COVID-19: back to basics with Ugandan Ubuntu

This week, we continue the Effectiveness lab’s COVID-19 monologue.

We choose to discuss three socio-economic and typically Ugandan issues. We opine that the COVID-19 crisis has forced Ugandans and our always welcome visitors, to reflect on our increasingly ‘borrowed’ lifestyle. We have returned to basics – at least since the lockdown by HE YK. Museveni

And we have to ask, albeit subtlety, whether the so-called return to basics, will outlive the COVID-19 lockdown.

  • The greed and a liking for amassing wealth (clean or dirty) challenged – The family in this ‘Pearl of Africa’ has been sacrificed for worldly conveniences. A city culture has been allowed to invade and dominate Ugandan (Great lakes) culture domains. So much so that Ugandan culture and values have almost disappeared. Our culture is endangered. The hustle and bustle of the urban lifestyle have denied children time with parents, Ans the parents, time with each other. We see ‘still’, tick-box relationships, even in native Ugandan homes. The warmth homes were known for has all disappeared. Peoples’ lifestyle in Kampala and other urban areas is as chaotic as the inner and outside dynamics of Kampala and other City environs. It’s all chaotic and fronts individual acquisition of ‘wealth’ and the ensuing survival/convenience, at the cost of good neighbourliness, African Ubuntu values, etc. People in city eco-systems acquire as much wealth as they can, to buffer themselves against a future they don’t understand or control, other than to allow other humans a fair share whatever little there is available to humanity. It’s wealth first and values second. This generation is wired to secure themselves first before thinking about others. Sadly, this is happening even within the household and extended family systems, where we believe there should be oneness. We are laughed at and ridiculed when we give back to others. Ubuntu is long gone. Perhaps – COVID-19 forcing us to leave as close family, realizing that having so much is not ‘insurance’ during these COVID-19 times, may force fellow countrymen and women, especially those with the means to amass wealth unfairly, to revive the good Ubuntu Ugandan culture – “tuube bantu balaamu baana”. May we see a new values regime post the COVID-19 crisis? Can we get back to basics?

Nelson Mandela explained Ubuntu as follows:
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 and attend 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 to enable the community around you to be able to improve? Tim Jackson refers to Ubuntu as a philosophy that supports the changes he says are necessary to create a future that is economically and environmentally sustainable. 

  • The villages are thriving, and it’s just about business as usual – have you been to some of Uganda’s rural areas recently? If it weren’t for the Radios, TVs and Social media, they might not have known that there is COVID-19. They don’t need Zoom, Teams or special Ministry of Works vehicle stickers to move from one place to the next. The villages are basic and functional, going about the daily chores. Can they do all they want and still maintain the right social distance? Why would they not, given the fact that they have kept to absolute basics? They have space around themselves and big space at that; the majority are in subsistence or semi-commercial agriculture, and it’s business as usual as they can still work and maintain the required social-distancing requirements; the urban complexities of cities like Kampala, etc. are absent in the villages; they are so lucky to live a ‘normal’ and stress-free life, even allowing for the fact that they have to forego many of the urban mercantile trappings. They live a Zen experience. Sadly, this traditional Ugandan lifestyle is disappearing, even in these Ugandan villages. Shall we return to basics and appreciate what is conventional and Ugandan? Stopping the disdain for our culture may be one of the positive stories to come out of the COVID-19 crisis – Insha Allah.

…..that villagers, our kindred in Nakabugu, have continued to work even under the cloud of COVID-19, and perhaps in a much more productive manner, maybe an understatement. The status-quo has flipped the so-called contemporary effectiveness theories. Villages are working effectively, and instead, urban lifestyles are on their knees. Caveat: what may bring villages to their knees is human-to-human COVID-19 infections; and that sadly, would be an extension to the innocent, of the urban and worldly excesses….

  • Our bodies, the human engines if you want, are rested, and we believe, rejuvenated and running the average human pace – is it now the new normal, that we can allow ourselves time to rest and recover fully from the pressures of the digital lifestyle, and not die? How come that we have kept away from work this long and ‘normal’ life has continued? We have even allowed quality time for social business from the stone age; i.e. apparently, people now have enough time to procreate. We heard the other day that even the UK, yes, UK not Nakabugu in Uganda, is expecting a bumper baby season come December 2020; humans have been at work – like they should be, indeed. Should we assume that urban Uganda may also experience bumper procreation come January 2021? Do we want that given the population pressure? Anyway, let us leave matters procreation to God. The point we make is that we are back to living as humans, following human and not machine pacing.

As Effectiveness junkies, we can only hope that from the return to basics above, we get much fresher, rejuvenated, motivated and happier people. A people that value Ubuntu and create a future that is socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. The latter is indeed lasting effectiveness.

Categories: People

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4 replies

  1. At first, I was thinking what you’re talking about Linux and COVID-19, now I know the roots of Ubuntu, thanks for the education and a sound article, my take away from this is, life is for living and needs to be balanced.


  2. At first, I was thinking what you’re talking about Linux and COVID-19, now I know the roots of Ubuntu, thanks for the education and a sound article, my take away from this is, life is for living and needs to be balanced.


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