At his inauguration in 2009, former UCT Vice-Chancellor Dr Max Price committed to developing strategic initiatives to address four key social challenges:
The University of Cape Town’s Poverty and Inequality Initiative (PII) had its origins in UCT’s long tradition of research, teaching and social responsiveness, linked to the goals of political, economic and social transformation in South Africa. In keeping with the mission of the university, the PII was a multi-disciplinary strategic initiative aimed at increasing the institution’s collective contribution to tackling major development challenges facing South Africa.
Following a meeting in April 2011 with the then Minister Trevor Manuel of the National Planning Commission, Emeritus Professor Francis Wilson was appointed Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor for the PII, tasked with organising a national conference to launch a national inquiry on effective strategies to overcome poverty and inequality and prioritise areas needing further research. In September 2012, UCT hosted ‘Towards Carnegie3’ conference, attended by over 500 researchers, government officials and representatives from civil society to share information and models for urgent action on key themes – the role of law, unemployment and job creation, the land, urban and environmental challenges, education, health, government policy and community mobilisation. The PII continued to play a leading role in developing this national initiative – which was subsequently renamed the Mandela Initiative – until that work concluded in 2018.
The PII was led by Professor Murray Leibbrandt during his tenure as the Pro Vice-Chancellor Poverty & Inequality and was advised by the Poverty and Inequality Planning Group (PIPG) comprising key faculty members spanning the university’s six faculties. The initiative has sought to take committed and excellent research and researchers into processes aimed at finding and developing viable and impact-driven policies and interventions to overcome poverty and inequality.