Welcome to the first newsletter of the Mandela Initiative, a multi-sectoral platform to investigate and develop strategies to overcome poverty and inequality.

With this newsletter we aim to introduce the initiative, its key partners and collaborators, and various work streams since the process started in 2012 with the “Towards Carnegie3” conference on strategies to overcome poverty and inequality in South Africa. We in particular reflect on the role of the Nelson Mandela Foundation as a strategic partner, and foreground an innovation of the Poverty and Inequality Initiative of the University of Cape Town which can help inform comprehensive policies and interventions to support youth development and social inclusion.

We welcome your feedback, and look forward to share more news in future on particular aspects of the initiative’s work, and to tell stories of promising innovations that aim to address poverty and inequality.

Francis Wilson
National co-ordinator
November 2016


   In this issue


The Mandela Initiative in a nutshell

Four years ago, the conference “Strategies to Overcome Poverty and Inequality” in South Africa was hosted by the University of Cape Town. This was no ordinary conference confined to the ivory towers of academia: it linked, in a meaningful way, academic experts with government officials, non-profit organisations and church leaders. Importantly, it did not end with a conference report. Instead, the five-day event heralded the beginning of a process to connect minds and practices aimed at shifting the country’s poverty and inequality challenges. This is its story to date. Read more



Think Tank for strategic guidance

The Mandela Initiative, while administratively located at the University of Cape Town, is a collaboration by a diverse range of role-players who are concerned with efforts to shift the country’s persistent high levels of poverty and inequality. In 2014, a Think Tank of prominent individuals from government, business, academia, civil society and organised labour was set up to provide strategic leadership and guidance in constituting and driving the MI research programmes, action dialogues and other work. This article outlines the thinking behind the Think Tank. Read more



Action dialogues for collective strategies

One of the three pillars of the Mandela Initiative is the regular and inspiring gatherings of experts on particular problem areas that need to be addressed to help shift poverty and inequality in South Africa. These “action dialogues” are unique in that they link the empirical knowledge of academics with the practical knowledge and experiences of those involved in “on-the-ground” initiatives by civil society and government, be it at local, provincial or national level. This article reflects on this powerful approach to share, learn and act collectively. Read more



Evidence-based policy research

A key outcome of the 2012 conference that launched the work of the Mandela Initiative was to identify a set of thematic areas central to breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality in South Africa. This process was informed firstly by the over 300 papers from 19 of the country’s universities, and evidence from practice, presented at the conference. The final research themes and further research questions were carefully crafted with the involvement of some of the leading academics in poverty and inequality in the country, as this article explains. Read more



Mandela Initiative to multiply its reach with Nelson Mandela Foundation partnership

Central to the Mandela Initiative approach are collaborations and partnerships around the common goal of investigating and developing innovative strategies to overcome poverty and inequality in South Africa. Key to this endeavour is the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF), a non-profit organisation focused on memory, dialogue and legacy work, founded by Nelson Mandela himself. The Foundation joined the initiative as a key partner in 2015 and, to reflect this association, the initiative’s name was changed from “Towards Carnegie3” to the Mandela Initiative. The MI communication manager, Charmaine Smith, spoke to the NFM CEO, Sello Hatang, to find out more about their role in the initiative. Read more


New web tool to track status of youth

Across South Africa’s 278 municipalities, newly-elected local government officials are expected to settle on a five-year plan for development in their area, known as the Integrated Development Plan. Aimed at improving the quality of life for all people in an area, the plan must consider current conditions and problems and provide a framework for, amongst others, what services and infrastructure are needed. South Africa’s youth are a constituency who require particular support in the interest of development and planning for their needs has to be a key concern for government. Now, a new interactive web tool that can assist local government to take stock of and track the status of youth has been piloted in the Western Cape. It has potential to help inform comprehensive policies and interventions to support youth development and social inclusion. Read more


Mandela Initiative in the news

Press Statement


News from MI partners

Growing up in poverty puts children at a disadvantage from an early age,
and limits their life chances.

Given widespread and persistent poverty and inequality in the country, social assistance in the form of the Child Support Grant (CSG) is an investment in the development and potential of children. Over the past 20 years, social assistance has grown substantially, driven largely by the introduction of the CSG in 1998. This year’s South African Child Gauge on social assistance provides an opportunity to reflect on lessons learnt over this period; consolidate evidence on the effectiveness of grants and their impact on child well-being, and discuss the relative merits and potential trade-offs of policy options currently under consideration for strengthening and expanding social assistance for children. The 2016 Child Gauge, published by UCT’s Children’s Institute, will be released on 22 November. CI website



This newsletter was written and compiled by Charmaine Smith, with much-appreciated contributions from:

Think Tank members: Haroon Bhorat, Ben Cousins, Adam Habib, Sello Hatang, Wilmot James, Murray Leibbrandt, Kelfiloe Masiteng, Lungisile Ntsebeza, Dorit Posel, Francis Wilson, Servaas van der Berg.

Action dialogue organisers: Doreen Atkinson, Johann Maree

Western Cape government: Ammaarah Kamish and Gavin Miller

Fact-checking and peer review: Haajirah Esau and Francis Wilson; Ariane De Lannoy, Emily Frame and the Government Technical Advisory Centre’s Matt Cullinan and Kirsten Pearson (for the article ‘New tool to track status of youth’).

Photos: Nelson Mandela Foundation (for the article ‘Mandela Initiative to multiply its reach with Nelson Mandela Foundation partnership’); Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town (for ‘South African Child Gauge 2016’ cover)



For feedback or more information about the Mandela Initiative,
contact the communication manager, Charmaine Smith,
on 021 – 650 1816 or at charmaine.smith@uct.ac.za.