Ubuntu – I am because you are

Ubuntu is an African philosophy which has a number of rough translations such as humanity to others, I am what I am because of who we all are, and I am because you are. The concept of Ubuntu has been around for centuries however it was Nelson Mandela that reignited this concept in modern times and conveyed it to the Western World. The AFN have decided to use the message “I am because you are” as part of the motto for the 2020 conference because it shows a togetherness that is brought about through facilitation and a strong connection to the world and community around us. Below is some more information about Ubuntu and the impact that it can have.

The following is an extract from the article “What does Ubuntu really mean?”  published by the Guardian in 2006 by Nkem Ifejika, providing a brief summary of what Ubuntu means.  “Ubuntu means “I am, because you are”. In fact, the word ubuntu is just part of the Zulu phrase “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which literally means that a person is a person through other people. Ubuntu has its roots in humanist African philosophy, where the idea of community is one of the building blocks of society. Ubuntu is that nebulous concept of common humanity, oneness: humanity, you and me both.”  If you would like to read the full article please click here.

In the above video Nelson Mandela states “In the old days when we were young, a traveller through a country would stop at a village, and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water: once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him.  That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects.  Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves.  The question therefore is are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you and enable it to improve?  These are the important things in life. And if one can do that, you have done something important which will be appreciated.”

On the 10th of December 2013 Barack Obama delivered a powerful speech commemorating Nelson Mandela, at his tribute in Soweto.  Obama referred to Mandela’s strong connection with Ubuntu in the following statement “Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa – Ubuntu – that describes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.”

More information and some modern adoptions of the word Ubuntu can be found if you click here.