Shanthi Annan, the founder of Mandela Mile, is a global social entrepreneur who advises and invests in business projects across a range of industries. She guides the strategy of various charities and works in partnership with organisations to develop community building, impact and engagement initiatives. Shanthi is married to Kojo Annan, the son of late Kofi Annan and they have three children.

Shanthi was motivated to start Mandela Mandela in response to The Elder’s 10th Anniversary Walk Together Campaign. The Walk Together Campaign was a year-long initiative to continue the legacy of Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom. The purpose of the campaign is to not only build global empathy but to also support civil society on primordial issues such as peace, health, justice, and equality.

Initially, the United Nations Association based In Westminster (UNA) approached Shanthi for help with establishing a specific Mandela Mile route in London between the Nelson Mandela Statue in Parliament Square and Nelson Mandela’s Bust at The Southbank Centre to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s birthday. Once Shanthi began, she felt inspired to create and deliver nothing less than a globally inclusive campaign, which has seen unprecedented support from grassroots communities to humanitarian organizations and global leaders.


“The way I saw it, if my father in law could travel at 80 years of age all the way from Geneva to Johannesburg to walk in the freezing cold for peace, justice, health, and equality, then the least I could do is to lead a globally inclusive campaign” – Shanthi Annan


Speaking of duty, in a world where mainstream media and politics often neglect division over plurality and consensus, any initiative that gathers the world together to establish common ground is essential. In a fast-paced and technology-enabled world, where the divide between the ‘haves’ and the ‘haves not’ is slowly widening, it is vital that steps are taken to not leave anyone behind. The voices of community leaders, as well as members of marginalised areas, must be amplified.

To this end, every year, on July 18th, Shanthi, the Mandela Mile team, and global core supporters champion Madiba´s legacy by bringing the world together to walk and celebrate. This year Shanthi will be walking for peace and for the idea of a global family. As a relatively new mother of three, it is perhaps natural for Shanthi to reflect on and reframe family traditions. This time Shanthi is driven to find answers to the following questions:


  • How can the family traditions we all choose to adopt in ‘our small world’ at home serve to impact ‘the big world’ out there?


  • How can we draw from inspiring global legacies like those of Nelson Mandela and father in law, Kofi Annan, and find new ways to bring their influence with us into the future?


  • How can we make sure the youngest and most vulnerable voices in our global community are heard?


Just like families across the globe pause to celebrate Independence Day, Shanthi’s wish is to see Mandela Mile become a strong global family tradition that marks Mandela Day every year on July 18th.


For Shanthi, Nelson Mandela provides a beacon of hope. She has reflected on Mandela’s legacy throughout her life and this has caused her to think about what it really means to make a difference in the world and about the meaning of freedom. Because of Mandela, for Shanthi:


‘‘freedom is a state of mind, a way of being and a journey that must bring with it respect, peace,  reconciliation and often forgiveness’’


Shanthi Annan invites everyone to participate in the Mandela Mile on Thursday 18th July 2019, wherever you are based in the world. She encourages us to share our moments while walking the “extra mile” to be the legacy through the hashtags #MandelaMile and #forKofi. And don´t forget to tag @MandelaMile!!!

People all over the world, including Shaman Durek and Princess Martha Louise of Norway are already stepping up to showcase their leadership in ways that can inspire others on the day.

You can walk Mandela Mile alone or with family and friends because we are all at different stages when it comes to fulfilling our leadership potential and every person´s journey is personal.

Those who are feeling confident or ambitious may even choose to lead a community walk in their part of the world.

“To live is to choose. But to choose well you must know who you are and what you are and what you stand for, where you are going and why you want to get there” – Kofi Annan

It seems the Mandela Mile is a personal journey to discover exactly that.


By Ayessha Ghulati (Brunel University London – UK)