Ndaba Mandela seeks youth empowerment

“Coretta Scott King reminds us that freedom is never really won. You have to earn it and fight for it in every generation. So, what is our generation fighting for?” inquired Ndaba Mandela during a forum at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, September 19. The talk, which was part of the Rensselaer Union Speakers Forum, focused on subjects including the world’s inaccurate perception of Africa, and his personal efforts to empower underprivileged youth.

When Mandela started to travel, he quickly learned how the little knowledge that others have about Africa is often negative stereotypes perpetuated by the media. Africa is depicted as a place of poverty, disease, and dictators. On this, Mandela commented that he is “not here to say that those things do not exist, but [that] there is far more to Africa than you see.” He continued, stating that Africans need to own the narrative on Africa. To accomplish this, Mandela prioritizes empowering the youth. Young people need to “have an enlightened sense of pride and confidence in themselves, so that when they travel… they can talk about Africa with this same level of pride and confidence.”

Mandela considers technology and entrepreneurship development to be at the forefront of this movement. There is not a nation in the world advancing without the knowledge and use of technology, and Africa is at a disadvantage. He acknowledged that competition on a global scale will not be possible, especially if kids are finishing high school without ever touching a computer.

To begin remedying this, he partnered with the Nelson Mandela Museum to teach basic computer literacy and programming to high school students in Africa. This past year, they hosted a four-day coding program for eighty girls, half of whom had never interacted with a computer before. He was touched by the feedback, and especially by the story of a young girl who believed that since she came from a poor family, she could never achieve anything. “After going through this course, she now has the confidence and a skill that she can use to help other people, and help herself to begin with,” shared Mandela.

While approximately nine million kids finish high school in Africa every year, there are not nine million jobs waiting for them. This leaves the option of entrepreneurship, which Mandela considers an important part of young people being able to “empower themselves [and] their families” so that they can “break the cycle of poverty that exists.”

Throughout the evening, Mandela often returned to the importance of the youth, even stating that “unity among young people is going to bring this world to a better place.” He concluded the forum by encouraging the audience to dream big enough that it becomes scary, and to believe that “no one can stand in your way once you have the passion.”

To learn more about Ndaba Mandela and his work to continue the legacy of his grandfather by empowering the new generation through the Africa Rising Foundation, visit