Each year the World Economic Forum selects the most enterprising, innovative, socially minded, and exceptional leaders under the age of 40.

Looking across the young leaders assembled for the Class of 2016 gives optimism that the next generation of influential leaders have arrived and are ready to tackle a world rife with complex, inter-dependent global challenges.

As global industry, government and civil society evolve to confront a world defined by the Fourth Industrial Revolution, these new members of the Young Global Leaders (YGL) include scientists opening up their data to the world, a member of parliament fighting for gender equality in Afghanistan, an entrepreneur who is redefining nuclear energy production with circular economy models, pioneers from the sharing economy, and an actor who gives a damn and puts his money behind it.

Current and former YGLs head governments and Fortune 500 companies, have won Olympic medals, Academy Awards, and overcome barriers to positively change the world we live in. Together they achieve the impossible – none more vividly than recent YGL alum, Mina Guli, founder of the water conservation charity Thirst, who undertook a harrowing journey running 40 marathons across seven deserts on seven continents to raise awareness for one of the world’s top threats - water shortages.

Selected into a five year programme, this year’s class of 121 YGLs is split evenly between business and not-for-profit sectors, the latter including science and technology, academia, arts and culture, civil society, policy and government, media and social entrepreneurs.

Women represent a majority in this year’s class, and with over half the intake coming from emerging economies, the world’s future leadership is becoming more broad-based in terms of both gender and geography. Alongside 28 selected from North America and 26 from Europe, the YGL class of 2016 includes 15 YGLs from East Asia, 10 from South Asia, 10 from Greater China, 10 from Sub-Saharan Africa, 12 from the Middle East and North Africa, eight from Latin America, and four from Eurasia.

From a Ghanaian tech entrepreneur to Bangladesh’s youngest MP

The Class of 2016 features Farida Bedwei, co-founder of Logiciel and one of the top software engineers in Ghana. She is considered to be one of the most powerful women in financial technology in Africa. Born with cerebral palsy, she helps change the lives of disabled people and women living in the continent.

From the world of academia the class also includes, Roland G. Fryer, a Harvard economics professor and director of its Education Innovation Laboratory, who rose from working at a McDonald's drive-through to becoming a nationally respected authority on education, race, and inequality in America. The youngest African-American to receive tenure at Harvard – aged just 30 - Roland's research focuses on designing more effective policies in the areas of education reform and combatting police violence.

From the public sector, we are humbled to select Zunaid Ahmed Palak, the youngest MP in Bangladesh and current cabinet member as Minister of State for Posts, Telecommunications and IT; Melanie Joly, a former lawyer and businesswoman who is now Minister for Canadian Heritage in Canada’s new government; as well as Emmanuel Macron, the former banker and current Minister of the Economy, Industry and Digital Affairs of France who is leading the government’s business-friendly reform push.

Representing the private sector, the class includes Hassina Syed, founder and CEO of Afghanistan’s Syed Group and the not-for-profit entity, the Afghan National Women’s Organization. She is the only female member of the 3,000-strong Afghan Chamber of Commerce and her business reports a turnover of $3.1m and employs 650 people, despite threats made against her and time spent in a crowded Kabul jail for failing to pay protection money to the police. Additionally, we have selected Chih-Han Yu, a world class researcher in Artificial Intelligence as well as CEO and co-founder of Appier, one of Taiwan’s most promising start-ups. His innovations include a "brain" for self-driving cars, a robotic dog, and transformer robots.

The class of 2016 also comprises a number of individuals who work to protect the rights of others less well off than themselves, such as Amira Yahyaoui, a Founder and President of Al Baswala, a highly respected NGO and government watchdog promoting human rights, transparency and good governance from Tunisia's democratically elected civilian leaders; and Christopher Ategeka, a Ugandan social entrepreneur who supported his family by starting a neighbourhood waste collection service and later started Rides for Lives, a non-profit that builds mobile health units equipped with a doctor, lab and pharmacy. To date, it has served over 500,000 people.

These young leaders have reached impressive heights and as they join the YGL Community I am confident that collectively they can accomplish feats that would be unthinkable individually. It gives me great hope as we beging our collaboration with this group of Young Global Leaders and I look forward to witnessing their united impact on the world.