The world is facing strange and uncertain times and it is at times like these that the example of Nelson Mandela is so important, Obama said.

Former Unites States of America President Barack Obama today said former President Nelson Mandela had the wisdom to step down from the presidency when his term came to an end, unlike some presidents who hold on to power even when the electorate want them out of office.

Delivering the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at the Wanderers Cricket Stadium in Johannesburg packed with an audience of 15 000, Obama reflected on the historical context in which Mandela grew up and what formed a boy from rural South Africa to help shape global politics and foster peace around the world.

“[Mandela] came to embody the universal aspirations of dispossessed people all around the world with hopes for a better life, and the possibility of a moral transformation in the conduct of human affairs. He fought the fight to end apartheid. Through his sacrifice and unwavering leadership and most of all through his moral example, Mandela and the movement he led would come to embody universal aspirations,” Obama said.

“It is hard to overstate the transformation that has taken place since that time. It was in service of this long walk towards freedom and justice and equal opportunity that Nelson Mandela devoted his life. And now an entire generation has grown up in a world that by most measures has gotten steadily freer, healthier, wealthier, less violent and more tolerant during the course of their lifetimes. It should make us hopeful.”

Obama also said despite the progress that has been made globally in the last few decades, the world also had to recognise all the ways the international order has fallen short.

“The world is facing strange and uncertain times and it is at times like these that the example of Nelson Mandela is so important,” Obama said.