11 African Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

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Since the inception of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, there have been 11 Nobel Laureates from Africa selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The Nobel peace prize is one of the five annual international awards bestowed in a number of categories in recognition of academic, cultural and o

11 African Nobel Peace Prize Laureates

The Nobel Prize is an annual, international prize first awarded in 1901 for achievements in Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature, and Peace. An associated prize in Economics has been awarded since 1969. As of 2019 Nobel Prizes had been awarded to 916 individuals, of whom 16 were Black recipients.

Black people have received awards in three of six award categories: twelve in Peace, three in Literature, and one in Economics. The first Black recipient, American Ralph Bunche, was awarded the Peace Prize in 1950. The most recent, Abiy Ahmed, was awarded his Peace Prize in 2019.


Since the inception of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, there have been 11 Nobel Laureates from Africa selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. The Nobel peace prize is one of the five annual international awards bestowed in a number of categories in recognition of academic, cultural and or scientific advances.

The Nobel Laureates include the following Africans:

Albert Luthuli, South Africa, 1960

Photo Credit: https://www.sahistory.org.za

Albert Luthuli was the first African and the first person from outside Europe and the Americas to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Luthuli was awarded the prestigious award in 1960 for his role in championing for non-violent resistance to racial discrimination in South Africa. The Nobel Committee describes Luthuli as ‘A man of noble bearing, charitable, intolerant of hatred, and adamant in his demands for equality and peace among all men.” Luthuli was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence, he became the spokesman for a campaign of civil disobedience directed against South Africa’s policy of racial segregation, and spearheaded several demonstrations and strikes against the white minority government.

He was born in 1898 and was elected president of the African National Congress (ANC) in 1952. During his acceptance speech, Luthuli noted that the award was a recognition of sacrifice made by many of all races, particularly the African people, who had endured and suffered for long.

Luthuli died at the age of 69, in 1967 after a fatal accident near his home in Stanger, now known as KwaDukuza in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Anwar al-Sadat,  Egypt 1978

Photo Credit: Encyclopedia Britannica

Anwar al-Sadat President of Egypt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with Menachem Begin, Prime Minister of Israel. The two were awarded in 1978 for their contribution to the two frame agreements on peace in the Middle East and on peace between Egypt and Israel, which were signed at Camp David, USA in September 17, 1978.

Born on 25th December 1918, Anwar al-Sadat was Egypt’s third President from 15th October 1970. During his presidency, he changed the political and economic landscape of Egypt. One of his notable change was his efforts towards building comprehensive peace agreement with Israel and return of Sinai to Egypt which Israel had occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967. In November 1977, Sadat became the first Arab leader to visit Israel officially when he met with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and spoke before the assembly in Jerusalem about his views on how to achieve a comprehensive peace to the Arab–Israeli conflict, which included the full implementation of UN Resolutions that sought the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.

Sadat was assassinated 1981.

Desmond Tutu, South Africa 1984

Photo Credit: Kristen-Opalinski-Wikicommons

Desmond Tutu is a world-renowned preacher, human rights activist and a strident voice against apartheid. The retired Anglican Bishop won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in resolving and ending apartheid in South Africa. The Nobel Committee saluted him for his clear views and his fearless stance, characteristics which had made him a unifying symbol for all African freedom fighters. Known as the voice of the voiceless Black South Africans he was an outspoken critic of apartheid. Tutu supported the economic boycott of South Africa, while constantly encouraging reconciliation between various factions associated with apartheid.

He was born in 1931 in Klerksdorp, Transvaal, South Africa, he went on to become the first Black Anglican Archbishop of both Cape Town and Johannesburg.

He has travelled extensively, championing human rights and the equality of all people, both within South Africa and internationally. He has also focused on drawing awareness to issues such as poverty, AIDS and non-democratic governments in the Third World.

Nelson Mandela, South Africa 1993

Getty Images: Chris Jackson

Nelson Mandela, one of the most celebrated human rights symbols of the twentieth century, is a man whose dedication to the liberties of his people inspires human rights advocates throughout the world. Born in 1918, Mandela was elected was elected leader of the youth wing of the ANC (African National Congress) liberation movement in early 1950’s. When the country’s white minority government prohibited the ANC in 1960, Mandela became convinced that armed struggle was inevitable. Inspired by the guerrilla wars in Algeria and Cuba, he organised a military underground movement that engaged in sabotage. In 1962 he was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment for high treason and conspiracy against the state. From 1964 to 1982 he was confined to the notorious prison island Robben Island, together with several other resistance leaders. He was then moved to a prison on the mainland until his release in 1990. After the release, Mandela intensified his battle against oppression.

He was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 jointly with the then President Frederik Willem de Klerk for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa. Mandela became South Africa’s democratically elected president in 1994 an office he held until 1999 when he retired.

Frederik Willem de Klerk, South Africa, 1993

Photo Credit: World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates

FW de Klerk was South Africa’s President during apartheid. After assuming office in 1989, he called for a non-racist South Africa and announced his policy of reform, he hoped to create a suitable climate for negotiations which would end apartheid and bring about a new constitutional dispensation for South Africa, based on the principle of one person, one vote. He then lifted the ban on the ANC and released Nelson Mandela. After the release of Mandela, negotiations together with other party leaders were held for the peaceful end of apartheid and transition to democratic rule. He was awarded The Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 together with Nelson Mandela for their efforts to bring reforms in South Africa.

FW de Klerk was born in 1936 in Johannesburg to senator Jan de Klerk, a leading politician who became a minister in the South African government.

Kofi Annan, Ghana, 2001

Photo Credit: Financial Times

In 2001 Ghana’s Kofi Annan the then UN Secretary was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the United Nations for their work for a better organised and more peaceful world. Kofi Annan was born in Ghana in 1938. He served as the as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. He received the Peace Prize for having revitalised the UN and for having given priority to human rights. The Nobel Committee also recognised his commitment to the struggle to contain the spreading of the HIV virus in Africa and his declared opposition to international terrorism.

Wangari Maathai, Kenya, 2004

Photo Credit: Real Leaders

Wangari Maathai environmentalist and founder of the Green Belt Movement received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. The Nobel committee acknowledged her efforts in standing up courageously against the former oppressive regime in Kenya. Her unique forms of action contributed to drawing attention to political oppression – nationally and internationally. They termed her as an inspiration for many in the fight for democratic rights and especially an encouragement to women. Born in 1940, Wangari Maathai was the first woman from Africa to be honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mohamed ElBaradei, Egypt, 2005

Photo Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) received the Nobel Peace Prize jointly with the UN’s nuclear watchdog IAEA for their efforts for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way. The Nobel committee noted that ElBaradei had done much in strengthening the IAEA as an organisation and the increasing accession to the nuclear non-proliferation regime. Mohamed ElBaradei was born in Cairo in 1942. Before becoming head of the IAEA he had worked for a number of years as an Egyptian diplomat and in the United Nations.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia, 2011

Photo Credit: Reuters

Liberia’s President was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 alongside peace activist Lymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. Sirleaf was elected as Liberia’s president in 2005 just two years after the bloody civil wars that ravaged the country for more than a decade had just ended. As the first female head of state ever to be democratically elected in Africa, she has worked to promote peace, reconciliation and social and economic development.

Lymah Gbowee, Liberia, 2011

Photo Credit: Columbia University

Lymah Gbowee, is a women’s rights champion and she received the Nobel Prize jointly with her president alongside Tawakkol Karman from Yemen. During the civil war that ravaged Liberia, Gbowee called together called together women from different ethnic and religious groups in the fight for peace. Dressed in white T-shirts they held daily demonstrations at the fish market in Monrovia. After having collected money she led a delegation of Liberian women to Ghana to put pressure on the warring factions during the peace-talk process. This played a decisive role in ending the war. Gbowee also worked to help those who suffered psychological trauma during the civil war in Liberia, including child soldiers.

National Dialogue Quartet, Tunisia, 2015

Photo Credit: EPA/HO

The National Dialogue Quartet is a group of four organisations that were central in the attempts to build a plurality democracy in the wake of a revolution in Tunisia in 2011. The quartet is made up of; the Tunisian General Labor Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. The group succeeded in creating a peaceful dialogue. Through a mediating role, the quartet allowed political and religious divides to be bridged, and a democratic development followed. They were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011.


Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed, 2019

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed‘s awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize has been ushered in by praise for his efforts in ending two decades of hostility with neighbouring Eritrea and initiating broad domestic changes – but also calls to tackle outstanding challenges and further enhance reforms.

Bestowing the award on Friday, Chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen said Abiy had “reached out his hand” to formalise a peace process with Eritrea and given many Ethiopians a “better life and brighter future”.


Africa’s youngest leader, the 43-year-old sparked an historic rapprochement with Eritrea soon after coming to power in April last year, restoring ties that had been frozen since a 1998-2000 border war. He also helped mediate a maritime territory dispute between Kenya and Somalia and has been a key part of efforts to bring together the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan for talks.

Domestically, the prime minister has introduced a series of sweeping political and economic adjustments, including granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship and dismissing several high-profile figures suspected to be guilty of corruption.

Reflecting on Abiy’s efforts, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said peace efforts between Ethiopia and Eritrea had inspired hopes of regional “security and stability” and that the prime minister’s leadership had “set a wonderful example for others in and beyond Africa looking to overcome resistance from the past and put people first”.

‘Great pride’

As further praise poured in – African Union (AU) chief Moussa Faki described Abiy’s award as a source of “great pride” – the prime minister’s office released a statement describing the recognition as “a collective win for Ethiopians, and a call to strengthen our resolve in making Ethiopia … a prosperous nation for all”.


Complete List of black Nobel laureates

One Black person has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics.

1979 W. Arthur Lewis Saint LuciaFirst and (so far) only black person to win a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences; first West Indian to win a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences


Three Black people have been given the Nobel Prize in Literature.

1986Soyinka, Wole (1934).jpgWole Soyinka NigeriaFirst Black person to win the Nobel Prize for Literature
1992Derek Walcott.jpgDerek Walcott[5] Saint Lucia 
1993Toni Morrison 2008-2.jpgToni Morrison United StatesFirst Black woman to win a Nobel Prize


12 Black people have been given the Nobel Peace Prize.

1950Ralph Bunche - 1963 March on Washington.jpgRalph Bunche United StatesFirst Black person to win a Nobel Prize
1960Albert Lutuli nobel.jpgAlbert John Luthuli South AfricaFirst Black African to win a Nobel Prize
1964Martin Luther King Jr NYWTS.jpgMartin Luther King Jr. United StatesYoungest African American to win a Nobel Prize
1984Archbishop-Tutu-medium.jpgDesmond Tutu South Africa 
1993Nelson Mandela.jpgNelson Mandela South Africa 
2001Kofi Annan.jpgKofi Annan Ghana 
2004Wangari Maathai portrait by Martin Rowe.jpgWangari Maathai KenyaFirst environmentalist to win the Nobel Peace Prize
2009Official portrait of Barack Obama.jpgBarack Obama United States 
2011    Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, April 2010.jpgEllen Johnson Sirleaf Liberia 
2011Leymah-gbowee-at-emu-press-conference.jpgLeymah Gbowee Liberia 
2018Denis Mukwege par Claude Truong-Ngoc novembre 2014.jpgDenis Mukwege Democratic Republic of the Congo 
2019Abiy Ahmed during state visit of Reuven Rivlin to Ethiopia, May 2018.jpgAbiy Ahmed Ethiopia

Sources: Wikipedia, africa.com, Aljazeera