>No Mamo Wolde? No Filbert Bayi? No Ben Jipcho?
Bayi never ranked #1 in the world. I'd have to guess he's on the short list for greatest athlete who never got that top spot. Besides, this is a really tough group to crack.
My ranking for greatest African distance runners:
1)Bikila -- greatest marathoner ever, hands down
2)Gebrselassie -- might be best ever 10k man (but Zatopek gives him a run for it)
3)Aouita -- probably the best 5k man ever, not to mention 1500, 800, 10k
4)Morceli -- my pick for best miler ever, as he's superior to El G in win streak, # of WRs set, and record in championship races
5)Keino -- never dominant but consistently at the top for 8 years straight
7)Moses Kiptanui -- probably the best steeplechaser ever
8)Miruts Yifter -- undefeated at 10k
9)Derartu Tulu -- best African woman yet
10)Henry Rono -- possiby the best year ever in distance running, but not much else
Special Mention -- Alain Mimoun, who was born in Algeria but retired before independence (1962). He was runner-up to Zatopek in 5 championship races and finally won when he moved up to the marathon in 1956.
As far as social implications go, Bikila and Keino made running wildly popular in their nations, while Hassiba Boulmerka is credited with stopping (or at least slowing down) an Islamist revolution.