The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced the appointment of the prominent South African singer and actor Zola as the agency’s Goodwill Ambassador for Eastern and Southern Africa.
“Being named an ambassador is like a calling. You can’t refer to this as a job. UNICEF’s work in Africa has influenced me,” said Zola.
“It is my responsibility to speak out loud and to make noise on behalf of children. I grew up in a ghetto and I understand what it means to struggle. Now, as long as I live, I am going to fight social injustice wherever it happens,” he pledged.
UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah said the appointment was made in recognition of Zola’s dynamic efforts and personal commitment in highlighting the difficult challenges facing the youth in Africa today.
“Zola has used his creative talents to draw the public’s attention to the terrible impact of HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation, and poverty on young people on this continent,” said Ms. Salah at a side session during the Fifth African Development Forum in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
She said the artist’s “personal story in overcoming poverty in Soweto to become one of Africa’s budding young superstars gives hope to millions of youth in Africa who are in a similar situation.”
The 29-year-old Zola’s lyrics reflect the world in which he grew up – one of hunger, abuse, and gun violence. His signature role came in the Oscar-winning movie Tsotsi, where he starred as the smooth-talking leader of a carjacking syndicate. Zola also hosts his own television show, Zola 7, which, with a weekly audience of 5 million viewers, is one of the most watched programmes in South Africa.
In becoming a UNICEF ambassador, Zola joins a list of well-known and highly regarded personalities from sports, music, and performing arts who are supporting the Fund’s work.