One of the new terms I picked up as I moved to this beautiful new continent was “Ubuntu”.
Originating from the Nguni Bantu dialect it roughly translates to ‘human kindness’. However, Ubuntu seems to have a much deeper meaning in Africa than just this literal translation.
The Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee defines Ubuntu in the following words: “I am what I am because of who we all are.”
It is a philosophical belief that perceives all humanity to be connected by a universal bond. And from this belief stem the virtues of kindness, morality being extended from one human to another, from one part of a whole to another. Ubuntu gives a sense of reassurance to every part that they do not exist in isolation and are part of a greater whole. Oppression of one past is seen as oppression of all humanity.
The South African social activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Desmond Tutu explained Ubuntu in 2008:
One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.
We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
I have seen Ubuntu in action in more places than one, during the few months I have spent here. Social entrepreneurship is at an all time high in Tanzania and the number of people who are taking up small and medium scale initiatives is very encouraging. It is heartening to see that a vast majority of these social initiatives are taken up by foreigners. People who are settled in Tanzania for mostly the medium term but have taken it upon themselves to better the lives of so many around them and to give back to the country that is giving them so much.
Inspired by so much creativity around me, I’ve decided to start an Ubuntu series featuring various social entrepreneurship initiatives that I see here in Tanzania.
Working on the first post and you should be seeing it here on the blog soon.