Category Archive:Africa

Ubuntu, the African practice of generosity and community

sduncan post on February 22nd, 2016
Posted in Africa

by Rani Glick

Exploring the many cultures around the topic of Global Giving, I began researching the cultures of

African, a region of the world I know little about yet concerned with its current cultural and political

struggles. I discovered Ubuntu, the humanist philosophy of generosity and community.

The African people have a long time history of philanthropy that is deep-rooted in mutual support

through the family network and at the community level. This tradition stems from the belief that the

society was founded on dialogue (oral storytelling) and reciprocity. In pre-colonial times, a celebrated

ancestor was defined by the larger number of its descendants rather than its achievements. Affluence

was the collective kinship of the group comprised of individuals from the wealthy to the poor. This was

based on acquiring labour to cultivate the land and where individuals took care of each other i.e.

refugee took care of the poor, marriages were exchanges of property around giving and political

allegiances or widowed women were supported by their husband’s families or travelled to other

communities through the women’s network.

A person cannot exist as a full human being in isolation. A Xhosa proverb says “a person is a person

through persons.” Whatever happens to the individual happens to the whole group, and whatever

happens to the whole group happens to the individual.” This quality is known as Ubuntu. Compared to

the western perspective of ” the inner self” or” the individual’s” responsibility to the larger society.

Great African leaders have referred to Ubuntu as an “inspiring symbol of tolerance and humanity. It is a

way of life that underpins the concept of an open society”. Former president of South Africa, Nelson

Mandela describes Ubunto as, “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 to be able to improve? “

Ubuntu is rooted in the Bantu language where interpretation varies in different regions. In Tanzania,

“obunto” refers to human characteristics of generosity, In Kenya , “utu” was the central philosophy

where everything was done for the benefit of the community, In Botswana, “botho” means “a person is

a person through others” is one of the country’s five national principals.

Today, some African social scientists believe that the individual’s dependence on community has limited

their ability to take control over their destiny and contribute to the larger society. Africans have become

too dependent on the community to provide and in some incidences on foreign aid.

Efforts are being made today to reenergize these traditions by encouraging regions of African that have

strong economic growth to establish philanthropic institutions to sustain African initiatives in their


Works Cited

African Culture & Personality, Bad Social Science, Effective Social Activism or a call to reinvent Ethnology

African Studies Quarterly, James Lassiter

Reciprocity and Assistance in Pre-Colonial Africa,, Steven Feierman, Philanthropy in the world’s

traditions. (see video with host Jim Modise)

Trust Africa website

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The Smile Foundation: Giving the Gift of a Smile

sduncan post on January 28th, 2015
Posted in Africa Tags: , ,

by: Giuseppina Marchese

“A smile is the light in your window that tells others that there is a caring, sharing person inside.” – Denis Waitley

South Africa is a nation with a rich history of philanthropy. Many charities in South Africa are based around the idea of Ubuntu. Ubuntu is a word used to describe the notion that a person cannot exist without the help of their community; “I am; because of you” (May). Although the concept of Ubuntu has been around for centuries, it was introduced to the Western world in the 1990’s through the writings of Cape Town archbishop Desmond Tutu. Nelson Mandela was asked to define Ubuntu in a 2006 interview where he described it as being a traveler passing through a village and not having to ask for food or water because, just by stopping in a village, the villagers would give him the nourishment that he needed (May). Ubuntu reminds me of the saying “It takes a village to raise a child” in the sense that if a child is to grow and mature they will need the help of family and friends, teachers and principals, doctors and many other members of their community. The child will be because of the help of these people, Ubuntu.

The Smile Foundation is one of many South African charities that are based on the concept of Ubuntu. Started in 2000 as the Smile Fund, it came about when a parent wrote many letters to Nelson Mandela asking for his help to send their child overseas for Facial Reanimation surgery to correct the child’s facial paralysis (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). The Lubner family became involved and saw a potential for growth in the South African medical community. They brought the doctors who were performing these surgeries to South Africa to train South African doctors so that other children could benefit from the cosmetic procedure (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). The non-profit organization was renamed in 2013 as the Smile Foundation. Working with many South African doctors and nurses, the Smile Foundation literally puts smiles on the faces of children (“How Smile Foundation Began” 2014). They are allowing these children the gift to enjoy their childhood without being teased and tormented for their physical appearance. Because of this, I believe the Smile Foundation embodies the idea of Ubuntu. In a world that puts so much emphasis on physical beauty, these children would probably not be able to blossom to their full potential if not for the work of this foundation. They are saving the children from a lifetime of being teased and bullied, therefore helping them build their self-esteem and one day growing up to be successful adults.
Ubuntu has helped to make South Africa a better place. This concept of philanthropy was the basis to the Smile Foundation and who knows how many other South African charities. All nations should adopt the concept of Ubuntu: “I am; because of you.” People would be more inclined to give if they saw their donation as a thank you for all the work the community has done for them.

Works Cited
How smile foundation began. (2014). The Smile Foundation. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from
May, K.T. (2013, December 9). I am, because of you: Further reading on Ubuntu. Tedblog. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from

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Ubuntu: A South African perspective of philanthropy

sduncan post on November 26th, 2014
Posted in Africa

By Ann Kearns

Ubuntu is an indigenous South African philosophy that recognizes there is an interconnection between all people and no one person exists in isolation. Every interaction with a person is an opportunity to explore our humanity (Kamwangamalu, Nkonko M. (1999). Ubuntu in South Africa: Read the rest of this entry >>

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African Ubuntu and Its Influence on South African philanthropy

sduncan post on November 26th, 2014
Posted in Africa

By Aleksandra D. Nikolic

Today South Africa (SA) is considered “the second-most charitable country, behind the United States.” In the post-Apartheid era wealthy South Africans have become both “Benefactor” and “Volunteer” donors – giving time and money to charities.

The reasons philanthropists in SA give, are varied. However, a belief in the African philosophy of ‘ubuntu’ is said to underlay the need to give. A strong sense of community pervades the philosophy of ubuntu and culture of giving in SA. Read the rest of this entry >>

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The ubuntu world view: I am because we are

sduncan post on November 26th, 2014
Posted in Africa

By Stacey Pickering

“No man is an island, entire of itself. Each is a piece of a continent, a part of the main. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind”
​~ Reverend John Donne (in Wanless, 2007)

South Africa is home to nearly 50 million people and is often referred as the “rainbow nation”, because of its rich cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity (Murithi, 2009). Colonization, followed by years of apartheid, has forced South Africans to live with violence, inequality, displacement, and extreme poverty (Muthien, 2008). Nevertheless, South African culture and traditions Read the rest of this entry >>

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sduncan post on November 26th, 2014
Posted in Africa

By Gifitii Kebede

In Ethiopia, an East African country, joining a Mahiber is one of the main aspects of social interaction people have with each other. The word Mahiber means ‘an association’. Mahiber is a traditional philanthropic organization with the purpose of forming a safety net for people. Often times, people who form Mahibers have common attributes like living in the same neighbourhood, or belonging to the same church. Other times, they can even be relatives, in which case the main purpose of the Read the rest of this entry >>

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Community involvement with famine relief in rural villages in Tanzania

sduncan post on November 26th, 2014
Posted in Africa

By Nadine De Albuquerque

Throughout my childhood, family members would describe stories depicting their upbringing in East Africa; the difficult times, the government nationalization of personal property directed at particular ethnicities and the disparate situations they witnessed, always making a point to convey just how “lucky” I was. The importance of family and community support was a recurring theme to these tales. As someone who was fortunate to grow up in Canada, these stories seemed so foreign to me. And although this was a difficult concept to comprehend in my youth, as an adult I realize that this is an unfortunate global reality.

Various communities would come together in the rural areas, regardless of ethnic or religious background, to help neighbouring villages work the land, provide agricultural supplies or livestock and build wells (1-3). Read the rest of this entry >>

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Looking through the lens of the Tejpar family: a history of giving in Tanzania

sduncan post on November 26th, 2014
Posted in Africa

CINT 916​ By Shayla Ladak

“Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu”

This Zulu saying, which means ‘a person is a person through other persons’, originates from a fundamental philosophy in traditional African culture: ubuntu, which literally means humanity or kindness. The belief that humans are interconnected and share a common bond that helps uncover basic human qualities is the foundation upon which philanthropy has been built in Southern Africa. Read the rest of this entry >>

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sduncan post on November 26th, 2014
Posted in Africa

By Dalia Al-Khooly
Being an Egyptian-Canadian Muslim affects how I identify myself and my practices and has a large influence on my views of philanthropy. Studying social work practice within a Canadian context, I can easily differentiate Western philanthropy with the type of philanthropy I learned in my up bringing.

In Egypt, Muslim’s traditionally celebrate a birth by an animal sacrifice. A week after the birth of the child, parents usually buy a goat or a sheep, have a religious sacrifice, then cook it. Read the rest of this entry >>

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Ma’at – Inspired Giving in Ancient Egypt

sduncan post on November 26th, 2014
Posted in Africa

By Michelle Hounslow

If it is possible for humans to have a drive – perhaps even an instinctual one – to be generous and philanthropic, then it bears reason that there should be examples of philanthropic activities happening all over the world and all throughout history. This paper will explore the possibility of the existence of philanthropy in ancient Egyptian civilization – a civilization known for its pioneering thought, spectacular advances and magnificent beauty.

The religion of the ancient Egyptians was polytheistic, and it affected every aspect of their culture. The Read the rest of this entry >>

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