African society is characterised by multitudes of ethnic groups with various beliefs and practices with a common African cultural concept of ubuntu, which if applied in the operations of African businesses, has the potential to create strong business partnerships and organisations with community development in mind.
Ubuntu is an African Nguni word meaning humanity to others and has a correlated meaning of ‘I am who I am because of others’. Ubuntu is basically the ability of being human and valuing the good of the community above self interest. It also affirms the respect for others and is manifested through human acts in society, politics and the economy.
This concept, if adhered to on a large scale, has the potential to eradicate cancers to economic growth in Africa such as greed, corruption and fraud. When applied to business, the concept of ubuntu may establish progressive business partnerships and organisational activities and strategies that encourage the economic growth of African communities as a whole.
Organisational activities that utilise ubuntu in their founding principles include those along social responsibility such as provision of scholarships, school building, hospital building, providing free business training for individuals in poor communities and similar community building activities.
Organisations that give back to the community through such activities thereby contribute to the development of African societies.
Furthermore the concept of ubuntu can be applied in business strategies that encourage the establishment of progressive partnerships and business networks as ubuntu requires that “a person is who they are because of others.”
Kevin Chaplin (2006) in his research paper titled “The Ubuntu Spirit in African Communities” notes that South African ubuntu business networking festivals have brought business people of different colours, cultures and religions from different businesses and interests around the table to develop lasting ubuntu-grounded friendships, business connections and business partnerships.
The research by Chaplin found that these ubuntu business festivals also provide business people with emerging business insights, offer cutting-edge leadership perspectives, stimulate collaborative opportunities, and model new and open ways for trusting partnerships across racial, cultural and religious backgrounds to emerge within South Africa’s economic sector.
Thus the concept of ubuntu can be applied in business relations in order to build strong partnerships and networks consisting of diverse African organisations that cut across diverse cultures thereby encouraging a united force towards the growth of Africa’s economy
Moreover the concept of ubuntu manifests itself in the African Union’s Agenda 2063 as the form of conscience needed to foster unity of purpose and Pan Africanism. Although not directly stated in its Nguni word, ubuntu is present in the Agenda 2063 which states that African culture as a key driver of change in Africa as it says under section 44 that “Culture, heritage and a common identity and destiny will be the centre of all our strategies so as to facilitate for a Pan African approach and the African Renaissance”
This is noted in how it speaks of the facets of ubuntu, such as unity, service for the people and cooperation in developing the of Africa’s economy such as in section 29 of the Agenda 2063 which states that; “Africa will be a continent where the institutions are at the service of its people. Citizens will actively participate in social, economic and political development and management. Competent, professional, rules and merit-based public institutions will serve the continent and deliver effective and efficient services. Institutions at all levels of government will be developmental, democratic, and accountable”
The future of African economic growth thus seems to be one that utilises the African cultural concept of ubuntu to create productive business partnerships with a founding of humanity and solidarity of purpose towards making Africa a better continent for all people within it. This concept can also be applied by African start ups in their quest for growth by establishing partnerships and collaborative efforts in making their businesses more efficient and expansive not only for the good of themselves but also for the good of African communities.
(Image credit: Africa Peace Journals)