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OPINION | The spirit of Ubuntu is a tried and tested antidote for Covid-19

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In order to overcome the impact of Covid-19, we are going to need to join hands as one, writes Marc Lubner.


It may be a cliché, but if you want to get things done more efficiently, one needs to work together instead of in silos.

It is how we, as a nation, 26 years ago, managed to overcome some of our most pressing problems. Toppling Apartheid, for instance, wouldn’t have been possible if all the different stakeholders had worked in silos, selflessly.

The year 2020 will require us, once again, to join hands in collaboration to help our beloved country rise from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The past few months have been far from easy, in that regard.

Besides losing thousands of lives because of the virus, all  people who were loved and cherished and are now dearly missed, Covid-19 has shaken our country’s society and economy to their core.

GDP plummet

Over the second quarter, our GDP has plummeted by a whopping 51% whilst unemployment has skyrocketed to a record high.

According to the Centre for Development and Enterprise’s executive director Ann Bernstein, the number of jobless South Africans has jumped from 10.3 million individuals prior Covid-19 to just over 12 million now.

Young people are affected the most, she said, noting 70% of South Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 are not in school, nor working. Let that sink in, for a moment, knowing this doesn’t just affect these young men and women.

In the meantime, hunger and poverty have risen exponentially, and with that many other socio-economic problems.

The situation we are facing as a nation may at times seem impossible to overcome.

I, nevertheless, believe we can win this fight faster than we think we can, just like we have won battles in the past. That is not because I am an optimist, but because I am a realist.

South Africans are hardier, braver, and more determined than they give themselves credit for. The past has proven this time and time again.

There is, however, one ‘but’. We will only be able to leave the socio-economic implications of Covid-19 behind when all stakeholders – citizens and residents, politicians, entrepreneurs, innovators, government, academics, and civil society – are prepared to work together on an equal footing.

Not only that, we will also have together with one common agenda and towards one common goal: a country in which everyone, not just a select few, can thrive regardless of where their cradles have stood.

Spirit of Ubuntu

This is where the spirit of Ubuntu comes in, described by our patron, Nelson Mandela, as “the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others” and that if we are to accomplish anything in this world, “it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others.”

Only by joining hands and leaving our egos and agendas aside can we amplify the things we are already doing to move beyond the Covid-19 era.

The mammoth challenge we are facing is way too big, complex, multi-layered, and deep-seated to be tackled by just the government or civil society. Besides many actors, it requires a multitude of skills, resources, and ideas, which can’t be provided by one or two stakeholders.

Afrika Tikkun’s successes largely rest on our collaborations and partnerships with others, from the government to private sector partners. Alone, we can, truly, only do so much. Joining hands with others is the most powerful way to amplify your activities.

There is another reason why we should work together as equal partners, and that is because the current state of affairs is affecting everyone.

From the single mother who doesn’t know how to feed her family and the unemployed graduate to the CEO who may have to retrench his employees and the start-up who is struggling to get seed funding for his or her innovative social enterprise: whilst our circumstances differ, this storm is hurting everyone.

To navigate its waves, and help others do the same, it is not more than fitting we join hands as one. It is the only way we will get far, faster.

– Marc Lubner is the Afrika Tikkun Group CEO. 


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