Editorial: Young guns who offer us hope

South Africa is on a knife’s edge a lot of the time. Tshwane burns, in the grip of pre-election violence. Our economic outlook is bleak and the prospect of various environmental crises is frightening.

Which is why the Mail & Guardian’s annual list of 200 Young South Africans, published in this edition, is so important. It has been 40 years since the youth of Soweto started asking some hard questions – and many paid for it with their lives. Today, once more, it is young people who are pushing us into confrontations with issues that are complex and difficult, and their way of doing it is ultimately far more honest than what we have become used to. And with that honesty comes innovations, solutions and, crucially, hope.

The 11th edition of 200 Young South Africans continues to show the wellspring of talent South Africa has to offer.

We’ve sought out exceptional and interesting young people from every corner of this country, in every field. South Africa offers examples of emerging excellence in the arts, the media, business, science, technology and research. Individuals in almost every arena are striving to improve the lives of others. Activists are pushing for change in how we deal with the environment, education and healthcare.

In compiling our annual list, the M&G opens nominations to the public. We received more than 1 200 nominations this year. Choosing the finalists is a rigorous process, drawing on the knowledge of experts within the M&G and without to help us to find those who truly stand out.

We avoid repeats from year to year – but we’d also encourage readers to explore our previous annual lists of 200 Young South Africans, available online, and see how well we’ve called the names of the country’s future makers and drivers.

Ten of the 11 categories feature young people aged between 18 and 35, but many of our best and brightest are still at school. For the second year now, we have a special category in 200 Young South Africans for them – the Rising Stars. Keep an eye on them, too.

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