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Barack Obama and limited-edition currency to mark the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth

South Africa has launched a set of limited-edition bank notes and gold coins to mark the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on 18 July 2018. To set the tone of the centenary, former US President Obama will pay tribute to the late anti-apartheid leader



Nelson Mandela’s birthday on 18 July is marked annually around the world. This year the Nelson Mandela Foundation has proclaimed it a time for people to “take action and inspire change” in the icon’s name.

As part of the commemorations, former US President Barack Obama will give a flagship speech on 17 July in Johannesburg. Aides say this could be his most important public address since leaving the White House in 2017.

“It gives him an opportunity to lift up a message of tolerance, inclusivity and democracy at a time when there are obviously challenges to Mandela’s legacy around the world,” his aide Benjamin Rhodes told the New York Times.

On Mandela’s birth date, Obama will host a town hall event for 200 young leaders selected from across Africa to attend a five-day training programme.

Read: Mandela centenary: South Africans must not let trifles undermine his legacy

Celebratory currency

Continuing the celebration of Mandela’s life, the South African Reserve Bank launched limited-edition bank notes and gold coins. Although Mandela’s face already appears on South Africa’s banknotes, these limited notes are said to depict Mandela’s life as the son of a chief in the rural Eastern Cape, his 27-year incarceration and the end of apartheid in 1994, when he became president.

For the 1-ounce gold coin the etching is of a smiling middle-aged Mandela, sporting his signature middle parting. It was designed by Zimbabwe-born Sindiso Nyoni, whose work includes stinging rebukes of former Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe.

“Growing up and living most of my life under a dictatorship, we were not able to experience this feeling of democracy that South Africans have,” Nyoni said.

Read: President Barack Obama to speak at the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture

Symbolic gestures

To mark “Mandela 100”, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said he will donate half his salary to charity to honour “the great sacrifices [Mandela] made and his tireless commitment to improving the lives of the most vulnerable”.

There will also be a free-ticketed concert to celebrate the centenary year and to honour Mandela’s legacy in the fight to end extreme poverty. The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 will be held in Johannesburg on 2 December and will feature Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Cassper Nyovest, D’banj, Ed Sheeran, Eddie Vedder, Femi Kuti, Pharrell Williams, Chris Martin, Sho Madjozi, Tiwa Savage, Usher and Wizkid.