Nelson Mandela’s centenary brought together headline-grabbing A-listers and pledges of over $7 billion towards pressing global issues. Though for some, it didn’t end well.
It was exactly 10 years ago when Australian humanitarian Hugh Evans, along with his friend Simon Moss, launched the Global Poverty Project, committing to end extreme poverty by 2030.
That dream launched Global Citizen, and with that, an eponymous festival in 2012.
“Over 5.65 million actions led to 58 commitments and announcements worth $7,096,996,725, set to affect the lives of 137,368,628 people,” summed up the Global Citizen Festival, held in December 2018 for the first time in South Africa, hosted at the FNB Stadium, in the historic township of Soweto, in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s centenary.
On a hot Sunday afternoon that also saw looming rain clouds, thousands wearing straw hats and shades, trooped into the stadium, some arriving as early as 5AM for what was billed a mega concert.
Presidents, delegates, CEOs, activists, musicians and more gathered for the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100.
Among them, a galaxy of international and local celebrities such as Beyoncé, Trevor Noah, Oprah Winfrey, Naomi Campbell, Usher, Danai Gurira, Bonang Matheba, Nomzamo Mbatha, Tyler Perry, Pharrell Williams, Bob Geldof, Ed Sheeran, and dignitaries such as South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina J. Mohammed, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, former South African First Lady Graca Machel and many more were all gathered for the one-day spectacle.
The Daily Show anchor and host of the event, Noah said: “This is 2010 all over again,” referring to the euphoria in South Africa when the country hosted the FIFA World Cup that year.
“Everybody is here in Mzansi to celebrate the work of Nelson Mandela,” he added.
More than 75,000 people were in attendance at the stadium.
On stage, dignitaries committed actions taken to end extreme poverty, achieve gender equality, and ensure food security, education and global health.
“Everyone is a global citizen and how you want to take action in helping others using your voice, reaching out to a representative and holding rallies, coming together, uniting to make a change is wonderful. Everybody has a voice now today,” model and activist Campbell who was on stage told FORBES AFRICA on the sidelines.
“To have a 20-year with the great man, President Nelson Mandela, is something I will treasure for the rest of my life and it’s an honor to be here and see everyone come together, and to see the young generation understand what this man Mandela stood for, what he sacrificed and what he wanted to achieve. And we are still trying to achieve what he wanted to, which is to eradicate poverty by 2030,” added Campbell.
Nigerian musician Femi Kuti, son of the legendary Fela Kuti, who performed and got the crowds dancing, told FORBES AFRICA some of the issues he holds close to his heart are equality, poverty and the importance of accountability by all leaders worldwide.
“Every citizen must take responsibility for tackling these problems,” he said.
“My father is a really good example of this, Bob Marley is a good example of this. If musicians did not talk about such issues, we would probably be naïve.”
One of Nigeria’s best-selling musicians, D’banj, agreed.
He performed his hit song, Oliver Twist, wearing his hallmark dark shades, a pair of metallic gold pants and jacket.
“Before I went on stage, I was so glad that this is Africa, I have performed everywhere in the world but this is my home, and my people are here,” he told FORBES AFRICA.
“Getting out here and seeing my generation, the next generation, the millennials, and everyone coming out, I am just so humbled. I can just say that, from here, the future is going to be bright because the message of us stars coming together will leave a mark.”
The Nigerian artiste is not new to the Global Citizen scene.
In 2015, he performed alongside Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am at the Global Citizen Earth Day in Washington D.C in the United States.
“Global Citizen coming to Africa meant a lot for me… Because after we leave here, we are going to leave a mark that is going to awaken them and everybody is going to want to challenge our leaders to give us the right change,” he said.
Back on stage, the host Noah addressed the crowds about why Africa should indeed be celebrated.
“When it comes to resources, Africa is the richest place on earth,” he said.
“We have more booty than any other continent on the planet. Men and women… The point is, Africa has a lot of natural wealth. But what’s crazy is that even with all this wealth, 40% of all children across the continent are stunted due to lack of access to food. Tonight, we are calling on African leaders to commit three percent of their countries’ budgets to nutrition by 2020.”
All through the concert, the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals were unraveled.
The now former president of the World Bank, Dr Jim Yong Kim, said it was important to contribute to issues related to health because, “the crisis is much bigger”. As a result, the World Bank Group invested an additional $1 million to health and education.
Other celebrities and global leaders not present made their own pledges through pre-recorded videos screened at the event.
Businessman and philanthropist Richard Branson pledged a $105 million joint commitment to end the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, announced an investment of $4 billion made at the G7 Summit towards education for vulnerable women and girls globally.
Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Angela Merkel, pledged €63 million ($72.2 million) to Global Citizen over the next three years.
From a South African perspective, the Motsepe Foundation, a hosting and presenting partner of Global Citizen, committed more than $104.4 million towards education, economic inclusion and equality of women and girls, as well as the current debate on land reform in South Africa. Entrepreneurs Patrice Motsepe and his wife Precious received a rapturous applause when they appeared on stage.
President Ramaphosa committed R2 billion ($144 million) for youth in South Africa, and announced the government’s intention to spend R60 billion ($4.3 billion) to provide free access to schools for poor children in South Africa.
But with all the pledges announced, the biggest question remained, what next?
The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, who was in attendance, weighed in on this.
“What I’d really like to see is we coming up with an integrated action plan so that it is not just raising the money but we absolutely identify how is this money going to be utilized and how we can work together better to support one another and to make sure that it is more likely that these issues will be delivered,” she told FORBES AFRICA.
“What I hope will come out of this is concrete action which will make a difference to the lives of the people who are so desperately thirsting for change.”
At the end of the day, what the 75,000-plus in the stadium had really come for was the culminating act by Beyoncé, one of the world’s highest-paid musicians listed on FORBES.
In one of the outfits on stage, Beyoncé wore a sequined body suit, thigh-high boots, and a dramatic cape that paid tribute to Africa’s 54 countries. It was designed by Mary Katrantzou, who said in an Instagram post: “Her coat has the 54 countries of Africa mapped out and on each country there is a different embroidery representing its diversity.” Beyoncé also wore a colorful beaded mini-dress with an elaborate back-piece, which according to her mother Tina Lawson, featured “one hundred thousand African beads”.
Some of the other designers the artiste wore during the visit included South African designers Enhle Mbali Maphumulo of Manual Rossa Apparel, Rich Mnisi, MmusoMaxwell, Senegalese designer Adama Ndiaye’s label Adama Paris, Sarah Diouf’s line Tongoro Studio and Ivorian label Yhebe Design.
Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z brought Africa to its feet to their tunes for the first time. It was a breath-taking, epic production which saw them perform hit songs like Halo, Perfect, Bonnie & Clyde, Formation and Forever Young.
But despite the success of the Global Citizen Festival, it was a chaotic end to a beautiful night for some.
While heads of state and celebrities were escorted back from the concert venue, some festival-goers were left stranded in gridlocked traffic at midnight to face attacks by criminals.
Many took to social media to explain how they were mugged at gunpoint and were victims to violence.
One of the attendees, 23-year-old Kayleen Morgan, who witnessed the attacks, told us: “What was upsetting was for something like this to happen at an event organized on such a huge scale. People’s experiences were not taken seriously…”
A month after these unfortunate incidents, some suspects have been arrested and investigations continue.
It was a night Beyoncé stole, and a night some audience-goers will never forget, for being stolen from.