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25-year old Zimbabwean activist Namatai Kwekweza wins inaugural Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize

The Kofi Annan Foundation and Democracy & Culture Foundation are delighted to announce 25-year-old Namatai Kwekweza from Zimbabwe as the winner of the first Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize. 

“Democracy will not die! Our faith and hope in democracy is cemented by our actions today!” – Namatai Kwekweza

Photo: Namatai Kwekweza

Namatai Kwekweza is the founder and Director of WELEAD Trust, a national activist from Zimbabwe who fearlessly mobilises young people to protect democracy and the rule of law. Despite persecution, her influence extends regionally and internationally. Through WELEAD Trust, she promotes youth participation, leadership, and advocacy, and is recognised for her passion, intelligence, and fearless commitment.

“Winning the Kofi Atta Annan NextGen Democracy Prize is humbling and is the start of a journey with a widened network of great people doing great work in the world! I am especially proud of the nine finalists, who I know are doing important and selfless work. I am thankful to my family and community who have made me! In Africa, we say, “It takes a village to raise a child” I am the child of my village; I am who I am because I belong to a successful team and network of people who have taught me authenticity, empathy, service, hope, and courage are important virtues. Democracy will not die! Our faith and hope in democracy are cemented by our actions today!”

Launched in 2023 by the Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF) and the Democracy and Culture Foundation (DCF), the Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize is awarded to a young leader aged between 18 and 30 and presented each year at the Athens Democracy Forum. The Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize aims to recognise exceptional leadership and inspire more young people to commit to the advancement of democracy.

“On behalf of the Kofi Annan Foundation, I am delighted to announce Namatai Kwekweza as the winner of the inaugural Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize. We are impressed with her exceptional leadership and passion for defending, renewing and promoting democracy – both locally and internationally. In line with the values of Kofi Annan, the prize celebrates young leaders and highlights the critical role that youth play in building more democratic societies. We are confident that Namatai and her commendable work with WELEAD Trust will continue to inspire others, especially young people around the world, to commit to advancing democracy.” – Corinne Momal-Vanian, Kofi Annan Foundation Executive Director.

The jury comprised representatives of One Young World, Club de Madrid, the Atlas Movement, the Kofi Annan Foundation and the Democracy & Culture Foundation.

Discover the Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize Finalists!

“I remain a committed believer in the value of democracy as a catalyst for better governance, greater security, and human development. The spread of democracy has been one of the most profound and positive developments that I have witnessed over my career.” – Kofi Annan

Join us in congratulating Namatai as our first-ever winner of the Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize, and congratulations to all the finalists and nominations! 

Namatai’s Speech at the 2023 Athens Democracy Forum

Presented by Corinne Momal-Vanian, Executive Director, Kofi Annan Foundation


Athens Democracy Forum (ADF) was founded ten years ago, inspired, among others, by Kofi Annan’s work on peace and democracy and his establishment of the United Nations Democracy Fund. In 2017 Kofi Annan delivered the Aristotle Address and the keynote speech at the opening of the Forum.

With the annual endorsement of the UN Secretary-General and in association with the Nez York Times, ADF has become the leading global event marking the International Day of Democracy. Throughout his mandate as Secretary-General of the United Nations and later as the head of the Kofi Annan Foundation, Kofi Annan worked to promote democracy, which he called “a catalyst for better governance, greater security, and human development.” He was also a great believer in youth leadership and inclusion. He strived to facilitate the participation of young people in local, national and international decision-making forums. After ten years, ADF is fully aligned with the values promoted by Kofi Annan and the Kofi Annan Foundation. 

Democracy, however, is in retreat in many parts of the world, with catastrophic consequences such as the war in Ukraine, the toppling of elected governments in countries in Africa and Asia, and the rise of populist and authoritarian leaders on all continents. Young people have lost faith in the system and express their disillusionment with the capacity of elections to deliver representative and accountable governments, yet most are committed to positive change. 

This has led the two foundations to deepen their collaboration toward the Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize, celebrating young people and their achievements worldwide.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the aim of the Kofi Annan NextGen Democracy Prize?

  • Recognise exceptional intellectual and/or “in action” leadership shown by a young activist in defending, promoting or renewing democracy;
  • Support the recipient of the prize, including a one-year mentorship with a recognised democracy expert or senior leader;
  • Inspire young people to commit to the advancement of democracy.

How are young people nominated?

Nominations must come from a recognised organisation. Nominees must be aged between 18 and 30 at the time of nomination. There are no restrictions in terms of nationality, gender, or occupation.

What are the criteria for nominating someone?

  • Nominees must be aged between 18 and 30 at the time of nomination. 
  • There are no restrictions in terms of nationality, gender, or occupation. 

The Selection Committee consider the following when deciding the winner:

  • Impact: The Nominee’s actions had a demonstrated outcome, for instance, a change in policy in a given country, the rate of participation in elections, the number of people reached through a specific campaign, the number of users of a specific application, the number of students gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the importance of the democratic process, the number of community associations engaged in an educational campaign etc.
  • Innovation: The innovative character of these actions.
  • Sustainability: Whether the Nominee has advanced the cause of democracy and human rights for a sustained period of one-year minimum, and whether her/his actions are sustainable over time and replicable in other contexts;
  • Values: The values displayed by the Nominee through her/his actions.
  • Benefit: The added value the Award could bring to the Nominee in terms of international notoriety and support.

What does the Kofi Annan Democracy Award include?

The prize includes a monetary prize of USD 10,000. The Award will be presented at the Athens Democracy Forum, and the organisers will cover all travel and accommodation expenses linked to the Awardee’s participation in the Forum. Awardees will be invited to take a leading role in organising a panel session on youth and democracy at the following year’s Forum.

About the Kofi Annan Foundation

The Kofi Annan Foundation is an independent not-for-profit organisation established in Switzerland in 2007 by the late former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The Kofi Annan Foundation works to create a fairer and more peaceful world where no one is left behind, democratic principles and the rule of law are upheld, and divides are bridged through dialogue and international cooperation.

We work closely with partners from international and regional organisations, foundations, universities and civil society. We channel expertise, convene all stakeholders around the table and forge coalitions of trusted influence which can make change happen. 

About the Democracy and Culture Foundation

The Democracy and Culture Foundation was founded in 2019. The Foundation’s mission is to empower society through citizen engagement and better governance by becoming the leading global platform for dialogue and solution-oriented activities concerning the evolution of democracy and culture. 

By identifying the critical issues affecting democracy at its most practical levels, the Foundation brings together original thinkers and powerful decision-makers to debate and develop societal solutions and then works to turn these solutions into specific policy proposals, then develop strategies towards their implementation.

Its two major events, the Athens Democracy Forum in association with the New York Times and Art for Tomorrow, are held annually and designed to convene, connect and foster collaboration between prominent and emerging voices for both democracy and culture. The Foundation also runs initiatives worldwide with its partners, including Teens for Democracy and Building Blocks for Democracy. 

About the Athens Democracy Forum

The aim of the Athens Democracy Forum is to serve as the North Star on which democracy and society can reorient themselves. It seeks to make democracy work.

The Athens Democracy Forum was convened by The New York Times from 2013 to 2018. In order to facilitate the future growth and development of the conference, it was decided to form a nonprofit structure around the Forum, the Democracy & Culture Foundation, to take the event forward. A fully dedicated team was established to run the Athens Democracy Forum as an independent entity that remains strongly linked to The New York Times ethos and programming.