Afro-Responsibility Course, Part 4

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Ubuntu Philosophy and Entrepreneurship


Ubuntu is a Bantu Nguni word that translates to "humanity". In Southern Africa dominant philosophies have been put forward from Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa. The philosophy of umunthu(Malawi), unhu(Zimbabwe) or ubuntu (South Africa) is entrenched in African sayings which were used to build strong norms and values in everyday life. These sayings reflect a deep sense of community and high values that were placed on humanity which guided every area of life.


Wikipedia puts it simply as, "the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity." 

The first publication on ubuntu as a philosophy was Hunhuism or Ubuntuism: A Zimbabwe Indegenous Political Philosophy by Stanlake J. W. T. Samkange (1980).Samkange highlights the three premises of Hunhuism or Ubuntuism that shape this philosophy: 

The first maxim asserts that 'To be human is to affirm one's humanity by recognising the humanity of others and, on that basis, establish respectful human relations with them.' 

The second maxim, 'if and when one is faced with a decisive choice between wealth and the preservation of the life of another human being, then one should opt for the preservation of life'.

 The third and final is based on the principle deeply embedded in traditional African political philosophy which says 'that the king owed his status, including all the powers associated with it, to the will of the people under him'.

More contributions to this Philosophy were added by prominent people such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Ubuntu presents many advantages to it's application in entrepreneurship especially when coupled with indigenous knowledge sytems. Ubuntu brings a human centred approach where a new economic system is established, one that goes beyond the division between developed and underdeveloped world, one that integrates social and environmental goals, one that balances shareholder return and one that brings the heart and soul in the workplace. Challenges in doing business in African markets requires skills from management perspectives that are rooted solidly in a mind-set that is uniquely African. Ubuntu in entrepreneurship has the potential to preserve the environment, reduce entrepreneurs' mental health challenges, maintain the integrity of social relations and bring communal wealth.