The Mandela Initiative is a multi-sector platform to investigate and develop strategies to overcome poverty and inequality.


The Initiative is a university-led national endeavour in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Through research, workshops and public dialogue with a diverse range of stakeholders (from academia, government, civil society, churches, business and unions) it investigates key strategies to overcome South Africa’s development challenges. The Initiative was established with the encouragement of (then) Minister Trevor Manuel – while he was chairperson of the National Planning Commission – in recognition of the analytical capabilities of the country’s universities to help with the formulation of effective strategies to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality. Its two-pronged approach of research and dialogue was launched at the “Towards Carnegie3” conference in 2012, the outcome of which informed the five major themes to frame its work: social cohesion, health, education, labour and rural and urban renewal.


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2017 was a busy year as the Mandela Initiative moved into the final phase of starting to consolidate the past five years’ work for discussion at a multisectoral gathering in February 2018. In this newsletter, we bring you some highlights of the past few months, including exciting progress in the development of a proposed Basic Package of Support for Youth, led by our partners at the Poverty and Inequality Initiative, University of Cape Town; the potential of section 27 of the Equal Employment Act to address the large pay gap between the highest and the lowest income earners in companies in South Africa as was discussed on the first day of our action dialogue on proportional income differentials; and growing global concerns over new forms of labour that are emerging in the “gig economy”, and the consequences for workers’ rights and pay structures, which were also foci of the proportional income differentials dialogue.



  • Consolidating five years’ work within the Mandela Initiative

    The Initiative’s work started in 2012 when the University of Cape Town hosted the Towards Carnegie3: Strategies to Overcome Poverty & Inequality conference. Since then, 23 multi-sectoral action dialogues and other workshops were hosted to share experience, ideas and research on poverty and inequality topics. Over the same period, eight research programmes were set up to probe key themes that emerged from conference. These studies, led by nine Research Chairs and involving a network of South African universities and organisations that undertake policy research, are currently being completed. Bi-annual Think Tank meetings have provided leadership and strategic guidance to the Initiative. The outcomes of these work streams and those of other academics from several universities and the Human Sciences Research Council are now being consolidated for discussion at an event in February 2018. More details will be made available in due course.