NEXUS Member Spotlight: Kweku Mandela, Co-founder Africa Rising

In 2009, Kweku Mandela, together with his cousin Ndaba Mandela, co-founded Africa Rising, an organization working with African youth to change the global perception of Africa and showcase positive development and growth on the continent.  Read about Kweku’s story, and his hopes for his beloved country and continent.

Kweku Mandela has always had high expectations placed on him. So it was no surprise when in 2009 he co-founded Africa Rising, an organization committed to promoting Africa through a series of campaigns that address the continent’s socio-economic challenges. In addition to Africa Rising, Kweku is a partner in one of South Africa’s largest Film and TV production companies, Out of Africa Entertainment. In January 2014, he was appointed as an Ambassador for UNAIDS Global HIV/AIDS campaign called “Protect the Goal,” launched during the FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Read more about his story below.

What are you passionate about?

I am passionate about life and people and traveling.  I am passionate about fighting against HIV, Aids, and Poverty, and improving Global Road Safety.

If we’re sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it’s been, what did you achieve?

I was able to continue making an impact in my community, whether that was large or small.  A big thing for me has always been to engage youth in the issues that I care about.  Even though we all have the will to do good, it’s not always our priority.  It doesn’t have to be foreign or gigantic.  It’s really all about us doing our little part in this world that moves and shakes around us.

Tell us about a role model who inspired your work.

I am inspired by a couple of people.  I have always been inspired by strong women—my mother being one of them.  She had to endure a lot growing up, not having a father figure, not being able to be close to her family, living in apartheid.  She is a caring and centered person.  I took in a lot from her.

I am also inspired by my American mother, Mary Fisher, who has been living with HIV for 25 years. She is an activist who started an initiative called 100 Good Deeds.  Beyond that, she is amazing person who I bonded with and who ultimately shows us how we can impact the people around us.

If you could clone yourself and lead two separate lives at once, in what other field would you want to work?

I’m a film producer.  That’s something I love and I’m already living, so I think would probably be a musician. I love music and how it connects people across boundaries, continents, languages, and cultures.

What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a philanthropist/social entrepreneur?

Getting people to believe it’s real and that it’s possible to actually make an impact.  A lot of people in the impact and NGO space feel for every step forward, they take three steps back.  But I definitely feel there has been an awakening recently and people are more aware of their footprint in the world.  Whenever I embark on a journey, my own personal belief in self and bouts with doubt are the most difficult things to overcome.

What’s your superpower?

My voice and my nature to be laid back and how that reverberates around me.

How does your organization help connect people from across the lines that divide us?

Africa Rising helps to change common misconceptions people have about the continent of Africa.  I was always blown away by the questions people would ask about Africa.  The best way to dispel that was to show people that African youth are not that different than them and have the same goals and ambitions.  We all want good things for ourselves, our friends, and family, access and opportunity.  There are so many things that bring us together, and we want to focus on that.

If you could have been told one thing as a child (that you weren’t told) what would you like to have heard?

I don’t think there is any set answer or clear way of defining that.  I have made a fair amount of mistakes in my life.  Some things I’ve learned from and some things I haven’t.  Everyone has a legacy and it’s up to you to decide to embrace that.  I think I would have liked for someone to say that to me.

Are you going to take the culture and traditions of your parents and grandparents or are you going to define that for yourself?

Do you have any advice for other philanthropists/social entrepreneurs?

I think it so important to follow your passion, believe in what you do, and understand the people around you and the focus of what you are trying to instill.  These things always take time. Learning the virtue of patience is so important to anything you want to build or create in this world.



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