Born at Idutywa in the Eastern Cape in June 1942, Thabo Mbeki sat for his Matriculation examinations at St John's High School in Umtata in 1959, having been expelled from Lovedale High School earlier that year for participating in an anti-apartheid strike. He passed his British ‘A level' examinations in 1961 as a SACHED student based in Johannesburg. This qualified him to enroll in 1962 at Sussex University in the UK where he graduated as a Master of Arts in Economics in 1966. He then worked at the ANC Office in London.
During 1969-70 he studied politics and trained as a military officer in the Soviet Union. He joined the ANC Youth League in 1956 and was elected Secretary General of the African Students Association in 1961. In 1971 in exile he joined the staff at ANC Headquarters in Lusaka, Zambia where he was co-opted into the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC in 1975 and then elected into the NEC at the 1985 ANC Conference. He served as Political Secretary to Oliver Tambo, then President of the ANC as well as Deputy Secretary of the Revolutionary Council; Head of the Departments of Information and International Affairs and from 1997 –1999 as ANC National Chairman.
He played an important role in facilitating contact between the ANC and the leadership inside South Africa, which emerged after the banning of the ANC and also led many of the ANC teams which facilitated the process leading to the 1990-94 negotiations which ended apartheid rule.
President Nelson Mandela appointed him as his Deputy President for the duration of the period of the first democratic government of 1994-99 where after he was elected President of South Africa and served in this position until he resigned in 2008.
As President of the Republic he presided over the longest period of economic growth in South Africa since the Second World War; championed poverty reduction programmes and the deracialisation of the South African economy. He vigorously encouraged women's empowerment, gender equality and national unity to advance the objectives of the South African Constitution. He led the campaign of the South African government and the national Soccer leadership which persuaded FIFA in 2004 to resolve that the 2010 Soccer World Cup should take place in South Africa and therefore for the first time in Africa.
In 2002, he served as the founding Chairperson of the African Union within which he pioneered the establishment of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD); initiated the establishment of the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) Dialogue Forum and served as Chairperson of the Non-Aligned Movement. He spearheaded the process, which placed Africa's challenges firmly on the global agenda thus positioning South Africa as an important global player, and having successfully helped to establish the vision of an African Renaissance as a uniting African objective.
Mr. Mbeki contributed to and led many of Africa's initiatives to end various conflicts. These included those in Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Burundi, and Comoros. Since his retirement, he has, at the request of the AU, led two Panels mandated to help Sudan to resolve its various challenges.
In 2010 he established the Thabo Mbeki Foundation and the Thabo Mbeki African Leadership Institute focused on the achievement of the goals of the African Renaissance. Thabo Mbeki is recognised throughout Africa and elsewhere in the world as a thought leader whose profile as an intellectual, a policy maker and a mediator has been built over a lifetime. He has won many awards to acknowledge his contribution to human advancement.