The education of the youngest presidents in the world

youngest presidents
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin is Finland’s youngest prime minister to date and its third female prime minister. Source: Christian Hartmann/Pool/AFP

When we picture a country’s leader, most of us always think of someone who is typically aged 50 and above and with loads of experience through years of working in politics and government. 

While this used to be accurate, in the recent decades, the tables have been turned with the rise of some of the youngest presidents in history. They hold the power of connecting generations before and after them, while also challenging the status quo.

This isn’t the case in the US. Donald Trump was sworn into the highest office in the country at 70 years old. Then, he was the oldest president ever inaugurated — until Joe Biden won the presidency at the age of 78 years old.

Narendra Modi, prime minister of the most populous nation in the world, is 72 years old. Xi Jinping, the President of the People’s Republic of China since 2013, is 70 years old.

To many of us, it seems like you have to be old to be a leader, especially a prime minister or president. We often see seasoned politicians and experienced statesmen assume the role of a president — in fact, the older, the better.

When Mahathir Mohamad returned as Malaysia’s prime minister in 2018, he was 92 years old — making him the oldest prime minister on record.

In 2023, do these veterans still have a hold on the pinnacles of power?

Who sits at the apex of political power today?

Old is gold — and that’s true to a certain extent. Researchers have found that being emotionally mature is key to success in climbing up the corporate ranks.

A third of senior executives derail or plateau at some point, according to Centre for Creative Leadership research. This is most often due to an emotional deficit such as the inability to build a team or regulate their own emotions in times of stress.

The higher up the ladder you go, the more soft leadership skills you need. Based on 55 years of coaching and teaching, researchers have seen how careers are risked when a rising star does not have emotional competencies such as patience, openness, and empathy.

You can’t learn these through books. There needs to be self-awareness and change your behaviour — a process that can take years, practice and diligence.

Mistakes must be made and learnt from. Time is also a necessary factor.

All of which goes to say that for most of us, you can’t fast-track your way to being good at interpersonal skills.

The ascent of the youngest presidents today, however, defies this.

The average age of heads of government in the 36 OECD countries has fallen from over 60 years old to around 54 years old today — but among the youngest presidents today, some are not even 30 years old.

This makes them the exception, not the norm — their meteoric rises to the pinnacles of power hint at the possession of something special.

Are they gifted in people skills? Did they go to an elite college or university? We explore these questions and more below:

10 youngest presidents in the world

youngest presidents

San Marino’s Captain Regent Giacomo Simoncini (right) presents their national statement as part of the World Leaders’ Summit of the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland on November 2, 2021. Source: Hannah McKay/Pool/AFP

1. Giacomo Simoncini

Giacomo Simoncini is at the top of the list of the world’s youngest presidents. He’s the only head of state under 30 years old, elected at just 28 years old.   

Simoncini is a Sammarinese sports executive turned politician who is now the Captain Regent of San Marino, a tiny independent state in northern Italy.

He was born and raised in Borgo Maggiore, where he graduated in pharmacy and obtained the qualification as a teacher of chemistry.

He began his political career at the young age of 18 by joining the Sammarinese Socialist Party and was elected to the executive board a year later.

youngest presidents

Sanna Marin is one of the world’s youngest presidents and prime minsters. Source: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

2. Sanna Marin

Sanna Mirella Marin was sworn in as Prime Minister of Finland in 2019. She has been a member of the Social Democratic Party in the Finnish Parliament since 2015. (SDP). She was chosen to represent the electoral district of Pirkanmaa. 

Now 37 years old, Marin made history as the country’s youngest-ever prime minister, and she is the nation’s third female prime minister.

The fact that the young PM entered politics at such a young age did not surprise the public; she became an active member of the SDP’s youth wing shortly after graduating from high school, where she made significant contributions.

Marin pursued her higher education in Finland. She studied at the University of Tampere, one of the most multidisciplinary universities in Finland. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in administrative sciences from the university.

youngest presidents

Gabriel Boric is the youngest president in Chilean history. Source: Francesco Degasperi/AFP

3. Gabriel Boric 

Gabriel Boric is a Chilean politician and academic who is currently the President of Chile. At the age of 37, Boric is the youngest president in Chilean history. 

Though only elected in 2022, Boric’s political journey began way before that. The lawmaker was an activist even as a student.

He studied law at the University of Chile, where he was the president of the student federation in 2012. 

He gained prominence as a student leader during the 2011 Chilean student protests.

During his tenure, he focused on social justice issues and advocated for education reform, indigenous rights, and environmental protection.

youngest presidents

Residents walk past newspapers showing the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il and his son Kim Jong-Un outside a convenience store in Seoul on December 20, 2011. North Korea has hailed Kim Jong-Il’s young son as a “great successor” at the helm of the isolated country after the death of the leader who built an atomic arsenal and presided over a devastating famine. Source: Sam Yeh/AFP

4. Kim Jong Un

The 39-year-old North Korean politician and supreme leader Kim Jong-Un is among the youngest presidents in the world. 

Groomed for power since birth, he was elected the president in 2011 when he was just 27 years.  Apart from being among the youngest presidents in the world, he is also among the wealthiest and most fearful presidents in the world.

Kim Jong-un rose through the ranks of North Korean leadership after his father died in 2011.

It is reported that Kim Jong Un attended the International School of Berne, an English-speaking school in Switzerland.

He studied there for several years during his childhood and teenage years, receiving education in subjects such as mathematics, English, and science.

youngest presidents

Colonel Assimi Goita speaks to the press at the Malian Ministry of Defence in Bamako, Mali, on August 19, 2020 after confirming his position as the president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP). Source: Malik Konate/AFP

5. Assimi Goita

Colonel Assimi Goïta is a Malian military officer who has been serving as interim President of Mali since May 28, 2021.

Assimi Goita, born in 1983 and is currently 39 years old, is among the youngest presidents in Africa.

Gota was previously recognised as a colonel in the Malian special forces in the country’s central region. 

He was educated in Mali’s military colleges.

Goita studied at the École Militaire Interarmes (Interarm Joint Military School) in Koulikoro, Mali. This institution is known for providing comprehensive military training to officers from various branches of the armed forces.

youngest presidents

Irakli Garibashvili has served as prime minister of Georgia twice. Source: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

6. Irakli Garibashvili

Among the youngest presidents in the world is Georgia’s prime minister Irakli Garibashvili.

Though only 41 years old, Garibashvili has served as the Prime Minister of Georgia twice. His first term as Prime Minister began in 2013 and lasted until  2015.

During his first election, he was only 31 years old and, at the time, was the world’s youngest prime minister. He was also the world’s second-youngest state leader after Kim Jong-un.

Garibashvili holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Affairs from George Washington University.

He also attended the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, located in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.

There, he completed a programme in Security Studies and received specialised training in security and defence policy.

7. Nayib Bukele

On the list of the top 10 youngest presidents in the world is Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador. He is a businessman and politician born in San Salvador, the capital and largest city of El Salvador. 

Currently, he is 41 years old and has been serving as the president for the last since June 1, 2019. At 38 years old, he was selected as the 43rd president of the country. 

Bukele, who has 4.6 million Twitter followers, is an avid social media user who fired officials via tweets after assuming office.

He pursued his higher education in both El Salvador and the US. Bukele obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree from a prestigious private university in the country,  Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (UCA).

After completing his undergraduate studies, Bukele continued his education in the US. He joined a master’s programme at Harvard Kennedy School, where he specialised in public administration.

youngest presidents

Sheikh Tamim was elected after his brother renounced the throne. Source: Karim Jaafar/AFP

8. Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

Sheikh Tamim was 33 when he took over as Emir of Qatar when his father stepped down.

His elder brother Jasim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani was originally due to inherit the throne but renounced his claim leaving the way clear.

The 43-year-old attended the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in the UK, where he received military training. He also studied at Sherborne School, a prestigious independent school in Dorset, England.

Aside from his military and academic training, Tamim has a keen interest in sports. He has participated in various sports events and received training in sports management and administration.

9. Carlos Alvarado Quesada

Costa Rica is also home to one of the world’s youngest presidents. Carlos Alvarado Quesada is the former president of Costa Rica.

In 2018, he won the presidential election at just 38 years old. In his younger years, he studied at the University of Costa Rica, where he gained a bachelor’s degree in communication sciences. 

Before being elected president, he pursued a master’s degree in development studies at the University of Sussex.

He has completed programmes in political science and sociology at the University of Costa Rica as well as earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University.

youngest presidents

Emmanuel Macron was a banker who served as the minister of economics before becoming the president of France. Source: Ludovic Marin/AFP

10. Emmanuel Macron

On the list of the youngest presidents in the world is Emmanuel Macron, the president of France since 2017.

In 2022, when he was re-elected, it made him the youngest head of state since Napoleon I.

Macron pursued his higher education at several institutions in France and abroad. The 45-year-old first attended the Lycée Henri-IV, a prestigious public high school in Paris, France. 

After completing his secondary education, Macron continued his studies at the University of Paris Nanterre, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

He then studied at Sciences Po (Institute of Political Studies) in Paris, where he earned a master’s degree in public affairs.