The Mandela Memorial and School of Public Governance

22 Aug 2019 - 13:30

Despite the gap in governance capacity in many African countries, the continent has very few centres focusing on governance, and no schools of government that target the emerging leaders in Africa’s public sphere. 

The Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice was established at the University of Cape Town in 2011 to cater to this need. 

As part of a major expansion, the School was relaunched in July 2018 as the Nelson Mandela School of Public Governance, aiming to build an esprit de corps amongst leaders in South Africa and Africa more broadly, and to promote peer networks and linkages between leaders in government and in other fields such as academia, business, civil society and the arts.

The Mandela School is a multi-disciplinary centre and its offerings are designed to make public service at the highest levels of leadership an aspiration for the most talented. 

Providing professional and academic training and forums for discussion for senior public officials and those engaged in public policy in South Africa, other African countries and beyond, the School places a strong emphasis on public sector reform, accountability and trust in governance. 

The Mandela School’s academic offering includes a Postgraduate diploma, a Professional Master’s and a PhD programme in Development Policy and Practice taught in block-release executive format.

The diploma and masters are part-time, run over two years, and aimed at senior managers and professionals in the public sector, NGOs, international aid and philanthropic organisations on the African continent, from Africa and working on African issues.

In 2020 the Mandela School is introducing a full-time masters course aimed at a younger set of emerging public leaders.

The principal focus of these programmes is on skills which are not conventionally taught within disciplinary programmes, but which are key to effective leadership. Topics invaluable to public policy such as Strategic Policy Making, Policy Implementation, Public Management, Ethics and Leadership are covered, in addition to the more conventional focus on economic and social development policy and practice, and the use of evidence in policy-making and implementation.

More than training top graduates to prepare them for public leadership positions, the Mandela School provides executive training for senior managers and elected office bearers.  

Furthermore, there are also short programmes designed for international organisations, non-profit organisations, think-tanks and the private sector.

One of the Mandela School’s core activities is engaging policy makers, experts and other leaders in society around key policy issues. The centerpiece of this effort is the Building Bridges programme which brings together established and rising leaders from all over Africa to address intractable problems and establish new networks of expertise and trust.

The Mandela School also engages in original research and generates evidence-based policy advice on critical development policy and practice challenges in Africa. In doing so, it acts as a cross-cutting hub, bringing together and building on the academic resources of different faculties at UCT, as well as those of local and international partners.

As a general aspiration, 50% of participants on all programmes come from African countries other than South Africa. Since inception (of the Graduate School of Development Policy and Practice) in 2011, there have been over 1,400 graduates of the school, with an overwhelming majority indicating that the courses have been useful in their development work.

The Mandela School works closely with several African leadership and research centres such as the Institute for the Study of Management (ISM) in Dakar, the Uongozi Leadership Institute in Dar es Salaam, and the Institute for Peace and Security Studies at the University of Addis Ababa. The lecturers are also drawn from a wide pool, including the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, the Public Affairs Research Institute at University of the Witwatersrand, as well as other departments across UCT.

Read more about the Mandela School and the building project.
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