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A Prince With A Mission

Cedza DlaminiTufts senior Cedza Dlamini is using his passion for social entrepreneurship to help fight poverty and disease worldwide.


Cedza Dlamini walks in some pretty big footsteps. The grandson of freedom fighters Nelson Mandela and King Sobhuza II, Dlamini has an impressive lineage. But the Tufts senior isn't content to fall back on his family's accomplishments. Instead, Dlamini is focused on forging his own legacy by using social entrepreneurship to help fight poverty and disease worldwide.

"I wanted to do a whole lot more than live very comfortably," says the 29-year-old Dlamini. "I realized that it's not about what you have in life, but what you do with it that matters."

Sipping coffee at a café in the Tisch Library, the busy senior is taking a rare break from his hectic schedule to recall the path that led him from South Africa to Tufts.

"I left Africa without the blessing or support of my family - I basically had to do it on my own," he says, explaining that his parents wanted him to stay in South Africa to work for his family's business. "I came here to broaden my knowledge and education."

It was a difficult decision, but the right one for Dlamini.

"I realized that there were so many problems in South Africa, but a lot of young people in the country at that time were not really interested in going into politics because the liberation struggle had taken so long," Dlamini explains. Instead, many young people were choosing the private sector over public service.

Dlamini did the same, taking a jobs at Mitsubishi Corporation and later his father's international business consulting firm Mandela Dlamini and Associates.

But Dlamini - a prince who rarely introduces himself as such - says he realized that South Africa needed a new generation of leaders to take on the country's most pressing issues.

"Most of us wanted to go into business and make money, but there's a danger in that," he says. "If you have some many people going into the business sector, who will remain to make sure the social problems that are so glaring will be taken care of? Who will be responsible for that?"

Dlamini enrolled in college in the United States, quickly deciding on Boston.

"I came to Boston because it is largely considered to be the intellectual capital of the world," says Dlamini, who enrolled in Tufts' Resumed Education for Adult Learners program. "Tufts was a natural choice for me, because I had always been interested in international relations and I wanted to understand how other people and nations work and how we can build a much better world."

In the four years since he left South Africa, Dlamini has balanced his education (he will graduate this month with a degree in international relations) with his growing role as both a humanitarian and a social entrepreneur.

Largely regarded as an impassioned leader for the African people, Dlamini serves as a youth emissary and spokesperson for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - an eight-point strategy adopted by world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000 aimed at eradicating poverty, hunger and disease around the world within the next two decades.

"The UN extended an invitation to me to be one of the first leaders from across Africa to work on the Millennium Development Goals," he proudly explains. "They asked me to represent Southern Africa and to speak on behalf of all the African governments at the congress in the opening ceremony."

In October 2003, Dlamini was also appointed co-chair for the World Youth Peace Summit in Africa, which aims to assemble youth leaders from across the globe to find peaceful methods to resolve global conflict.

Recently, he was also invited to join the strategic development team of the Global Action Youth Network - an international nonprofit organization that acts as an incubator of global partnerships of youth organizations in almost 200 countries.

"The point of the Global Action Youth Network is to harness the power of young people from across the world," Dlamini says. "It would take huge support from the international community to help with some of the problems we have, but the network is increasing every day and allows us to have some more resources as an advocacy instrument."

Dlamini's vision is to create a unified, global network of young leaders who can work collectively to address current world problems, such as HIV and AIDS, poverty and hunger, and human rights.

Cedza Dlamini

"Most of us wanted to go into business and make money, but there's a danger in that," he says. "If you have some many people going into the business sector, who will remain to make sure the social problems that are so glaring will be taken care of? Who will be responsible for that?"

He sees social entrepreneurship as an important part of his vision, and is currently applying to MBA programs in Boston and California.

"The social entrepreneurship programs appeal to me because you are learning quantitative methods to solve social problems," he explains. "It's perfect for me because it really reconciles any internal conflict that I've had for a while about whether I go into business or politics and it allows me to use both for a good cause."

The cause which tops Dlamini's list is reducing the rate of HIV and AIDS in South Africa.

"Right now, the highest HIV and AIDS rates are in Southern Africa," Dlamini says. "And there is a conflict between the private and public sectors about who should be responsible for solving this problem."

The answer, Dlamini believes, lies in bridging the two.

"My pitch is that the private sector, and the business community especially, is not doing enough to help," the Tufts senior explains. "The private sector needs to be involved in solving the AIDS problem because we need financial resources, and we cannot just rely on the international community for this support.

"I want to play a crucial role in getting the private sector to contribute to this fight," he continues. "I want to be at the forefront of the fundraising aspects and I want to do that globally. There's a name for this, and it's called social corporate responsibility. I am determined to make sure this becomes a core aspect of the business community in Africa because this is not just a government problem."

Dlamini's work, however, is not exclusive to Africa. He is doing his part right here in the United States by talking about non-violence in Boston and elsewhere around the country. Each semester he visits public schools in the U.S to speak to primary and seconday students about issues of violence, youth empowerment and interconnectedness.

To date, the Tufts senior has spoken to more than 50 non-profit organizations and academic institutions with audiences ranging from 200-14,000 people. He often speaks to young children, believing "the younger you start teaching children about non-violence, the better."

Recently, Dlamini partnered with Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey to visit schools to speak with students about conflict resolution in the wake of increased gang violence around the state.

"It is important to emphasize how interconnected we all are - the concept of a global village and a global partnership. You don't always have to resort to violence to solve problems," Dlamini says, noting that South Africa was transformed through nonviolence.

Dlamini enthusiastically adds that he is often asked by high school students at his speaking engagements about his opinions of Tufts.

"My appreciation for my education at Tufts, and the amazing faculty, students, programs and the general environment is tremendous," he says. "The University has been able to offer me so much."

He cites the Tufts' mix of programs and people as a particularly valuable part of his experience.

"Tufts is a very international school that offers an amazing liberal arts education," he says. "Tufts represents everything that I stand for and that I live for. It is everything that I am passionate about - it truly represents this global village."

As Dlamini prepares to go off to speak at a high school in Wellesley, MA, he adds, "It is so important that young people be really involved and that they not be apathetic. We take so much for granted as young people, but we have so little time and we have to realize that we have to work together - that's what really keeps me busy."


Profile by Rebecca Dince, Class of 2006.

Rebecca Dince, a native of Brooklyn, New York, is a political science major and a communications and media studies minor. She has been a features editor at the Tufts Daily for the past two years, and has written for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Rebecca has returned this semester to Tufts, after spending the fall studying at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. She will be spending the summer interning for NBC News' Political Unit in New York City.

Photos by Melody Ko.

This story originally ran on May 2, 2005