Beyonce, Jay-Z Among Headliners at Global Citizen Festival Honoring Nelson Mandela Centennial

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Jay-Z and Beyonce

Oprah Winfrey will deliver a keynote address at the Dec. 2 event in Africa, which also will feature headliners including Ed Sheeran, Eddie Vedder, Pharrell Williams & Chris Martin and Usher.

Beyonce & Jay-Z, Ed Sheeran, Eddie Vedder, Pharrell Williams & Chris Martin and Usher are among the headliners set for the first Global Citizen Festival to be held in Africa, honoring Nelson Mandela’s centennial, on Sunday, Dec. 2.

Oprah Winfrey will deliver a special keynote address remembering Mandela and his legacy at the free-ticketed event, taking place at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa. The festival serves as the culmination of Global Citizen's "Mandela 100" campaign in partnership with the House of Mandela, a series of global events celebrating the life and legacy of Mandela in his centenary year.

International advocacy organization Global Citizen said Monday that Cassper Nyovest, D'banj, Femi Kuti, Sho Madjozi, Tiwa Savage and Wizkid also will serve as headliners at the event. Hosts of the Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 include Naomi Campbell, Sir Bob Geldof, Gayle King, Bonang Matheba, Tyler Perry and Forest Whitaker.

In 2008 in his final speech, Mandela said, "We all have the opportunity to be great and play our part." His grandson, Kweku Mandela, told The Hollywood Reporter those words are the premise for the Dec. 2 event.

“Two years ago, after India took place, I approached Hugh Evans (Global Citizen co-founder and CEO) and told him I really wanted to bring this to South Africa to be a part of my grandfather’s centennial,” Kweku, who serves on the festival board, told THR. “We met with Chris Martin, Global Citizen’s festival curator, and told him about it and he instantly said we need to do it in Johannesburg and it needs to be about connection.” 

Said Evans in a statement: "Nelson Mandela was one of the greatest examples of resistance, patience and forgiveness that our world will ever know. It is our great honor to campaign in his name and answer his call to be the generation to end extreme poverty."

Since the festival's inception in New York in 2012, Global Citizen has grown into one of the largest, most visible platforms for young people around the world calling on world leaders to honor their responsibilities in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and ending extreme poverty by 2030. The organization has taken its action-based model to Australia, India, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and Canada, and created a platform for activists to learn about the issues they care most about, take action and earn rewards for doing so.

Though it has already taken place in varied international destinations, bringing the festival to Johannesburg took “countless meetings and hours of working with governments, leaders of the private sector plus family and friends,” according to Kweku. 

Though a lot of work, Kweku reiterates that the efforts are simply an exemplification of Mandela’s visions. “All of those people committing their time and effort to help build on the core mission and one of my grandfather’s biggest visions, which is how do we end extreme poverty and can any of us truly be free while it still exists.” 

Beyonce, Jay-Z, Usher, Vedder, Sheeran and Stevie Wonder have performed at previous iterations of the festival around the world.

“All of the artists involved were artists I wanted involved in this event and they all shared our enthusiasm. Chris [Martin] and Pharrell [Williams] have been really tireless champions of this process, they took it out to the artist community and conveyed why this moment in time was critical to the movement to end extreme poverty,” said Kweku.  

Aside from the performers, a number of world leaders are also expected to attend and address the festival, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Amina J. Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, who delivered the 2017 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway and Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, who both serve as co-chairs of the U.N. Secretary General’s Advocacy Group for the Sustainable Development Goals, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, Alexander De Croo, Deputy Prime Minister of Belgium, President of the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development and former Prime Minister of Togo, Gilbert F. Houngbo and Ambassador Ertharin Cousin, Board Director of The Power of Nutrition and former World Food Programme Executive Director. 

This year's festival will be presented by our major partner The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Big Concerts, House of Mandela, BMGF Goalkeepers and Eldridge. 

Executive producers include Dr. Precious Motsepe, Patrice Motsepe, Kweku Mandela, Dave Holmes, Declan Kelly, Liza Henshaw and Hugh Evans. The festival broadcast will be produced by Ben Winston and Fulwell 73 Productions.

While the involvement from leaders and stars will be an entertaining factor in the overall event, Kweku finds their participation as a representation of the “humanity” Mandela believed in. “Global Citizen allows our actions to move the needle each and every day closer to a world where we can find balance and basic rights for all. This isn’t a charity and the movement has never been a fundraiser. It’s about being human and our responsibility that goes along with that humanity.” 

Though the festival has taken place in years past, this year's event holds special meaning by honoring the activist's centennial. Kweku hopes that his grandfather would be proud of their dedicated efforts to continue having his voice heard. 

“He spent his life fighting for his family, his country and people around the world. I hope he would look at what Global Citizen is doing and feel that his efforts, life and legacy live on in the millions of young people who take action on the platform every month around the world.”