Kumara ‘Kumi’ Naidoo was born in Durban in 1965. Kumi Naidoo’s political activism began at the age of 15 years. In 1981, he was expelled from school for protesting against apartheid. Kumi was constantly harassed by the police. In 1986, the Apartheid Regime declared a state of emergency. Kumi was arrested and charged for violating provisions of the state; he fled South Africa in 1987. He went to exile in England. During this time he was a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford and he eventually earned a D.Phil in political sociology.
He returned to South Africa a month after Nelson Mandela’s release and worked on setting up the African National Congress as a legal political party. He was centrally involved in the first democratic elections in 1994 where he served the Independent Electoral Commission as the national director of training and served as an official spokesperson.
International Executive Director of international environmentalist group Greenpeace. He was the first African to head the organisation. He has served as the secretary-general of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty. He was Secretary General of Civicus, an international alliance for citizen participation, from 1998 to 2008.
Kumi has also worked variously as a researcher, journalist, university lecturer and youth counselor, and has published and spoken widely on issues relating to civil society, education and resistance to apartheid. Recently, he has led the Global Call for Climate Action.