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The one tribe philosophy of Ubuntu: “I am because we are”

By February 23, 2024March 22nd, 2024FinGlobal

The one tribe philosophy of Ubuntu: “I am because we are”

February 23, 2024


The “I am because we are proverb” is a philosophy that has been deeply ingrained in the African culture for centuries. Ubuntu, derived from the Zulu proverb umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu meaning “I am because we are.” is a concept that emphasizes the interdependence among individuals and the importance of community.

Ubuntu original meaning

Ubuntu has its origins in Southern Africa, particularly among the Bantu people. The word itself is derived from the Nguni languages which are spoken by over 30 million people in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and Lesotho. The concept of Ubuntu is deeply rooted in the belief that all beings are interconnected and that one’s humanity is only realized through relationships with others.

According to African oral traditions, ubuntu was often used as a guiding principle for resolving conflicts within communities. It placed great emphasis on forgiveness, compassion, and reconciliation rather than punishment or revenge. This ensured that harmony was maintained within the community and that everyone’s well-being was taken into consideration.

Ubuntu: “I am because we are.”

Here are how some influential individuals have beautifully described the essence of Ubuntu:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu :
Describes Ubuntu as the quality of being open and affirming towards others. It is the understanding that we are all part of a greater whole, and our self-assurance comes from knowing our place in this interconnectedness. When others are humiliated or oppressed, we are also diminished. Ubuntu reminds us that we cannot exist in isolation; our actions have an impact on the world. When we act with generosity and kindness, it ripples out and benefits all of humanity.

Nelson Mandela:
When a traveler passes through a village, they are generously provided with food and assistance without needing to ask. This exemplifies one facet of Ubuntu, which encompasses various other dimensions. Ubuntu does not imply that individuals should neglect their own needs. The real question is: Will you take action to empower the community around you and enable its progress?

Former United States President Barack Obama:
Ubuntu represents the idea that we are all interconnected in ways that may not be visible, emphasizing the oneness of humanity. Obama highlights the importance of sharing and caring for others as a means of self-fulfillment.

Ubuntu in modern society

In today’s fast-paced world, the concept of “I am because we are” may seem outdated. However, this philosophy can be applied to modern society. One core principle of Ubuntu is compassion. In a divided world, showing kindness and empathy can have a powerful impact. Ubuntu also emphasizes the importance of community and collaboration over competition, fostering stronger communities.

Ubuntu principles in our daily lives

Ubuntu is not just a philosophy to be discussed or studied, but it is meant to be lived and practiced in our daily lives. Here are some ways we can incorporate Ubuntu principles into our interactions with others:

  • Practice empathy: Take the time to listen and understand others’ perspectives, even if they may differ from your own.
  • Be mindful of your actions: Recognize that your choices can impact others and strive to make decisions that benefit not just yourself but also those around you.
  • Volunteer and give back to your community: Find ways to contribute positively to your community by sharing your time, skills, or resources.
  • Foster a sense of community: Whether it’s with your family, friends, or coworkers, make an effort to build strong relationships and promote collaboration over competition.

Embracing Ubuntu

In conclusion, ubuntu serves as a powerful reminder that we are all connected and that our humanity is best realized through our relationships with others. By embracing ubuntu principles in our daily lives, we can cultivate a more compassionate, empathetic, and harmonious society for all. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu famously said, “A person is a person through other persons. We need other human beings in order to be human. I am because other people are.” So let us embrace the wisdom of ubuntu and strive to create a better world for all.

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