Why we need transformational leadership to Realise the pan-African Dream


Nelson Mandela’s legacy is one of courage, resilience, and leadership. His vision of a united Africa requires transformational leadership to be achieved. One of his most profound quotes on leadership from his personal notebook (January 16, 2000) was, “A real leader uses every issue, no matter how serious and sensitive, to ensure that at the end of the debate, we should emerge stronger and more united than ever before.” Transformational leadership, as emphasised by Mandela, is about inspiring and empowering others to achieve success, creating positive change, sharing vision, fostering growth and development, and unifying and empowering communities. This type of leadership is crucial in achieving the pan-African dream of unity, development, and social justice. Applying Mandela’s words, we can work towards a brighter future for Africa through collaboration, trust, and collective power.


When the Mandela Institute of Development Studies (MINDS) was established in 2010, it marked a significant turning point in pursuing the pan-African dream, embodying the spirit of Nelson Mandela, whose leadership was transformative and who understood that actual progress could only be achieved through unity and collaboration. Under the visionary leadership of Mrs Graça Machel, the Founder of the Graça Machel Trust and Chairperson of MINDS, these two institutions have collaborated in championing numerous initiatives that promote empowerment and collaboration.


Mrs Machel’s transformative leadership has driven the pan-African dream forward, as she recognises the urgent need for transformational change in our societies, for example, by working with MINDS to provide scholarships to African postgraduate students and connecting youth networks across Africa to identify successful and scalable youth initiatives and develop a platform to cross-pollinate ideas to drive the youth agenda forward.


“You cannot feel that you are connected to other African youth if you don’t have a space in which you can engage with them. Despite the importance of social media, there has to be a space where you can humanise the message”- Mrs Graça Machel, African Youth Networks Summit, 2018.


The Founder and CEO of MINDS, Dr Nkosana Moyo, and the MINDS Scholars are working towards a united and prosperous Africa. In commemoration of Mandela Day, they recently held a virtual roundtable to discuss how to turn the idea of Pan-Africanism into reality, learn from leaders like Nelson Mandela, and allow scholars to be exposed to a cross-section of African countries’ experiences.


“Pan-Africanism is the belief that African countries are stronger together than alone. The continent has incredible potential, but it can only be fully realised when its people come together. With a combined landmass, resources, and population, Africa is a force to be reckoned with. But for this to be true, we must start by changing how we think. When we embrace the power of collaboration and unity, nothing can stop us from achieving success.” – Dr Nkosana Moyo, MINDS Scholars Roundtable, 2023.



90 Minutes of Transformation: Empowering Scholars for Positive Change


This Mandela Day, MINDS Scholars were challenged to demonstrate their definition of transformational leadership in their communities with a 90-minute project. Fuelled by creativity and passion, the scholars showcased their knowledge, experiences, and ideas to bring the pan-African Dream to life. With this project, the MINDS scholars are inspiring young minds to take charge and lead for positive change in different parts of Africa.


Transforming Africa Through Leadership

MINDS scholars from (countries X<Y<Z) at the African Leadership University (ALU) in Rwanda are paying tribute to Nelson Mandela through a series of engaging projects that will inspire individuals to embrace their leadership potential and contribute to the advancement of their communities and the continent as a whole through the following projects; The Nelson Mandela Leadership Masterclass will support emerging leaders in Africa by exploring Nelson Mandela’s leadership journey and teaching them essential leadership skills, core principles, and practical strategies for applying them in various contexts. Nelson Mandela International Day Pledge Wall will be set up at ALU’s main campus to encourage commitment to transformational leadership and positive change in Africa. It will be available until July 18th and aims to unite people, promote collaboration and accountability, and honour Nelson Mandela’s legacy.


Promoting Mental Well-being in the Digital Age

With a vision to create a world where communities, governing bodies, and businesses create supportive environments free of discrimination for mental health well-being with accessible mental health care by 2030, the scholars will contribute towards the reduction of stigma associated with mental illness in Leribe, Northern District of Lesotho, targeting a youth group aged between 18- to 35 years. The scholars aim to advocate for mental health care in Lesotho. This is to be implemented by a collaboration of scholars from (Please list the countries)


Creating a pan-African Interactive Digital Platform

At Carnegie Mellon University in Rwanda, Scholars from (X<Y<Z) are creating an inclusive platform that will convene young people and facilitate networking, robust exchange of ideas and discourse on current issues as one way to fan the flames of transformational leadership in young Africans. The platform will provide information on African stories, heritage, heroes, and pan-African leaders. It will also have a repository website with interactive features and allow users to contribute information that will promote transformative leadership and pan-Africanism while providing a fun and engaging learning experience. The platform can be used for panel discussions and is scalable for long-term use.


African Leaders Co-creation Hub

MINDS Scholars from (X<Y<Z) at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, will promote solidarity and access to opportunities for young people in Africa by creating a virtual space for dialogue and collaboration. The objective of this Mandela Day – 90 minutes of service aims to redefine transformative leadership, promote cooperation among MINDS Scholars and youth movements, and build the next cohort of MINDS scholars with leadership skills. The scholars will host online sessions for exchange with civil society organisations, inviting diverse perspectives for dialogue. This is a great way to share resources, knowledge and network expansion.



Showcasing the extraordinary leadership of Africans 

In today’s world, we must continue to recognise and celebrate African leaders’ hard work and dedication. To do this, the scholars from Ghana, Gambia and Tanzania are creating a platform where young Africans can come together to learn and be inspired by the example of these Transformational African leaders. They will organise a webinar event targeting the youth and fellow students, providing an excellent opportunity to engage the public and create awareness about these inspiring African leaders. This platform will also be used to discuss the challenges that African leaders have faced and showcase the positive impact they have had on the continent.


The MINDS Scholars have truly exemplified the spirit of Nelson Mandela on this special day. Their commitment to redefining leadership and igniting positive change in their communities is inspiring and impactful. Through their various initiatives and projects, they have shown that leadership is not just about holding a position of power but about using it to uplift others and create a better world. Join the Graça Machel Trust and the Mandela Institute of Developing Studies as we reflect on #MandelaDay; let us all ask ourselves: how can we follow in the footsteps of these remarkable individuals and make a difference in our communities?


How else can you celebrate #MandelaDay in your communities?


Support The Nelson Mandela Foundation’s Campaign #ItIsInYourHands campaign by uniting and acting decisively against the consequences of climate change and food insecurity. Use your hands to do good in the world, specifically to help end hunger and mitigate climate change by planting trees and food in your communities, cities, gardens, and pavements.


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