Kumi Naidoo (South Africa)

Global Ambassador, Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity

Kumi Naidoo is a life-long social justice campaigner hailing from South Africa. Kumi’s first taste of activism came at age 15 when he organised and took part in an anti-apartheid protest that saw him expelled from his school. From there he became deeply embedded in activism in his local community and organising mass mobilisations against the apartheid regime. Kumi was arrested numerous times and charged for violating provisions against mass mobilisation and civil disobedience. He was eventually forced into exile in 1987, enrolled at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and earned a doctorate in political sociology (in 2000).

On returning to South Africa, Kumi worked on the legalisation of the African National Congress. He was founding executive director of the South African National NGO Coalition (SANGOCO), whose mandate is to ensure that the traditions of civil society continue to serve the people of South Africa.

Kumi has held multiple senior leadership roles, as Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Secretary General of Amnesty International and Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of Johannesburg-based Civicus: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, which is dedicated to strengthening citizen action and civil society throughout the world.

Kumi was Founding Chair and interim Director of the pan-African organisation, Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity, where he now serves as first Global Ambassador. The group, which has forged partnerships across trade unions, religion and civil society, aims to change the fact that while the Africa as a continent has benefitted from increased economic growth, Africans themselves have not shared in that increasing wealth and power. He also currently serves as Professor of Practice at the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University and is a Visiting Fellow at University of Oxford and an Honorary Fellow at Magdalen College.

Click here to read more about Kumi’s IFC Online Big Conversation: “Is our sector facing an existential crisis?”