Chibale grew up in a home with no electricity or running water and shared a single bed in a tiny room with his brother.
He now heads Africa’s first integrated drug discovery centre, his H3D Centre at UCT pioneers world-class drug discoveries in Africa, and he has also become known for his pivotal work on malaria.
Chibale said his inclusion on the list was “unexpected and overwhelming. I am so grateful to God for this recognition”.
H3D mainly works in the fields of tuberculosis and malaria and already has a potential drug for malaria in human trials.
Chibale said he hoped H3D would contribute to a global pipeline of new medicines for malaria and tuberculosis able to circumvent drug resistance.
He said he was inspired by confronting Afro-pessimism and debunking the myth that Africa could not be a source of health innovation.
“We need to demonstrate that Africa has more to offer than the mere opportunity for human clinical trials. Africa has largely been a recipient of Western research.
“It is time for Africa to also contribute research so people from other continents can also benefit. The challenges we are trying to address in Africa are not just African challenges but human challenges. In this way Africa can earn respect,” he said.
Chibale said he was particularly honoured to be included on the Fortune list with Bill and Melinda Gates, who have co-founded the Gates Foundation and committed resources to fighting malaria, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.
“Not only are Bill and Melinda immense contributors to the recognition I have received through the support of our H3D work from their foundation, they are both inspirational and exemplary role models of leaders who serve others.
“Although I have no right to tell African billionaires and millionaires how they should use their money, I would like them to consider following the example set by Bill and Melinda by investing in scientific research in Africa.”
With World Malaria Day commemorated on Wednesday, Chibale said it was imperative to work towards combating malaria.
Fortune magazine selected Chibale for his pioneering work in developing infrastructure to support scientific research.
Fortune magazine said its list looked at all sectors of society to find leaders “who are using their power and influence to make the world a better place”.
Chibale will be sharing the honour with the likes of the presidents of France (Emmanuel Macron) and South Korea (Moon Jae-in), tennis ace Serena Williams and Apple chief executive Tim Cook.