Born in June 1942, Thabo Mbeki grew up in Idutywa in the Eastern Cape. An early political activist, he joined the ANC Youth League in 1956 and was elected Secretary General of the African Students Association in 1961.

For participating in a student strike in 1959, the young Mbeki was expelled from Lovedale High School and had to sit for his Matriculation examinations at St John’s High School in Umtata.

Two years later, he passed his British ‘A level’ examinations as a South African Committee for Higher Education (SACHED) Trust student based in Johannesburg. University followed in 1962 when the young Mbeki left South Africa for Sussex, where he majored in Economics, obtaining a Master’s Degree in 1966. Thereafter, it was full-time work for the struggle, beginning with the African National Congress (ANC) Office in London.

In 1969, the ANC sent Mr. Mbeki to the Soviet Union to study politics and military training. He joined the staff at the ANC Headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1971. Four years later, he was co-opted onto the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC. In 1985, Mr. Mbeki was elected to the NEC during the ANC Conference held in Kabwe, Zambia.

Mr. Mbeki served as Political Secretary to the then President of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, and was also Deputy Secretary of the organisation’s Revolutionary Council, in addition to heading the Departments of Information and International Affairs.

While in exile, Mr. Mbeki played an vital role in maintaining contact between the ANC and the leadership inside South Africa. He then led ANC teams in secret contacts with representatives of the apartheid regime, and later brought his skills to the service of the negotiations which ended apartheid rule.

In 1994, Mr. Mbeki was appointed as the First Executive Deputy President of the Republic, serving under President Nelson Mandela. He was elected President of South Africa in 1999 and 2004 and served until he resigned in 2008.

As President of the Republic, Mr. Mbeki presided over the longest period of economic growth in South Africa since the Second World War, championed poverty reduction programmes and the de-racialisation of the South African economy. He led the successful campaign for South Africa to host the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup. Mr. Mbeki remains a vigorous champion of the empowerment of women.

Inspired by the earlier generation of Pan Africanists, Mr. Mbeki rekindled the vision of an African Renaissance and thus placed Africa firmly on the global agenda.

In 2002, Mr. Mbeki served as the founding Chairperson of the African Union. Together with other African Heads of State and Government, Mr. Mbeki pioneered the establishment of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), initiated the establishment of the India, Brazil, South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum.

He contributed to and led many of Africa’s initiatives to end various conflicts on the Continent, including in Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Burundi, and Comoros.

Since leaving office, he has, at the request of the African Union, led two Panels mandated to help Sudan to consolidate peace and resolve its various challenges. He is also the Chairperson of the AU-UN High Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa.

In 2010 he established the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute, both focused on the achievement of the goals of the African Renaissance.

Mr. Mbeki is recognised throughout Africa and in the world as an influential intellectual, a policy maker and a leading mediator. He has won many awards to acknowledge his contribution to human advancement.