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September 2023 Stakeholder Update

Foundation News

September 2023 Stakeholder Update

Published 29 September 2023

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Dear stakeholders

It feels surreal to be writing this update on the other side of the MRF’s 20th anniversary celebrations. What a milestone for Madiba’s legacy organisation for leadership development, and what an achievement for everyone who has contributed to our work from 2003 until today.

20th anniversary celebration: unforgettable moments and major milestones

It was incredibly inspiring to come together as a community to connect, reflect and celebrate our two decades of existence. Thank you to those who travelled from all corners of the world to join us in Cape Town in July.

On Friday 14 July we launched The Audacious Experiment: The Mandela Rhodes Story, co-authored by Shaun Johnson and Elleke Boehmer. The book captures the historic founding story of the MRF and includes profiles of many of our impactful alumni. If you’d like to request a copy, please write to We also enjoyed an engaging exhibition of books by Mandela Rhodes Scholars, and a discussion on the significance of Audacious Experiment. On Saturday, key stakeholders of the MRF met to panel-beat and flesh out the MRF’s strategy for the next 10 years. We appreciated the insightful comments and robust debates that emerged.

The pinnacle of the weekend was the Gala evening, where we announced successfully raising 14 million dollars towards our MRF20 fundraising campaign to increase our impact across the continent. It wouldn’t be an MRF event without a panel discussion, and Professor Anna Vignoles, Dr Kene Ikebuaku, Ms Janet Kabiru, and Pie-Pacifique Kabalira-Uwase challenged the audience with their deep wisdom on The courage to be unpopular: Leadership in complex times. Finally, we were blown away by the Ndlovu Youth Choir who elevated the already-electric atmosphere into one of pure joy. It was an unforgettable night.

2023 Äänit Prize goes to women leaders transforming African Healthtech

Kira Düsterwald and Maureen Etuket are the winners of our annual award for social impact in Africa. The young leaders from South Africa and Uganda will each receive their share of $80 000. Their interventions seek to improve healthcare resourcing, and to reduce maternal mortality due to postpartum haemorrhage. Get to know them and their inspiring ventures here . Plus: you can watch all five finalists pitch their ventures and fire questions at the panel of judges here.

Inside the programme: first-year programme reaches conclusion

In July the Class of 2023 gathered to explore the reconciliation and reparation pillar. Scholars unpacked what it means to cultivate a critical African consciousness, deeply understanding reconciliation both personally and in society. The class came together in September for their final workshop, focused on entrepreneurship. Highlights included a panel on entrepreneurship in the public good, a masterclass on project pitch and financial planning, and of course the graduation celebration.

Second-year programme heating up

The second-year scholars have continued to meet via virtual touchpoints, exchanging ideas and progress updates. These engagements have included design sessions, where valuable tools were introduced to support scholars to design interventions for positive socio-environmental impact. Projects-in-progress are tackling themes of indigenous food, cultural heritage, and tools to support township entrepreneurs.

Selections season for the Class of 2024

We are looking forward to interviews for next year’s class of Mandela Rhodes Scholars. The three selection committees will meet in October to select the 20th cohort.

We wish you well as you enter the final quarter of 2023.


Judy Sikuza

CEO The Mandela Rhodes Foundation

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