n Journal of African Foreign Affairs - The feasibility of an Ubuntu ethic in a modernised world

Volume 2, Issue 1_2
  • ISSN : 2056-564X
  • E-ISSN: 2056-5658


Ubuntu is a moral and epistemological theory that has been claimed to inform the moral habits of Africans South of the Sahara. It maintains a philanthropic approach to human conduct based on its humanness ideals. In this setup, human beings are claimed to be considerate of fellow human beings and egoistic tendencies are close to non-existent. In this paper, we explore the basic tenets of Ubuntu and determine whether they are practical or attainable in today's world. The motivation is a suspicion towards the reverence that the theory has received from pan-African scholars who have upheld its existence. In light of the challenges bedevilling sub-Saharan countries such as Zimbabwe, South Africa and others in the 21st century such as dictatorships, human rights abuses, economic hardships, high unemployment rates and xenophobic attacks on fellow Africans we argue that the Ubuntu theory, as a moral standard is either outdated or non-existent in today's African experience. We argue that if Ubuntu is still effective as a moral yardstick, then countries like South Africa would not experience such events as xenophobic attacks on foreign nationals as witnessed in early 2015, or Gukurahundi in Zimbabwe's 1980s past. Also, beggars and people living in the streets would be non-existent due to the philanthropic nature of Africans as Ubuntu advocates claim. In our analysis we reveal that the Ubuntu discourse has become more of an obsolete ideal that may have been present and practical in pre-colonial Africa, and not in 21st century Africa.

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