, Malawi President Joyce Banda, Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, Mauritius President Rajkeswur Purryag, Kenya President Uhuru Kenyatta, Nigerian President Goodluck Johnathan, South Sudan President Salva Kirr Mayardit, and Jamaica President Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

Zuriel – which is Hebrew for “God is My Rock – was born and raised in the United States of a Nigerian father and an American-Jewish mother.

She has visited China where she learned to speak and write Mandarin and she can also speak the African languages of Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo.

Citing again her personal profile, she describes herself as a now 11 year-old American girl of Nigerian and Mauritian descent who is currently in the 8th grade.

In her own words, she says that she is “working hard to do my school projects, play in my basketball league, and still do what I enjoy a lot – like my extracurricular activities of interviewing leaders and inspiring girls around the world to dream bigger.”

She further submits in her stated profile that her vision and mission is that, “As a girl, I am concerned that not every girl has a right to get an education or a chance to accomplish her dreams like me.”

She adds that her vision, “is to see that this changes one day and my mission is to use my ‘Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up’ program to inspire girls to accomplish this mission.”

The March 26, 2013 posting of “The Sun” reveals that our middle school Oprah becoming participates in a modified version of homeschool which allows her to interface with traditional schooling.

Under this arrangement, she is listed with a school in California and has teachers who review her progress and scores her assignments, most of which are online.

“I love this arrangement because it allows me to travel all over the world with my parents to experience different cultures,” she says to a room of Master’s degree students at the Pan-African University in Lagos, Nigeria.

Further boasting of her academic independence, she asserts that, “what a regular schoolgirl can do, a home-schooled girl can do better.”

Additional to her Lagos invite, even at the age of 10 she has presented her “Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up” delivery to audiences throughout the world making the case for what she labels, “Educating the Girl Child in Africa and in Emerging Markets.”

She just recently spoke in January, 2014 at the Wooton Community Center in Mauritius.

Presentations from March 2013 through December 2013 has scheduled her travels to Lagos, Nigeria; Malawi; Tanzania; Lagos, Nigeria and Abeokuta, Nigeria.

In honor of her achievements, Ethiopia Airlines last year named Zuriel their Global Ambassador.

Yesha Callahan in a November 30, 2013 Clutch writing notes that Ethiopian Airlines would be her official carrier to many speaking engagements and projects across three continents to include Africa and South America where she is continuously meeting with world leaders as an advocate for educating young girls.

Zuriel also has a profound love for her fatherland, Africa.

This cultural blood-tie is seen in her initiative which she calls in her presentations, “Rebranding Africa.”

“The purpose of ‘Rebranding Africa’ is to show the world that there are many good things about the continent than the negative things you often hear about in the news,” she says in her personal profile.

She adds that, “When I visit Africa, I see the nice things just like they have in Europe and in America. I like to show the nice malls, movie theaters, cool neighborhoods and schools.

But more importantly, I like to show in my interviews the business and political leaders from Africa.”

She urges those who have not visited Africa to “visit soon, and see what I see.”

She loves playing basketball, soccer, swimming, volleyball and takes to reading National Geographic Kids Magazines, romance, adventure, and spy novels.

She shares that, I have started to write my own book which I hope to publish next year.”

Our gifted 8th grader additionally like dogs, horses and “basically all animals” and is looking to venture with an African safari when time permits.

“I like to be in the wild and discover new things about nature.”

Zuriel is also looking to do a documentary on her family.

While clad in a pair of light blue trousers and a jacket to match, Zuriel in her described “tiny girlish” voice says to her Pan-African listeners in summation remarks before showing the OAU documentary that you can’t just speak up, you have to also stand up:

“So, what is ‘Standing Up’? Well, the most important thing about standing up is you’ve got to stand, stand, and stand again if you have to.”

She adds in closing that, “we should dream, dream up and dream big.

In speaking up, we should not just speak, we should also take action. There is a saying that action speaks louder than words.

And, in standing, you should stand, stand, and stand again until your dreams becomes a reality.”

Her message to young girls, particularly in Africa and as again reflected in her mantra, “Dream Up, Speak Up, Stand Up” is when they see that “she can walk a mile, then there are girls who upon seeing her walk and the progress made, would walk a mile-and-a-half.”