Mamphela Aletta Ramphele (born 28 December 1947) is a South African academic, businesswoman and medical doctor and was an anti-apartheid activist. She is a current trustee on the board of the Rockefeller Foundation in New York.
Ramphele was born in Kranspoort, near Pietersburg (now Polokwane), in what is now Limpopo province. She completed her schooling at Setotolwane High School in 1966 and subsequently enrolled for pre-medical courses at the University of the North.
In 1968 Ramphele was accepted into the University of Natal’s Medical School (then the only medical university that allowed black students to enroll without prior permission from the government), where she qualified as a medical doctor in 1972.
While at university she became increasingly involved in student politics and anti-apartheid activism and was one of the founders of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM), along with Steve Biko. As a member of the BCM, she was especially involved in organizing and working with community development programmes. She and Biko had a long, passionate relationship. Though Biko was married at the time, he and Ramphele had two children, the first, a girl, Lerato Biko (1974), died of pneumonia at two months. Their son, Hlumelo Biko, was born in 1978, after Biko's death.
Due to her political activities, she was internally banished by the apartheid government to the town of Tzaneen from 1977 to 1984.
Continuing her academic studies, Ramphele received a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology from the University of Cape Town, a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Administration from the University of South Africa as well as diplomas in Tropical Health & Hygiene and Public Health from the University of the Witwatersrand. Ramphele has also authored and edited a number of books.
Ramphele joined the University of Cape Town as a research fellow in 1986 and was appointed as one of its Deputy Vice-Chancellors in 1991. She was appointed to the post of Vice-Chancellor of the university in September 1996, thereby becoming the first black woman to hold such a position at a South African university.
In 2000, Ramphele became one of the four Managing Directors of the World Bank. She was tasked with overseeing the strategic positioning and operations of the World Bank Institute as well as the Vice-Presidency of External Affairs. She is the first South African to hold this position.
Ramphele has served as a trustee of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund, as the director of the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (IDASA) and as a board member of the Anglo-American Corporation and Transnet.
Ramphele also serves as a trustee for The Link SA fund, a charitable organization that raises money to subsidise the tertiary education of South Africa's brightest underprivileged students.
She was voted 55th in the Top 100 Great South Africans in 2004.