Ubuntu Meets Raiffeisen

In October 2023, female traditional leaders from Southern Africa united in Umhlanga, South Africa to explore the convergence of the African philosophy of Ubuntu and the cooperative principles embodied by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen. This transformative conference focused on translating these ideals into concrete projects for the betterment of rural communities across the region. It also garnered significant support, including endorsements from the German Ambassador and the South African Minister responsible for Women, Youth, and Persons with Disabilities, fostering a clear vision for the future. DGRV’s role in this pivotal event reaffirms their commitment to fostering economic and social progress in African communities through Ubuntu and cooperative principles.

Embracing Ubuntu: A Shared Vision

Female traditional leaders from Southern Africa discuss the development of their communities through Cooperatives in a groundbreaking conference in Umhlanga, South Africa.

In Southern Africa, the spirit of cooperative action is deeply embedded in the culture, emphasizing interconnectedness and the greater good. There is a specific term for it – Ubuntu. The Nguni Bantu term means “humanity” and embodies the idea that “I am, because we are.” It emphasizes the interconnectedness and the importance of working together to achieve the greater good. The idea of Ubuntu, even though it was forged in Africa, sounds very familiar to cooperators around the world. It has the same meaning, using different words, as the famous saying of the German cooperative pioneer Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, “What one cannot do alone, many can!”

Translating Theory into Action

The achievement of the conference, attended only by women, was to translate the theoretic idea of Ubuntu and Cooperatives into concrete and tangible projects and actions which can support the social and economic development especially in rural and semiurban communities across Southern Africa.

Empowering Women: A Global Perspective

The German Ambassador Mr. Andreas Peschke stressed in his opening speech (before leaving the room together with all other men) the importance of empowerment for women. He outlined the Feminist Foreign and Development Policy of Germany and how this conference is in line with those policies.

The South-African Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, Ms. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, pointed out how important the promotion of self-help, self-governance, and self-responsibility is especially for marginalized groups such as women and traditional structures and proposed her idea of supporting the establishment of a Cooperative Women Bank in Southern Africa.


Regional Collaboration for Change

The participants from Namibia, Mozambique, eSwatini, Lesotho, and South Africa discussed, planned, and strategized for the duration of the conference and left with a clear vision how to further develop their communities. DGRV is honored to have had the opportunity to organize a conference of this magnitude and is looking forward to work with Female traditional Leaders in Southern Africa in the years to come, to ensure that the idea of Ubuntu and Cooperatives create economic and social change for African communities.


A Project Story of the Month by Veit Gesenhues, Project Director South Africa & Ursula Neideck, Project Coordinator

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