The Building Bridges programme at the University of Cape Town (UCT) Nelson Mandela Mandela School of Public Governance is a strategic dialogue and partnership platform. The programme has a threefold purpose:

  1. Provide a platform for academic researchers, policy makers, private sector, trade unions, parliamentarians and other stakeholders to share and engage on policy related information and research; to engage in dialogue on policy options and implementation challenges.
  2. Stimulate partnerships between the School, our students and our alumni, on the one hand, and public governance constituencies in South Africa, Africa and abroad, on the other.
  3. Promote intergenerational engagement, social inclusivity and connectivity between policy makers and their constituencies.


In the early years of the programme, Building Bridges established a number of continental leadership programmes targeting emerging african leaders, social entrepreneurs and pioneered the Nelson Mandela School’s first women’s leadership development programme in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, the Leading in Public Life: Women, Influence, Power Programme. These leadership programmes now fall within the Executive Education programme. To learn more about the Executive Education programmes, click here.

Following the development of the School’s 5-year strategy, Building Bridges now has a focus on strengthening networks and promoting strategic engagements that drive our work on democratic governance, sustainable development and policy implementation.

Strategic engagements recently organised by Building Bridges include:

  1. The Democracy in Central and Southern Africa Conference (organised in partnership with the Kofi Annan Foundation, the Elders, UNDEF).
  2. The Africa Day Conference (organised in partnership with the UCT Vice Chancellor’s Office, the African Union -African Peer Review Mechanism)
  3. The AfCFTA and Transformative Industrialisation Series
  4. The Club De Madrid: Rethinking Democracy Challenge (In partnership with Club De Madrid)
  5. The UCT SDG Africa Summit, Lever 1: Building Ethical and Capable Institutions, including pre-summit workshops in partnership with (the Centre for Democracy and Development of Nigeria and Ghana; the Institute of Security Studies, the Afrobarometer, the African Peer Review Mechanism).

Finally, Building Bridges’ work is underpinned by sustained alumni engagement across all of the Nelson Mandela School’s programmes. In 2021, the School launched Nelson Mandela School Connect, to promote alumni engagement within the Nelson Mandela School’s community. To visit the Nelson Mandela School connect site, click here and to meet our alumni here.