The National Geographic Society recently announced its latest cohort of Explorers and the recipients of the 2023 Wayfinder Awards. Several African Explorers are among those recognized, including Capetonian and Nature, Environment, and Wildlife Filmmakers (NEWF) Fellow, supported by National Geographic’s Africa Refocused programme, Shamier Magmoet, who received a Wayfinder Award, while Malagasy biodiversity conservationist Lily-Arison Rene de Roland received a National Geographic Society Buffett Award.
Wayfinder Award recipients are individuals who have proven themselves to be the next generation of influential leaders, communicators, and innovators whose critical work inspires us to learn about, care for, and protect the wonder of our world. Their ground-breaking work covers a vast array of impact-driven projects including connecting youth to the ocean, using innovative technology to track insects across landscapes, investigating critical environmental stories, and developing equitable conservation solutions for poor communities.
The National Geographic/Buffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation were established in partnership with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to recognize and celebrate unsung conservation heroes. Two awards are presented each year: one for achievement in Africa and the other for achievement in Latin America. These outstanding individuals have demonstrated leadership in managing and protecting the natural resources in their regions and countries, and are inspirational conservation advocates who serve as role models and mentors.
Meet these audacious African Explorers:
Manu Akatsa (Wayfinder award)
Manu Akatsa is a Kenyan documentary filmmaker, NEWF Fellow, cinematographer and animator who captures the beauty and complexity of the world around us, while also highlighting the importance of preserving our planet’s rich natural and cultural heritage. Akatsa continues to push the boundaries of storytelling with indigenous communities through innovative technologies and interactive experiences.
Aliaa Ismail (Wayfinder award)
Aliaa Ismail is an Egyptian Egyptologist who strives to employ creative ways for the understanding and preservation of Egyptian Heritage as a way of strengthening her connection to her own ancestry. Ismail strives to create community awareness and build stronger ties between the Egyptian community and their surrounding heritage.
Shamier Magmoet (Wayfinder award)
Shamier Magmoet is a South African freediver, NEWF Fellow, conservationist and filmmaker who enables and educates youth to experience the ocean and become advocates and protectors of the ocean. As a pioneering underwater filmmaker of color in Cape Town, Shamier has forged a path to make the ocean space more accessible to people from historically disadvantaged communities and connecting youth with mentors to learn and share their work.
Goabaone Jaqueline Ramatlapeng (Wayfinder award)
Goabaone Jaqueline Ramatlapeng is a Motswana geoscientist who is investigating the processes controlling the water chemistry of the Okavango Delta in semi-arid Botswana. She is also the founder of a writing platform where she provides research, academic, and professional development support to African university students and professionals in STEM.
Lily-Arison Rene de Roland (Buffett award)
A Malagasy biodiversity conservationist, Lily-Arison Rene de Roland has been studying Madagascar’s imperilled raptors since joining The Peregrine Fund’s Madagascar Program in 1992, and later becoming the National Director of the program in 2004. He has helped discover and rediscover several species including an endemic duck thought to be extinct and two undescribed lemur species, as well as having contributed to the establishment of five national protected areas and revolutionizing conservation in Madagascar with the development of a community-based model addressing drivers of human-wildlife conflicts. His work has preserved some of the best remaining natural habitats in Madagascar and continues to pave the way for the future of conservation and preserving biological diversity in Madagascar while inspiring his community.
Additionally, a few dynamic young Africans feature in the inspirational changemakers that have been named 2023 Young Explorers by National Geographic. Young Explorers are selected for their exceptional courage, leadership, and impact-driven solutions. Ranging between the ages of 18 and 25, this diverse cohort represents 13 countries with each changemaker engaged in solution-focused ideas including scientific innovation, conservation, education, civic engagement, storytelling and more — all in an effort to break boundaries and overcome challenges within their communities.
These Young Explorers represent the full breadth of the Society’s key focus areas; with work that touches upon ocean, land, wildlife, human ingenuity, and human histories and cultures. Young Explorers are nominated and later selected by the National Geographic Society through a competitive, multi-tiered application process. In addition to their funding, Young Explorers receive skill building, leadership development training, and networking opportunities to connect and collaborate with their peers.
The 2023 National Geographic Young Explorers include:
- Aiita Joshua Apamaku, 25, of Uganda, a wildlife biologist and digital content creator who founded the storytelling and science telling hub NatureWILD.
- Betty Jahateh, 25, of The Gambia, an environmental biologist, ocean youth leader and consultant who initiated research on saltwater intrusion in The Gambia.
- James Rooney Dukundane, 24, of Rwanda, a filmmaker, editor, director, and photographer who uses his skills to help nonprofit organizations deliver important advocacy messages.
- Sharona Shnayder, 23, of Nigeria and Israel, a climate justice activist who founded the now global grassroots initiative Tuesdays for Trash.
- Tabe Njume, 24, of Cameroon, a sustainability advocate who founded and leads Greensphere Cameroon, an initiative to conserve mangrove forests by providing waste-based alternatives to fuelwood and charcoal.
To learn more about the work of the National Geographic Society, visit: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/society/ or for regular updates regarding the African Eexplorers, follow the National Geographic Africa social media feeds (Nat Geo Africa).