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From South Africa to the world — spreading the spirit of ubuntu


Dr Stavros Nicolaou is the Group Senior Executive, Strategic Trade at Aspen Pharma Group.

Last month’s Ubuntu Awards, hosted by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, honoured and celebrated special South Africans who promoted South Africa’s national interests and values across the world.

South Africa has been making global headlines of late for all the right reasons. We’re the only nation in the world to win four Rugby World Cups, the Proteas took us to a Cricket World Cup semifinal, Dricus du Plessis brought home an Ultimate Fighting Championship world title and Bafana Bafana won a bronze medal in the Afcon championship while, in the showbiz world, Trevor Noah won an Emmy Award and Tyla won a Grammy Award.

Last month’s Ubuntu Awards, hosted by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation, honoured and celebrated special South Africans who promoted South Africa’s national interests and values across the world — most especially our unique spirit of ubuntu. Irrespective of the race, colour, class, culture or creed that divides us, the spirit of ubuntu unapologetically unites us. 

Aspen Pharmacare has been a sponsor of the Ubuntu Awards since its inception in 2017.   

I have the privilege of travelling the world for work and meeting people from all walks of life, and I am always fascinated that the world sees South Africa and South Africans as having something unique, but they can’t quite put their finger on exactly what it is.

It’s quite simple.

It’s our ubuntu.

This year’s Ubuntu Awards honoured some of the best of us, those South Africans taking our “something unique” to the world’s stages in the most significant way. 

The young women of South Africa are taking us forward into an era of excellence, and in recognition of this Thuso Mbedu, Ncumisa Mkabile and Janine van Wyk all took to the stage to receive their awards.  

I was especially honoured to present an award to the veteran actor John Kani, who became world famous in Black Panther, Lion King and a slew of other box office Hollywood hits. In presenting the award to a global icon who came from truly humble beginnings in the Eastern Cape, I reflected on his graciousness, humility and ubuntu.  

In truth, we don’t always treat our ubuntu as the beacon we should, and we sometimes take it for granted. It truly defines how we show up in the world, especially South Africa’s young women and girls, who against all odds are making a name for themselves and raising our flag all across the world.

When Tyla walked on stage at the Arena in Los Angeles to accept her Grammy Award, she introduced herself by telling the audience of millions across the world that she is from South Africa. She has even said, “Being South African is a flex”, the Gen Z term referring to bragging. 

Trevor Noah is South African in everything that he presents to the world. 

Siya Kolisi, another Ubuntu Award winner this year, famously said, “The other countries don’t understand. You have to be a South African to understand.” 

Dricus du Plessis introduced a new South African slogan to the world — in Afrikaans, nogal: “Nou weet hulle wat ons weet [Now they know what we know].”

Our ubuntu is intrinsic, it’s inherent and it permeates our DNA. DM


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  • District Six says:


  • Kanu Sukha says:

    If the ‘responses’ of so many insiders (the vocal ‘minority’ – in more ways than one – who never supported apartheid!) is anything to go by … the focus on corruption and malfeasance is the only thing to go by ! Thanks for reminding us about something important embraced (in word and deeds) wholeheartedly by Madiba and his mentor Tutu ! Unfortunately in the hands of the current ‘leadership’ it has lost its way somewhat and is only hauled out as a balm on a festering wound when the occasion demands. But thanks for reminding us of its universal relevance and encouraging it.

  • Gerhard Gotpieter says:

    Lekker Ubuntu!!

  • Steuart Pennington says:

    As a white person working in under-resourced schools I have witnessed ‘Ubuntu’ first hand, kids sharing food, kids standing line from the tallest to the shortest no matter their age, teachers demonstrating extraordinary sensitivity to the needy and I have always experienced an unusual sense of warmth and fellowship as I have moved around our townships. But of late I have become concerned about what I would describe as the DARK side of Ubuntu. Does cadre deployment, endless suspensions on full pay, protection of incompetence, extortion, delivery disinterest, our GBV challenge have its roots in Ubuntu? Is this, what Mamphela Ramphele described as ‘degenerative Ubuntu’, part of a decline in the ‘culture’ of Ubuntu as we know it, “that what unapologetically unites us”?

  • Trenton Carr says:

    Ubuntu is dead, pointing to isolated pockets of humanity and missing the sea of hate South Africans have for other cultures, both in and from outside is delusional.

    • Bob D says:

      You are 100% correct Trenton. Hatred for other cultures is fueled by chat hosts and politicians. Take 702 for instance. One would think we’d learn from the Rwanda genocide. This Aspen advertorial is nothing but good(free) PR for a company top heavy within the political realm.

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