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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Media opportunity to foreground solutions to poverty and inequality

The Mandela Initiative has partnered with the News24 platform, Project Rise to raise awareness and debate about issues related to poverty, unemployment and inequality. Project Rise is a platform for “a solutions-focused discussion about the future and what we want to become” (Project Rise, About us). Having started during the #FeesMustFall period two years ago, the portal accepts written or video contributions. It provides an excellent opportunity to reach a mass audience, and we encourage you – and your networks – to make use of this opportunity to feed into the public discourses on poverty, unemployment and inequality. Several Mandela Initiative collaborators have contributed to Project Rise in the run-up and during the national workshop week in February. These discuss the “unfinished legacy of Mandela”; the progression of the Initiative in the context of poverty research in South Africa; healthy inequality; land reform; job creation in agriculture; and social cohesion.



  • Beyond the national gathering of the Mandela Initiative, February 2018

    Intense discussion and reflection marked this event during the second week of February. While the main aim was to report on its work since 2012, it involved government, academia and civil society in the hope of also contributing to reinvigorating the debate about speeding up the pace of change in the country. The gathering anchored the MI’s work within the current South African political and economic context; shared recommendations from the MI workstreams; and engaged critically with the potential impact of the recommendations on eliminating structural poverty and inequality. The workshop outcomes will be incorporated into the draft synthesis report towards a final document. The last day’s discussions on ways of promoting popular debate about what needs to be done to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality will be considered by the Nelson Mandela Foundation as part of their strategy to take the Initiative’s work forward.