The Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) is an Africa-wide think tank which provides an inclusive platform for dialogue, information dissemination and networking.

Our programmes are underpinned by rigorous research into all aspects of African Heritage, in order to shape policy and practice on critical issues of governance, integrated economic development and the evolution of African institutions.

Through our programmes we seek to address the short, medium, and long-term developmental challenges facing Africa in a holistic and comprehensive manner.


In most African states, it would appear that policy formulation and implementation could be greatly enhanced through the creation of an institution that is independent from government and political parties. Such an institution would be resourced to have capacity for formulating policy proposals for public debate in a non-partisan manner. Over time, governing political parties gradually lose the capacity and appetite for the robust debate that is necessary for the formulation of policies that are capable of underpinning the implementation of measures necessary for sustained development.

Most African institutions that are involved in policy formulation proposals tend to be official or public sector institutions. Two challenges arise from this ownership and dependency on public funding. The first challenge is how these institutions can, under these circumstances, take and maintain an independent and when necessary, challenging stance towards their paymasters. Secondly, if they are set up by the government of the day, then in all probability their staff will, from the very beginning, be chosen on the basis of their views being in alignment with the government of the day. In this situation, the value that derives from an institution that has a different perspective on issues is lost.

This justifies the establishment of a complementary and independent institution.

The addition of an independent facet to policy formulation proposals and debate will introduce a point of view that should be value additive to public institutions work. The Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) established in 2010, emerged out of a simple and rather obvious observation that development efforts in Africa have hitherto failed to meet expectations with respect to social, institutional and economic outcomes in comparison to other regions.

MINDS is an Africa-wide think tank which provides a forum for dialogue, information dissemination and networking, underpinned by rigorous research on the different elements of ‘Africanness’ in order to shape policy and practice on governance, economic development and the evolution of African institutions. It seeks to address the short, medium, and long-term development challenges in Africa.

The central hypothesis in setting up MINDS is that effective and sustainable development can only be achieved if development policies and practices are founded on the cultural heritage, value and knowledge systems and institutions of the people who are the subjects or beneficiaries of the development interventions.

It is my hope that the Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) will make a real difference in the resolution of the challenges that confront Africa, through a vibrant and robust debate, interrogating current paradigms, and offering new approaches.


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela


MINDS’ vision is to have African societies attain democracy, economic prosperity, social inclusiveness as well as their rightful place in the global community on the basis of a keen self awareness.


Based on the above, the mission for MINDS is to provide a forum for dialogue, information dissemination and networking, underpinned by rigorous research on the different elements of African heritage in order to shape policy and practice on governance, economic development and the evolution of African institutions.



To meet the demands of the scarcity of resources MINDS will run on a lean core organisation. There will be no repli­cation of work done by other reputable institutions. Rather, a fully collaborative approach will be used to encourage networking with those institutions doing work that has a bearing on the MINDS agenda.


The convening of dialogues for interest­ed and relevant stakeholders will be central to the MINDS mode of engage­ment. Through dialogues MINDS will disseminate information and knowl­edge, create opportunities for the ex­ change of ideas to influence policy for­mulation and development practice as well as provide a safe space for net­ working.


MINDS will execute its mandate in an open and transparent manner, making its work accessible to all those who may be interested.


In all its programmes MINDS will embrace diversity to stimulate constructive tension.


MINDS will be launched as a privileged ‘child’ because of the Mandela brand.

This status, however, can only be pre­served through maintaining a very high standard of delivery.


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The Mandela Institute of Development Studies is registered as a Trust with three founding Trustees, with the aim of becoming one of the continent’s leading think tanks and knowledge repositories.


MINDS holds its Inaugural Dialogue in Ethiopia.  In attendance were current and previous heads of state and other leading African dignitaries and leadership.


MINDS launches two programmes.  The African Heritage Programme, funded by the African Capacity Building Foundation and the Youth Programme on Elections and Governance, funded by Royal Norwegian Embassy of South Africa.

Between 2013 and 2018 the African Heritage Programme will go on to hold 3 workshops and undertake 2 research reports.


The High Level Dialogue Series Programme, now called the Economic and Regional Integration Programme is launched with funding from the African Development Bank and Old Mutual.


MINDS holds its inaugural Youth Dialogue on Elections and Governance in Kigali, Rwanda which enjoys participation from the President of Rwanda.


The MINDS Youth Programme conducts 4 training workshops on Civic Education in North, East, Southern and West Africa.


MINDS holds its 2nd Youth Dialogue in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe bringing together young leaders from around the continent.


The 2nd High Level Dialogue Series focusing on Governance and Tractor manufacturing is held in Maputo, Mozambique.


A High Level Dialogue is held in Rabat, Morocco to discuss the launch of the Scholarship Programme. The dialogue is co-hosted with the Royal Academy of the Kingdom of Morocco, who are partners and country hosts of the Scholarship Programme and our scholars.

The MINDS Scholarship Programme in Leadership Development is officially launched.  The programme is funded by Old Mutual Emerging Markets, Nedbank Eyethu Community Trust, and the Government of Rwanda.


MINDS through its Youth Programme commissions a baseline study with funding from the Royal Norwegian Embassy in South Africa to further inform and develop the Youth Programme and its activities and outreach.


The MINDS Scholarship Programme awards 7 well deserving scholars from across the gender and nationality divide to become the inaugural Scholars of the programme.


MINDS in partnership with the Sir Ketumile Masire Foundation hosts the 2018 edition of the MINDS High Level Dialogue series on Economic Integration in Gaborone, Botswana, under the theme ‘Improving agricultural productivity in Africa through mechanization and the use of fertiliser.’


The Youth Programme holds its 2018 Southern Africa Civic Education Training Workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa to equip youth with knowledge and skills to enable them to mobilize peers and meaningfully participate in electoral processes.


The African Heritage Programme together with the National Heritage Council of South Africa (NHC), an agency of the Department of Arts and Culture, hosts a two-day workshop themed ‘Towards an Afro-centric, sustainable development paradigm in Africa’ in Johannesburg, South Africa.  The workshop looks at the research and practice of African heritage couched in ‘Africanness’ for sustainable and transformative development in Africa.


The Mandela Institute for Development Studies (MINDS) together with the Graça Machel Trust launches the inaugural African Youth Networks Summit in Freedom Park, Pretoria, South Africa during the week of celebrations to honour the Mandela Centenary.







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