The Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture Series invites prominent people to drive debate on significant social issues. The lecture series is an important event on the Foundation's calendar, and encourages people to enter into dialogue – often about difficult subjects – in order to address the challenges we face today.
Previous speakers include the Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai; Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honourable Mia Mottley; former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Dr Fatou Bensouda; United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres; South Africa's Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, former US president Barack Obama; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; former South African president Thabo Mbeki; Chilean-American author and human rights activist Ariel Dorfman; Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai; former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan; Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; social entrepreneur Muhammad Yunus; Director of Egypt's Library of Alexandria Ismail Serageldin; former Irish president and philanthropist Mary Robinson; philanthropist Mo Ibrahim; Chilean President Michelle Bachelet; economist Thomas Piketty; Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates; and United Nations deputy secretary-general Amina J Mohammed.
Nobel Peace Laureate Malala Yousafzai delivered the 21st Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Johannesburg on 5 December 2023.
The Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, delivered the 20th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in eThekwini on 12 November 2022, in solidarity with the people of KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape, who have suffered from flooding linked to climate change.
The 2021 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture was delivered on 25 August 2021 by the outgoing Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, whose term ended on 15 June 2021.
The 2020 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture was delivered by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on 18 July 2020.
The 2019 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture was delivered by South Africa's Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng in Soweto on 23 November.
The 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, in partnership with the Motsepe Foundation, was delivered by former US President Barack Obama in Johannesburg on 17 July.
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J Mohammed delivered the 15th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Cape Town on 25 November 2017.
Bill Gates delivered the 14th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 17 July 2016, on the eve of Mandela Day, at the University of Pretoria’s Mamelodi Campus.
Professor of Economics at the Paris School of Economics Thomas Piketty presented the 13th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto Campus on 3 October 2015.
Her Excellency, President Michelle Bachelet of Chile, presented the 12th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 9 August 2014 at the Cape Town City Hall.
Dr Mo Ibrahim presented the 11th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 17 August 2013 at the University of South Africa in Pretoria.
Mary Robinson presented the 10th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 5 August 2012 at the Cape Town City Hall.
Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Library of Alexandria (BA) in Egypt, presented the Ninth Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 23 July 2011 at Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium. The lecture focused on the themes of diversity, cohesion and social justice.
The world-acclaimed Chilean-American author, human rights activist and distinguished Professor of Literature and Latin-American Studies, Ariel Dorfman, presented the Eighth Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at Johannesburg’s Linder Auditorium on 31 July 2010.
The 2009 Annual Lecture was delivered by Professor Muhammad Yunus on Saturday 11 July at the Johannesburg City Hall.
The 2008 Annual Lecture was delivered by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Saturday 12 July in Kliptown.
The 2007 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture was delivered by Mr Kofi Annan on Sunday 22 July at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Education Campus in the Linder Auditorium. It was attended by a wide-ranging audience of about 1 500 invited guests.
The Fourth Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture was delivered by then South Africa President Thabo Mbeki on 29 July 2006. Quoting from poetry, the Bible and great works on economics, Mbeki urged people against the worship of personal wealth.
Nobel laureate Prof Wangari Maathai delivered the Third Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 19 July 2005. She called for Africa to “rise up and walk”, noting that only an empowered Africa could extricate itself from poverty and despair. She called disempowerment “perhaps the most unrecognised problem in Africa today”.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu delivered the Second Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 23 November 2004, in honour of Mr Nelson Mandela.
Former United States President Bill Clinton delivered the First Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on 19 July 2003 He used a character in a poem by Dylan Thomas to describe Nelson Mandela’s retirement. Like the man in the poem, Mandela “refused to go gentle into that good night”, he said. “Instead he simply soldiered on, raging instead against injustice and leading us toward the light.”