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100 Most Influential Africans of 2021

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100 Most Influential Africans

100 Most Influential Africans of 2021

100 Most Influential Africans of 2021 includes two women who come from Eritrea: Dr. Asmeret Asefaw, Director of the Office of Science at the U.S. Department of Energy and Dr. Aida Habtezion, Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to these highly accomplished Eritrean women!

Eritrea: Editorial SATURDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2021 Minister of Information

Asmeret Asefaw Berhe

Biden’s pick to head US Science OfficeChangemakers

Born in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, Asmeret Asefaw Berhe’s childhood helped to mould her future professional career.

With an insatiable appetite for books, she was nicknamed ‘The Professor’ as a child.She managed to continue her education despite growing up during Eritrea’s long secession war from Ethiopia – a conflict that forced her to change schools and her father to flee the country.

After a degree in soil science at the University of Asmara, she took a Master’s in political ecology at Michigan State University in the US, drawing on her experience of war to investigate how landmines cause soil degradation.

This was followed by a PhD at the University of California, Berkeley, where her research found that erosion actually helps soil to store more carbon.Almost all attention on tackling climate change is focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions but the planet’s ability to absorb carbon in particular also plays a huge role.Indeed, the earth’s soils trap more carbon than all the rainforests put together.

Berhe’s research has focused on how soil helps regulate climate.She is currently a Professor of soil biogeochemistry and the Falasco Chair of Earth Sciences in the Life & Environmental Sciences Department at the University of California Merced.

She is a member of the leadership board of the Earth Science Women’s Network and serves as an advisory board member of 500 Women Scientists, an organisation that seeks to make science open to all.She really attracted public attention, however, with President Joe Biden’s decision to nominate her as the next Director of the Office of Science at the US Department of Energy.

Aida Habtezion

Making Pfizer vaccines safe for useChangemakers

At a time when many were just keen to hang on to their jobs, Aida Habtezion decided upon a career shift in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, taking time out from academia to become Chief Medical Officer at Pfizer, the developer of one of the main Covid vaccines.“I felt it was a chance to make an impact on the health of millions of lives around the world, at a time when it’s never been needed more,” she said.

The move also involves heading up Pfizer’s Worldwide Medical & Safety organisation, a group of about 2,400 people who are responsible for ensuring that doctors, patients and regulators all have sufficient information on the safe and appropriate use of Pfizer medications.She fled the war in Eritrea with her brother, claiming refuge in Europe before migrating to Canada, where she completed most of her university education, studying for a BSc in Chemistry at the University of Alberta and an MSc in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Guelph.

This was followed by a medical degree at McMaster University and – after completing her medical residency – she undertook postdoctoral research training in immunology at Stanford University in the US.

She remains a tenured Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University, where her research has focused on gastroenterology and immunology. Her work includes leading a lab focused on identifying potential immune-based therapeutic targets for pancreatitis and inflammatory bowel disease.

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