Cisco acts to end extreme poverty - Activate World

Cisco acts to end extreme poverty


During the holiday season, Cisco has continued its efforts to improve the world by ending extreme poverty as a sponsor of the Global Citizen Festival that was held in early December in Johannesburg, South Africa. Cisco Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins announced in front of 70,000 concert attendees the company’s commitment to ending extreme poverty by preparing 10 million people for jobs in the next five years.

The event brought together heads of state, dignitaries, a group of the world’s most talented artists and influencers, and thousands of global citizens to celebrate the centenary of Nelson Mandela. Global Citizen exceeded its goal of USD $1 billion by seven times, with commitments from the World Bank, Vodacom, PEPFAR, Cisco, the government of South Africa and co-hosts of Mandela 100, the Motsepe Foundation. These donations alone added $5.4 billion on top of projected new commitments. 

The Struggle series, a poignant series of drawings by Nelson Mandela, served as an inspiration for the festival. The drawings of Mandela’s hands represent not only the story of his life but also the story of South Africa. They depict his hands in five positions representing: struggle, imprisonment, freedom, unity and the future. They also represent the motivation behind actions that Global Citizens took this year to end to extreme poverty in our lifetime.

“Nelson Mandela’s life story is a testament to the power of the human spirit and one man’s ability to change the world by standing up for what he believed in,” said Oprah Winfrey before speaking at the festival. “It is one of the great honors of my life to have spent so much time with him, and I look forward to celebrating his courageous life.” 

Earlier in 2018, Cisco announced a $50 million donation to Destination: Home, one of Silicon Valley’s major nonprofits tackling homelessness and affordable housing in the region. According to the company, the money will go toward building extremely low-income and supportive housing in Santa Clara County, funding homelessness prevention programs such as skills training and rent assistance and improving the technology and data collection used by homeless organizations. 

With an estimated 7,394 homeless people living in Santa Clara County as of January 2017, pressure is mounting for a solution to the problem worsening in the middle of Silicon Valley’s tech industry-fueled prosperity. “There’s been unparalleled success in the tech community, particularly here in Silicon Valley. And there’s an increasing divide between the success and those that are struggling in the community,” said Cisco Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins.

While other Silicon Valley tech companies have donated funds to shelter the homeless and build affordable housing, Cisco’s massive contribution is likely the first of its size, said Jennifer Loving, CEO of Destination: Home, which will distribute the $50 million donation. The sum even exceeds the amounts that corporations, foundations and other private entities across the nation have given to fight homelessness.


  • Attendees didn’t pay money to attend the star-studded Global Citizen Festival event, instead, they had to demonstrate personally making a difference in the effort to end global poverty.
  • The festival headliners: Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Cassper Nyovest, D’banj, Ed Sheeran, Eddie Vedder, Femi Kuti, Pharrell Williams and Chris Martin, Sho Madjozi, Tiwa Savage, Usher and Wizkid, have all worked, along with the corporate sponsors, on ending global poverty.
  • In addition to ending poverty, the global goals for the effort are ending hunger, assuring good health and well-being, assuring a quality education, promoting gender equality, assuring clean water and effective sanitation, and assuring ocean health.

Quests and Actions (Q&A)

  • Cisco’s Networking Academy has trained 9 million people to make a living in technology, helps reduce poverty and aids the deployment of necessary technology in developed and under developed countries. What can business leaders do to expand these effective programs to reach broader segments of the global population?
  • Between 1990 and 2015, more than a billion people moved out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is now lower than it has ever been in recorded history. How can countries better identify the poor and implement appropriate policies to build human capital and improve living standards?
  • The number of extremely poor people continues to rise in Sub-Saharan Africa, while falling rapidly in all other regions. How can business leaders and policy makers end this entrenchment of poverty? Will this require a strong focus on increasing the productive capacity of the poor?

Sources: IT Business Edge, Nelson,, The Mercury

Photo by Mika on Unsplash