Is Ubuntu a tool for peace?

Is Ubuntu a tool for peace? .

Dr. Luc Zwaenepoel

ubuntu@culture of peace@spiritual ubuntu@mont Fleur@Tutu@Mandela@Truth ommission@gacaca@ubuntu diplomacy


This essay combines the elements of an efficient culture of peace with humanistic tools provided by the Ubuntu attitude based on the Bantu philosophy. Ubuntu, a tool for peace and reconciliation was used in the post-apartheid times in South Africa. Ubuntu has no borders and is also seen at work in other societies and cultures (Ubuntu Diplomacy). Education and coaching can assist in resolving problems and conflict in groups, organizations and in personal life. A more attuned leadership based on Ubuntu, with a focus on transformative conflict handling and interconnectedness must be applied in countries with risks of ethnic strife and repetitive conflicts.

Ubuntu demands attuned leadership to be guardians of peace. The state of peace is the opposite of the continuous situation of war, conflict and terror. Ubuntu places the human, “man,” central and not the religion, the history, the race, or the “enemy”. The enemy is also a human being, and not only to be destructed in times of war and conflict. It can assist in avoiding conflict by promoting a humanistic approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Against the backdrop of new conflicts in Ukraine, Gaza, and Africa with the increasing role of more sophisticated arms, is Ubuntu without borders perhaps the sole answer to save humanity and civilization. This essay examines how the culture of Ubuntu can contribute to peace enhancement.

What is Ubuntu?(1,2,3)

Ubuntu is in the language of the Nguni Bantu language (South Africa). A philosophy, ethical concern and the basis for an individual attitude in the family, the community and the organization. “Ubuntu is an ancient African word meaning ‘humanity to others”

Ubuntu is closely attached to the efforts of post-apartheid in South Africa by Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. However, Ubuntu has no borders and is found in all Bantu countries, continents and communities in Africa (South Africa, Rwanda, Kenya, Nigeria) but also Hinduism. The concepts are the same but have different names.

To explain the real sense of Ubuntu, we use three quotes that explain the heart of the Ubuntu attitude and lifestyle:

Quote Menkiti (1984) Mbiti (1970) asserts “I am, because we are; and since we are, therefore I am”. 

Quote Mandela: “In Africa, there is a concept known as ‘ubuntu’ – the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others; that if we are to accomplish anything in this world it will in equal measure be due to the work and achievement of others.”

Quote Tutu: “My humanity is tied to yours.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained it this way: “One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu — the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness …

But also, the famous poem by John Donne [1572-1631] is Ubuntu

“No man is an island,

Entire of itself;

Every man is a piece of the continent, 

A part of the main. “

Ubuntu principles:

Ubuntu’s approach to peacekeeping is based on the following principles, showing the impact of the community and its belonging and the humanistic approach:

Co-Agency: We are all co-agents to all that can be changed and realized and have our role in nature. This underpins the idea that everything in nature, including humans, is interconnected and mutually reliant.

Individualism Versus Individuality: The Western concepts of “individualism,” which can be self-centered, and “individuality,” which fosters personal growth while acknowledging community bonds.

Re-emergence in Critical Times: Ubuntu principle that resurrected during South Africa’s transition from apartheid to democracy, thanks in large part to Archbishop Desmond Tutu. It served as a foundational value system for restorative justice and national healing. (Truth and Reconciliation Commission)

Ubuntu as the safeguard for peace is based on two other principles:


In the Ubuntu worldview, individual actions have wider implications for the community, driving a sense of responsibility toward the collective well-being.

Coexistence and Peace

Ubuntu promotes peaceful coexistence, tolerance, and harmony, serving as a moral compass in interpersonal relationships and community engagements.

What is the Ubuntu theory of peace (3)

Ubuntu teaches us that peace flourishes when we recognize every individual’s inherent dignity and worth, irrespective of their background, tribe, or nationality. This philosophy permeates the social fabric of African societies, fostering communal bonds and engendering empathy and compassion.

The case of Ubuntu and the post-apartheid period in South Africa (10)

When the apartheid was halted in South Africa and when Mandela was freed, a new political area for South Africa started with a fear of continuous conflict between population groups, especially the white Afrikaners, the blacks, the population of double blood, and other groups like the Indian and the Chinese population. It was under the impulse of Nelson Mandela and the charismatic Bishop Desmond Tutu, that the post-apartheid period started more peacefully than expected and resulted in the presidency of Mandela. Both emphasized the wisdom of the ancestors and the peace-building efforts based on Ubuntu, interconnectedness and coexistence. It was also important that during the negotiations into transition, the future scenarios were presented about the future of South Africa that were made in participative ways, and that led to the Mont Fleur scenarios. A visual narrative of four different future scenarios, one best scenario, one middle-of-the-road scenario and two worst scenarios, emphasizing long-time struggle and chaos.

Mandela and Tutu stressed the importance of Ubuntu and especially: Coexistence and Peace.

 Under Mandela as the new RSA president, coexistence and peace could only be achieved as all crimes and misdoings under apartheid and also commissioned by the ANC were discussed in public hearings.

Therefore, the Commission for Truth and Forgiveness was organized all over the country under Bishop Tutu’s presidency.

This aspect revealed that only forgiveness could contribute to coexistence in South Africa. Reconciliation and forgiveness, which are Christian values, were added to Ubuntu from shared values in Christianity.

Bishop Tutu introduced the aspect of forgiveness and the shared values of Christianity, which are also a certain base for Ubuntu conflict resolution.

What are the 4 steps of forgiveness by Tutu? (7)

After much reflection on the process of forgiveness, Tutu has seen that there are four important steps to healing: Admitting the wrong and acknowledging the harm; Telling one’s story and witnessing the anguish; Asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness; and renewing or releasing the relationship.

These public hearings were organized all over South Africa and were emotional gatherings of victims and perpetrators during the apartheid period.

What are the 7 truths of reconciliation?

Love, respect, honesty, bravery, humility, wisdom and truth. These are the seven truths taken from the Seven Grandfather Teachings handed down orally through generations of Anishinaabe elders.

Why did the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) fail? (6,7)

the amnesty process. A key weakness of the commission was that it did not focus sufficiently on the policies or political economy of apartheid.

Stein (2008) found that negative perceptions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were associated with increased distress and anger, while positive perceptions were associated with forgiveness.

However, The TRC was a crucial component of the transition to full and free democracy in South Africa and, despite some flaws, is generally regarded as very successful. The TRC was set up in terms of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, No 34 of 1995, and was based in Cape Town.

Attuned leadership (10)

Ubuntu can only be a safeguard of peace when the leadership is attuned to the principles of Ubuntu. This needs to be on every level of governance: community, national and international. This lack of leadership is often the problem in ongoing and long conflicts because of the personal interest of leaders in continuing war, and conflict. (geographical, political, business interests, arms dealing). An example of attuned leadership is found in the attitude of Nelson Mandela, after years in prison, leaving no place for revenge but promoting reconciliation.

The personal qualities attuned leaders bring to their kind of leadership include:

“Insight: Seeing the world from the followership’s vantage point and embracing their world views non-judgmentally. Attuned leadership is thus as passionate as it is compassionate.

Inspiration: Engendering a sense of follower self-worth, pride in current status, and hopefulness for the future. In the relationship between leader and leader, it is vital to strike a balance between reality and potentiality.

Commitment: Ardently pursuing an agreed course of action but remaining willing to be flexible and respond to changes in the environment or expectations. promote

Probity: Assuring the followers that the leader can be held accountable. Probity is the ethical imperative to remain upright and honest in the service of the followership and behaving in a manner that is beyond reproach.”

Mont Fleur Scenarios: envisioning South Africa’s transition to democracy (11,20)

Images of Mont Fleur scenarios:

The “Mont Fleur” scenario exercise, undertaken in South Africa during 1991–92, was innovative and important because, amid a deep conflict, it brought people together from across organizations to think creatively about their country’s future.

The name “Mont Fleur scenarios” was selected to indicate that the scenarios belong to the group that met at Mont Fleur and not to a specific institution or organization. 

The historical context of the project is important to understanding its impact. It took place during the period between February 1990, when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and the African National Congress (ANC), Pan African Congress (PAC), South African Communist Party (SACP), and other organizations were legalized, and April 1994, when the first all-race elections were held. During these years, dozens of “forums” were set up in South Africa, creating temporary structures that gathered together the broadest possible range of stakeholders (political parties, civic organizations, professional bodies, government departments, trade unions, business groups, etc.) to develop a new way forward in a particular area of concern. There were forums to discuss education, housing, economic policy, constitutional matters, and many other areas. They ranged from informal, off-the-record workshops to formal, public negotiations. The Mont Fleur project was one type of forum that, uniquely, used the scenario methodology.

The purpose of Mont Fleur was “not to present definitive truths, but to stimulate debate on how to shape the next 10 years.” The project brought together a diverse group of 22 prominent South Africans—politicians, activists, academics, and businessmen from across the ideological spectrum—to develop and disseminate a set of stories about what might happen in their country from 1992 to 2002.

The Scenarios of the Future(11)

After considering many possible stories, the participants agreed on four scenarios that they believed to be plausible and relevant:

• Ostrich, in which a negotiated settlement to the crisis in South Africa is not achieved, and the country’s government continues to be non-representative

• Lame Duck, in which a settlement is achieved but the transition to a new dispensation is slow and indecisive

• Icarus, in which transition is rapid but the new government unwisely pursues unsustainable, populist economic policies

• Flight of the Flamingos, in which the government’s policies are sustainable and the country takes a path of inclusive growth and democracy

The group developed each of these stories into a brief logical narrative

The team then presented and discussed the scenarios with more than fifty groups, including political parties, companies, academics, trade unions, and civic organizations. 

The use of Scenarios and the wide discussion in the country contributed to peace enhancement and Ubuntu insights to handle transformation conflicts positively.

The second element was the presidency of Mandela and the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which partially contributed to forgiveness and reconciliation. This was based on the Ubuntu spirituality and some common Christian values.

As Suzanne Membe-Metale affirms, Ubuntu is “a spirituality that enables mutual sharing and satisfaction and is illustrated in the biblical account of the disciples sharing all they had with one another so that no one lacked anything (Acts 4:32–35)”.

And third aspect is the attuned leadership approach by Nelson Mandela and Nelson Tutu in having a long view on the future of South African life.

Other examples of Ubuntu as a tool for peace


What is the reconciliation process in Rwanda? (19)

After the genocide in Rwanda (1994)) and the loss of social fabric, Ubuntu was used to reconcile victims and perpetrators. This was a difficult process built on Ubuntu, especially the reconciliation, by having a process of talking and recognizing victims and perpetrators, as was the case in South Africa.

In 1999, Rwanda began its National Unity and Reconciliation Commission (NURC) to work towards a reconciliation of the conflicting parties involved in the Rwandan Civil War and the Rwandan genocide, with the eventual goal of reunifying the country’s citizens.

The reconciliation process in Rwanda focuses on reconstructing the Rwandan identity and balancing justice, truth, peace, and security in the country. The Rwandan government has taken various measures to achieve the goal of perpetrators and victims living side by side in peace.

The name Gacaca is derived from the Kinyarwanda word umucaca, which means “a plant so soft to sit on that people prefer to gather on it.” Originally, Gacaca gatherings were meant to restore order and harmony within communities by acknowledging wrongs and restoring justice to victims.

Gacaca was inspired by a customary conflict resolution mechanism– meaning “justice on the grass” – that existed in Rwandan society since pre-colonial times.

The Rwandan government implemented the Gacaca courts to promote reconciliation and enact justice following the 1994 Rwandan genocide. However, this approach worked only in theory. Reality has proven the Gacaca Courts inadequate for enacting long-term reconciliation and nonpartisan justice.

In June 2012, Rwanda’s community-based gacaca (ga-cha-cha) courts closed after processing almost two million cases for crimes of genocide. The courts are at the heart of government efforts to achieve national unity and reconciliation following the violence of the 1994 genocide. In just 100 days, ethnic Hutu militias orchestrated the deaths of their ethnic Tutsi kin and kith. 

Rwanda put most of the population on trial – as perpetrator, victim, bystander, rescuer and judge — to make accusations and evaluate confessions. In opting for mass justice, Rwanda chose local, community-based justice over other post-conflict reconciliation mechanisms such as amnesties or truth commissions. In consultation with its foreign donors, the government made the gacaca courts its primary legal mechanism to generate a truthful record of who did what to whom during the 1994 genocide. While proponents of modern gacaca praise it as locally forged and culturally relative justice, such claims fail to distinguish the idea of gacaca from its implementation. More critical observers understand the courts to be part and parcel of a top-down Rwandan government-led system of justice and reconciliation that favors retributive over restorative justice. The courts relied on perpetrator shame and survivor forgiveness to produce national unity and reconciliation. The government used the courts to target its political opponents and critics. Gacaca also produced a moral hierarchy in which genocide crimes committed by ethnic Hutu were tried while crimes committed by ethnic Tutsi, as well as a member of the now ruling party, were not.

Other Ubuntu Peace reconciliation efforts in Africa (13,19)

Ethiopia’s current peacebuilding initiatives – the dual dialogue and transitional justice processes – have brought traditional justice into focus. The National Dialogue Commission (NDC) is expected to use traditional knowledge and values in dialogue processes, although it’s yet to explore how to do so effectively.

Also, Kenya is a model of transformative conflict handling based on Ubuntu. In Kenya, Ubuntu is practiced in many ways. One of these ways is through Harambee. Harambee is a Kenyan term for “community self-help event” or “pull together. In Kenya, Harambee was initiated by the late Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya after the country attained its independence in 1963. The concept aimed at encouraging Kenyans to take responsibility for building their nation now that colonization was over. It was during and after the Post-Election Violence of 2007-2008, that the conflict based on tribal strife was starting. On the initiative of the African Union (Kofi Annan) a long mediation process was started, with successful peaceful results. Mediation as an Ubuntu tool is, in this Kenyan case, used to solve transformational conflicts.

Criticisms on Ubuntu as a tool for peace (13)

According to Metz (2011), there are two main reasons why Ubuntu receives criticism: 

firstly, it is considered vague as a philosophical thought and does not have a solid framework; 

secondly, it is feared that due to its collectivist orientation, there is a danger of sacrificing individual freedoms for the sake of society:

-an action is right just insofar as it respects a person’s dignity; an act is wrong to the extent that it degrades humanity.

-an action is right just insofar as it promotes the well-being of others without violating their rights; an act is wrong to the extent that it either violates rights or fails to enhance the welfare of one’s fellows without violating rights.

-an action is right just insofar as it positively relates to others and thereby realizes oneself; an act is wrong to the extent that it does not perfect one’s valuable nature as a social being.

-an action is right just insofar as it is in solidarity with groups whose survival is threatened; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to support a vulnerable community.

-an action is right just insofar as it produces harmony and reduces discord; an act is wrong to the extent that it fails to develop community (Metz, 2007).

Ubuntu diplomacy (15)

The concept of Ubuntu has no borders.

In June 2009, in her swearing-in remarks as US Department of State Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Global Partnership Initiative, Office of the Secretary of State, Elizabeth Frawley Bagley discussed ubuntu in the context of American foreign policy, stating: “In understanding the responsibilities that come with our interconnectedness, we realize that we must rely on each other to lift our World from where it is now to where we want it to be in our lifetime while casting aside our worn out preconceptions, and our outdated modes of statecraft.” She then introduced the notion of “Ubuntu Diplomacy” with the following words:

In 21st-century diplomacy, the Department of State will be a convener, bringing people together from across regions and sectors to work together on issues of common interest. Our work no longer depends on the least common denominator; but rather, we will seek the highest possible multiplier effect for the results we can achieve together.”

This is Ubuntu Diplomacy: where all sectors belong as partners, where we all participate as stakeholders, and where we all succeed together, not incrementally but exponentially. 


Is Ubuntu a tool for peace? As this essay described, the African Ubuntu philosophy, ethics, and spirituality have a clear theory and culture of peace. “Hell is not the others,” and the others are also human. We are connected, interconnected, and belong to a community. Three cases of Ubuntu in transformative conflict were explained: post-apartheid in RSA, post-genocide in Rwanda (Gacaca), and the post-election conflicts in Kenya.

Ubuntu as a safeguard of peace is possible in transformative conflicts, community and ethical strife, and border conflicts. Old social justice practices in Africa are important parts of peace enhancement: gacaca, truth and reconciliation efforts, and mediation. However, it is very difficult to use it in longstanding wars and conflicts, wars between states, territory wars, or revenge wars between terror groups and states.

Ubuntu and its concept are in line with all fundamental rights and the avoidance of war crimes on humans, population and especially children.

“I am because we are” Ubuntu is community-oriented, longing to belong to a community and to avoid conflict and promote coexistence.


  1. Chitando, Ezra, Kilonzo, Susan,2023/10/18:Ubuntu, Peacebuilding, and Development  in Africa: Reflections on the Promises and Challenges of a Popular Concept, 10.1007/978-3-031-36829-5_41
  2. Tutu, Desmond (2013). “Who we are: Human uniqueness and the African spirit of Ubuntu”. YouTube. Archived from the original on 10 November 2021. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  3. “The question: What does Ubuntu mean?”. The 28 September 2006.
  4. “Hunhu/Ubuntu in the Traditional Thought of Southern Africa”. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  5. Lewis Griggs; Lente-Louise Louw (1995). Valuing Diversity: New Tools for a New Reality. McGraw-Hill. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-07-024778-9.
  6. Membe-Matale, Suzanne (2015). “Ubuntu Theology”. The Ecumenical Review. 67 (2): 273–276. doi:10.1111/erev.12159. ISSN 1758-6623.
  7. Tutu, Desmond (1999). No Future Without Forgiveness. Image. ISBN 0-385-49690-7.
  8. An African Perspective on Peace Education: Ubuntu Lessons in Reconciliation; Tim Murithi; International Review of Education / Internationale Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft / Revue Internationale de l’Education; Vol. 55, No. 2/3, Education for Reconciliation and Conflict Resolution (May, 2009), pp. 221-233 (13 pages)
  9. Ubuntu: Unveiling the Essence of Peace in African History; The International Educator; 
  10. Khoza Reuel: How attuned are you? Leader newsletter
  11. Learning from Mont Fleur, GBN magazine
  12. Pambazuka – Teaching uMunthu for global peace”. 4 March 2016.
  13. Dan J Stein, Soraya Seedat, Debra Kaminer, Hashim Moomal, Allen Herman, John Sonnega, David R Williams; The impact of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on psychological distress and forgiveness in South Africa; Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol, April 2006
  15. U.S. Department of State. Ubuntu Diplomacy.
  16. Hapanyengwi-Chemhuru, Oswell; Makuvaza, Ngoni (1 August 2014). “Hunhu: In Search of an Indigenous Philosophy for the Zimbabwean Education System Practice without thought is blind: thought without practice is empty” (PDF). Journal of Indigenous Social Development. 3 (1). ISSN 2164-9170.
  17. Muwanga-Zake, J.W.F. (December 2009). “Building bridges across knowledge systems: Ubuntu and participative research paradigms in Bantu communities”. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. 30 (4): 413–426. doi:10.1080/01596300903237198. S2CID 144633541.
  18. “I Am Because We Are”. powerHouse Books.
  19. Emilija Žebrauskaitė, Emilija, Essay, The Ethics of Ubuntu as a basis for African institutions: The case of Gacaca courts in Rwanda


  • Images of Mont Fleur scenarios:

Dr Luc Zwaenepoel has a Drs in Development Economics, PhD Development Management and a Master’s in Family Sciences and Sexology. He lived and worked for 40 years on the African continent, the Indian Ocean and the Far East. His international work in economic development brought him in contact with a better understanding of African organizations and communities, with a great interest in the Bantu philosophy and the Ubuntu approach. He worked as a social demographer in the Institute de Formation et de Recherche Démographique (IFORD) and was a programme manager of the KFW/IGAD migration fund for the Horn of Africa. 

As a novelist, he wrote a book: “Sartre in the Congo” 2020, a magical realism story, against the background of the first genocide in Kongo and Rwanda.

Cultural congruency and conformity in two type of Diaspora

Cultural congruency and conformity in two type of Diaspora

Cultural congruency and conformity in two types of Diaspora

Dr. Luc Zwaenepoel 

Abstract: This essay is researching transnational cultural processes by having two types of diaspora: the Congolese community in Brussels and the Hasidic Jewish community in Antwerp. Research is done by the key terms in migration culture: congruence, conformity, adaptation, and acculturation. In the Congolese context in urban Belgium, the cultural identity is hybrid, transnational with multi-scalarity and diasporic citizenship. The Jewish Hasidic community and diaspora have a cultural identity based on strict religious laws that makes it difficult to adapt to the Belgian and European cultures.

Keywords: migration cultures, cultural identity, Matongo, diaspora, Congo, Hasidic, congruency, conformity

The context: The natural demographic movement of emigration and immigration is not new and is part of changes in important world demographic data and the national economic planning of services and goods.

Essential types of migrants are guest migrants, seasonal migrant workers, labor migrants, family reunion migrants, climate refugees, war refugees, and Persons of Concern for UNHCR (refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons) a group under international protection (UN, EU) and the international students.

The general public is often not making a difference between migrants and refugees, between economic migrants and labor migrants, and between climate refugees and displaced persons by conflict. All are seen as immigrants or transit immigrants.

In his essay, the term “migrant” will be used in the text.

The migration culture and the psychology of immigrants and emigrants are often mistaken and not seen as windows of opportunity for the National Economy to solve the shortage in labor and health service providers because of an ageing population.

Emigration is the movement of skilled and less skilled labor and their families to countries with more economic and social opportunities. As was seen before, with the Dutch/Belgian emigrants to Canada, the USA (the Red Star Line), the Guest workers to Northern Europe in the golden sixties and the surviving Jewish population who stayed in Western Europe.

Immigration is the other side of emigration and has the same demand and supply, push and pull principles in place.

Countries in Western Europe favored immigration (even with State aid) when the economy was booming in the sixties and national full employment was reached. Many Maghreb Africans, Turks, and Greeks have been called in to contribute to the economic welfare of Western economies. Some went back, and others stayed in the new countries and “integrated”.

This paper researches several themes that are widely discussed as more migrants reach the shores of “Fortress Europe” and international funds are available to Sub-Saharan border states to keep African migrants in Africa.


The cultural beliefs and social patterns that influence people to move. (12,20)

Cultures of Migration combines anthropological and geographical sensibilities, as well as sociological and economic models, to explore the household-level decision-making and risk-taking processes to leave the home country.

Even in countries where risk-taking and long-term vision are low, following Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, one can see that migrants are forced to leave their home country or send their young ones over the borders to Europe. The main reason for a high-risk take is the perception of the aggravation of their environment, economic misfortune, war and terror. But also, in the category of climate migrants is the impact of climate changes on rain-fed agriculture an indicator of more migration in Southwards.

African migrants do have strong links with their ancestral land, the tribal community and the extended family. To leave all these behind is also fed by the wrong perception of life and the economy in the West.  Access to social media and Western movies intensifies the idea that a better life in another place is a possibility for better health care, education and social security. Often the departure of a young family member is sponsored by the family and by the community as a safety line for sending overseas remittances. Another aspect is the fact of having relatives in a faraway country that can lead to future family reunification.

Migrants are strong-willed people and high-risk takers, even willing to end up in the Mediterranean Sea as one of the many Africans that never reached” Fortress Europe”.

On the side of the receiving European countries, there is also the belief that all migrants are coming to steal their jobs and that migrants are a threat to change their race ratio. In reality, European countries with existing natural borders and hindrances to entry and a strict migration policy, are one of the least continents for migrant entrance per population per capita.

Countries like Lebanon, Turkey, and Uganda do have much more migrants of all sorts on their territory.

The cultural aspects in this situation are that countries with high risk-taking and with long-term visions are not taking the risk to receive more migrants (EU quotas) and have a short-term vision on the demographic indicators and the real needs to maintain the quality of their productive economies by allowing more migrants in Europe. Long-term planning without an extensive international dimension leads to shortages in labor for health centers and education personnel.

This is after the Corona period seen in the HoReCa sector, where companies are offering more fringe benefits to attract and keep workers.

Another important aspect is the language and the understanding of socio-cultural arrangements in the future host country. This is less of a problem for fluent French or English speakers. The language is only a part of the cultural and social patterns in the host countries. For some migrants that part of the equation is not fully understood. Often elderly migrants in a family reunification arrangement, speaking only their mother tongue, are lost in their new society and dependent on the assistance of the grandchildren going to school and speaking the language of the country.

The wrong assessment of social beliefs and new patterns leaves many older migrants close to depression and are the cause of mental illness that is not treated. 

Understanding the demographic dividend of the African continent versus the demographic deficit of the Western countries (13,14)

The map of world demographics shows exactly the shift of population migration from so-called countries in development towards developed countries. The Club of Rome, a club of wise men, already indicated that the “population bomb” will have dire consequences on the environment, food production, health and conflict. They calculated in 72 that the world population is going to have exponential growth, at present, we are 7.888 billion in 2023.

Many scientists think Earth has a maximum carrying capacity of 9 billion to 10 billion people.

The limits of economic growth and the population increase will be seen in the twenty-first century. The Club of Rome’s main focus is on global problems associated with population and economic growth. It espouses a neo-Malthusian agenda of limiting population growth and promoting sustainable economic development to address perceived problems of environmental degradation. (13)

What is the Malthusian theory? (14)

Malthusianism (1798) is the theory that population growth is potentially exponential, according to the Malthusian growth model, while the growth of the food supply or other resources is linear, which eventually reduces living standards to the point of triggering a population decline.

What can be learned from these theories and predictions on the state of the world that were made in 1972 by the Club of Rome? In the frame of this essay, it is evident that the Club was right after 50 years that the population and the unlimited economic growth had an impact on the environment and the quality of life.

Concerning the very old Malthusian theory, the reality is that the population growth and the production of food supply in the world have been significantly changed over the year by new techniques ( family planning, agricultural techniques and planning), global extensive transport means and communication lines

The three correctors of Malthus on population growth were: war, sickness and disaster.

Malthusian population theory suggests that a reduction in the population pressure on existing resources through emigration could trigger a rise in birth and survival rates in the sending population.

in 1798 in Thomas Robert Malthus’s piece, An Essay on the Principle of Population. Malthus believed that the population could be controlled to balance the food supply through positive checks and preventative checks. These checks led to the Malthusian catastrophe.

The population theories about World population growth have been dated but it explains partly the phenomenon of immigration worldwide and especially from Sub-Saharan Africa to Europe. European demographic deficit is not caused by natural elements, catastrophes or warlike situations, changes are because of the high increase in the quality of life, the change in family structures, the decrease in children born per family, in new contraception, more women with a professional career and the rising costs of raising a kid towards adulthood. The Replacement-level fertility of a population is based on a Total fertility level of about 2.1 children per woman. This value represents the average number of children a woman would need to have to reproduce herself by bearing a daughter who survives to childbearing age. In most European countries this ratio is less than 2.

On the African side is the population growth still high because of the need for future labour in subsistence agriculture and the social care for ageing parents.

Population corrections in Africa are still in place like war, conflict, drought, natural disasters and climate change.

The demographic dividend of Africa:

 The demographic dividend is the economic growth brought on by a change in the structure of a country’s population, usually a result of a fall in fertility and mortality rates. The demographic dividend comes as there’s an increase in the working population’s productivity, which boosts per capita income.

Demographic deficit (Europe) is generally the reduction in wealth due to the ageing of the population and in the financial context, the increase in the budget deficit due to the ageing of the population.

The push and pull factors of immigration are largely due to the perception of cultural processes (type of work, mentality, religion, and social arrangements) as in Europe. Also, the need to build up a better life for the individual and the family is important. Another push factor is the change in climate as rain-fed agriculture is largely depending on clear cycles of rain seasons. Young Africans, inspired by access to larger information, media and social tools, are pulled by often not realistic images of wealth, easy work conditions and the absence of conflict and war.

The demographic transition of immigration of course does have important changes in the social fabric of European cities and villages but also leads to some clashes of cultures and different social arrangements (turf and race).

The African migrant or newcomer is not always welcome, seeing the many obstacles to arrival and the high risk of losing his own life. However, the European attitude is biased on the one hand giving high amounts of international funding to Maghreb countries to keep migrants in Africa. On the other hand, allowing migrants with high skills to work in sectors that are craving for new personnel is the case for nurses, elderly caretakers, ICT and workers that can fulfill tasks that Europeans are not interested to do anymore.

This double take on immigration by Europe is calling for problems in having a clear perception of integrating new migrants into our societies.

The cultural aspect of this societal change in the last decennia and the upcoming years has been already fully debated. All kinds of discussions led to solution-seeking proposals: like creating diaspora hubs (“quartier Matonge for DRC and the Great Lake countries in Brussels), integration and language courses and curriculum, and increasing multicultural events to showcase exotic cultures.

The Hofstede approach is therefore based on the full understanding of the national cultural values (6D) and finding common ground by explaining the fundamental differences.

The described push and pull factors to explain immigration has two cultural components that for Africans are not common in their national culture: the high risk-taking and the long-term view.

Cultural identity and cultural bereavement ((3,12,20)

Upon the arrival of the migrant main questions are: How to adapt in the short term: to the language, the social arrangements, the administrative rules, the housing, the food, the education, and the medical care?

Problems of loss, cultural bereavement and disillusion after arrival lead to depression and feelings of loss.

Loss of the family structure and the loss of power and authority in the extended family structure. (Ubuntu context) (11,17,28)

Ubuntu is not only “I am because We are”  and also “We are because I am. ”

Ubuntu is based on Orunmila (Odu Ifa verses) and stresses that Ubuntu means the “dance of being”. Its holistic humanistic vision is “Me and us” but also “We and the others”. (17)

This is visible in the Bantu philosophy of the Congolese living in the diaspora in Europe and the US. It facilitates adaptation and avoids acculturalization.

Cultural identity and cultural bereavement can be seen in the diaspora communities in different cities of Europe. This research will examine two diaspora communities existing already a long time in Brussels, Belgium: The Congolese Community around Brussels and the Hassidic Jewish community in Antwerp, Belgium.

Congolese Diaspora in Brussels (Belgium) ((4,6,7,8)

The Congolese migrant is over the years an important community in Belgium as well as the migrants from Rwanda and Burundi. This was a natural movement after the Independence as we see also the same migration patterns from West Africa to France in the sixties.

The Congolese community in Belgium is important and very well organized. They have a reference point in the center of Brussels called Matonge after the name of a famous quartier in Kinshasa.  Matonge is the window on all that is Congolese culture and small business (food, hairdressers, colored clothing, handicrafts and music.)

The cultural identity of Congolese migrants living already long term in Brussels is still very African as a strong link exists with the homeland, the tribal village of the ancestors and the sending of remittances to elders and family.

Most Congolese have double nationality and had an education and schooling following the Belgian curricula. They often speak different languages and the French language and Lingala is the lingua franca.

The difference in cultural dimension between Belgian and Congolese culture (9,1

Cultural dimensions Belgian Congolese culture (Bantoe)
Power distance 65 79
Individualism 75 28
Masculine 54 71
Uncertainty avoidance 94 91
Long term vision 82 7
indulgence 63


The most important difference is Individualism versus collectivism (22,23)

Most Africans have a cultural shock when they are confronted with the individual approach, the small family unit, the lack of cohesion in the big cities, the cold shoulder in case of difficulties and the nonexistence of an extended family, only visible during marriage and funerals.

The Congolese community is based on solidarity, tribal recognition and respect for the elderly. (Ubuntu)

After years of living in Belgium, the migrant gets used to the Belgian externalities of their culture. They have acquired several do’s and not do’s to integrate and conform, but their cultural values still exist and only change after a long time. Two Congolese in New York will be even more Congolese when they are abroad.

But how are Congolese youth as the third generation coping with Cultural identity? (3)

Some findings from a large international study of the acculturation and adaptation of immigrant youth (aged 13 to 18 years) who are settled in 13 societies (N= 5,366), as well as a sample of national youth (N= 2,631). The study was guided by three core questions: How do immigrant youth deal with the process of acculturation? How well do they adapt? What is their cultural identity?

 There were substantial relationships between how youth acculturate and how well they adapt: those with an integration profile had the best psychological and sociocultural adaptation outcomes, while those with a diffuse profile had the worst; in between, those with an ethnic profile had moderately good psychological adaptation but poorer sociocultural adaptation, while those with a national profile had moderately poor psychological adaptation and slightly negative sociocultural adaptation. Implications for the settlement of immigrant youth are clear: youth should be encouraged to retain both a sense of their heritage and cultural identity while establishing close ties with the larger national society. (3)

Our focus here is on a particular ethnic group in Belgium, namely the Congolese diasporic ‘community’. Its particular atypical history of migration and the presence of a large number of residents of Congolese origin in Brussels bring out a series of processes of hybrid identity formation that are underrepresented in the literature on European urban transnational immigration. The Congolese diaspora offers a uniquely important and extraordinarily rich group who have formed a particular transnational, but locally embedded, ‘hybrid’ identity, shaped exactly by their particular histories, geographical trajectories, scaled networking, and urban embedding. Moreover, the rapid growth of a population of Congolese descent was marked by the transformation of a neighborhood in Brussels (Matonge) into a distinct, globally localized ‘African’ community, a transformation that coincided with the acceleration of globalization.

The estimate is that the Congolese diaspora in Belgium totals more than 80,000 individuals. Congolese immigration is atypical, particularly as most migrated through personal choice and not as a result of active migration policies from the Belgian state or of special post-colonial arrangements. (4,6,7,8)

Transnationalism and hybrid cultural identity (19)

Transnationalism’ is defined as:

“…[t]he processes by which immigrants forge and sustain multi-stranded relations that link together their societies of origin and settlement. We call these processes transnationalism to emphasize that many immigrants today build social fields that cross geographic, cultural and political borders. Immigrants who develop and maintain multiple relationships – familial, economic, social, organizational, religious and political – that span borders we call trans migrants.”

Source: The Congolese diaspora in Brussels and hybrid identity formation: multi-scalarity and diasporic citizenship Eva Swyngedouw & Erik Swyngedouw

Source: Matonge mural by Cheri Samba

Cultural duality in the second generation of migrant children ((3,4,6,7)

Young generations originating from the Congolese community adapt easily to the cultural duality of being Congolese and being Belgian/European. This is facilitated by having access to the Belgian education curricula and multilingual skills in a Belgian urban context.

Conclusions for the Congolese Diaspora in Belgium (12,18,20)

Cultural congruency and conformity

The Congolese community being part of the long history and the colonial past makes cultural congruity and conformity with the Belgian society and values easier. The older and the new arrivals encounter some problems in adaptation but are assisted by the Congolese community with a strong sense of solidarity.

Cultural congruity: The finding of common ground between cultural values concerning differences and religious attitudes. This is the case in Brussels, where the Congolese community is assimilated and adapted. The fact that the Congolese community is merely from a Christian background facilitates congruity. This is not always the case with migrant communities of different religions like Islam from the Maghreb or Arab countries. (See: multicultural mural Matonge)

Cultural assimilation or the process of groups of different heritages becoming part of the existing national cultural dimensions and acquiring basic habits, attitudes and modes of life of an embracing culture.

In the third generation of the Congolese community, assimilation is strong as most have been going through the Belgian school system and often have only Belgian nationality.

Amalgamation is perhaps the word for the cultural process it refers to a blending of cultures rather than acculturation. The blending of the two cultures is possible in the multicultural urban context of Brussels and less in the rural areas. A good example is the existence of the “quartier” Matonge as the center of Congolese culture in Center Brussels (see Mural)

The process of integration, naturalization (15,16,18)

Because of the hybrid cultural identity of the Congolese community, the process of integration is more feasible without losing the side of their tribal origins. This is the case of the third generation of Congolese youth, who easily assimilate into the Belgian context. Congolese ” migrants” have a strong place in Belgian society, in politics, in church, the administration, the police force and in the educational system. A good example is the Belgian National football team (called the Red Devils). Half of the team are African Belgians of the third or fourth generation. This is also the case for the National Football Team of France as most players are naturalized and have double nationality.

Ethnic, cultural diversity: the Hasidic community in Antwerp, Belgium (21,25)

A second case to illustrate cultural congruity and assimilation is the Hasidic and Jewish communities living in Antwerp, Belgium. In this essay, we will not go into detail to describe the differences between Hasidism, orthodox and non-orthodox communities. The Hasidic community lives already since the 15th century in Antwerp as it was a famous place for the diamond trade in Europe(1). Nowadays taken over by Indian and other centers for the international diamond trade. Almost 20000 Hasidim are living with their families in Antwerp center, in what is called the Jewish part of the city near the Central station. The Hasidic religion is based on strict observance of the laws (613) and has a strong sense of hierarchic community life with all institutions and rules in place. There are of course in Antwerp non-orthodox Jews, not living in communities and more integrated in the Belgian society.

Yiddish is spoken by most orthodox Jews, making Antwerp one of the few Yiddish-speaking centers in the world. For years, Yiddish was the language used in the diamond trade. But most Jews speak French, Hebrew and in less order Dutch. The main curriculum in school is lessons in Dutch, except for issues related to their religion.

The Hasidic community in Antwerp has a strong sense of community belonging. A good example is the existence of the “Eruv.”

As in other cities with large Jewish communities, Antwerp is surrounded by a wire called “eruv” (Eiroew in Dutch).

The diaspora of Hasidim is a community based on strict observance of the religion, worship, observance of the laws, sabbath, study of the Thora, and ritual cleaning.

The community is led by a dynasty of famous rabbis and is strictly hierarchical. The family unit is led by the husband and is patriarchic in all household decision-making.

Contraception and marriage with a non-orthodox are not allowed which makes traditional families very large.

Hasidic women represent a unique face of Judaism. As Hasidim—ultra-Orthodox Jews belonging to sectarian communities, worshipping and working as followers of specific rebbes—women are set apart from assimilated, mainstream Jews.

The Hasidic ideal is to live a hallowed life in which even the most mundane action is sanctified. Hasidim lives in tightly knit communities (known as “courts”) that are spiritually centered around a dynastic leader known as a rebbe, who combines political and religious authority.

The cultural identity of the Hasidic culture in Antwerp (22,23,24)

In the USA New York Jews have a strong political lobby in politics or social organizations, but that is not the case In Belgium. In the melting pot of New York are different communities often opposite in social life and beliefs and is coexistence a difficult battle focusing on turf and race. So are the differences between the Hasidic culture and the Porto Ricans often a problem as the Jewish community is defending their turf and their race. Arranged marriages in the Hasidic community can only be with Hasidic religious partners.

The Hasidim in Antwerp is faced with a double dilemma to live his life in the culture of orthodox Jewry on the other hand to try to be integrated and assimilated with Belgian and European culture as can be seen in the picture below. (21,25)

“Faced with a European model that provides little place for strongly affirmed identities and that the recent demographic shifts have made stricter than ever, they have to make a life choice. They can subscribe to this model and become cultural Jews only. This will allow them full membership in European societies, but it comes at the cost of their own Jewishness. Indeed, as we have shown, an identity based solely on culture has little chance of being sustainable. By accepting the reduction of their Jewish identity to its cultural dimension, the integrated Jews, voluntarily or not, are willing to put it at risk for integration’s sake. They accept being not Jews, but Europeans”. Source: Jonathan Tobin’s article in Commentary “The end of European Jewry” and the in-depth study about European Jewry challenges: European Jewry – Signals and Noise.”

Source:, p.7.

“The real question, therefore, concerns the possibility of an alternative model that will allow European Jews to remain proud and serious Jews while engaging towards a broader society. The need to build environments that will allow European Jews to “act Jewishly for non-Jewish causes” and follow the ancestral universal biblical commandment of TIKKUN OLAM (see figure)

Example of Israel’s cultural dimensions by Hofstede:

Dimensions indicators
Power distance 13
Individualism 54
masculinity 47
Uncertainty avoidance 81
Long term orientation 38
Indulgence -1


Hasidim orthodox cultural values differ from Israel’s national values; there is a higher power distance (religious, hierarchy, patriarchism), masculinity is higher and long-term orientation is limited because of the strict observance of 161 rules.

Conclusions for the Hassidic community in Antwerp:

The Hasidic community can live and enjoy its cultural identity and is respected by the Belgian authorities and community. The main reason is the history of the Shoa in Belgium and the Netherlands (Anna Frank). Secondly, the freedom of religion and language are strong arguments in the Belgian context.

Some strict observation of the religious rules like the role of women and the fact that a man cannot touch the hand of another woman is seen in a “Woke” and feministic society as dated. However, this rule is also existing in Muslim traditions as well as the rule for women to be covered.

Cultural congruency and conformity

Hasidic communities are trying to conform to mimic cultural elements: individualism, risk-taking, and social values while respecting their cultural values in the extended familial environment. Cultural congruency with Belgian cultural values is not fully possible because of their religion. However, there is a need for adaptation by the host country and efforts are made on both sides to respect each other cultural identity.

As can be seen in the picture the cultural identity of Hasidim has many layers originating in religion, the long complex and dramatic history of the Jews in Europe and the dilemma of strong adaptation to a European context.

Cultural congruity: The finding of common ground between cultural values concerning differences and religious attitudes. This is the case in Antwerp, where organized consultations with the local authorities are a long-standing process and have proven successful.

Cultural assimilation or the process of groups of different heritages becoming part of the existing national cultural dimensions and acquiring basic habits, attitudes and modes of life of an embracing culture. This is partly the case as some attitudes and habits are prescribed by religious laws and also practiced in other religions.

Amalgamation is perhaps the word for the cultural process it refers to a blending of cultures, rather than acculturation. The blending of the two cultures is not possible for religious reasons.

Overall conclusions:

The picture of the mural Matonge shows the idea of the Congolese artist of how multiculturalism is seen in the Congolese part of Brussels. However, it does not show the cultural processes of the newcomer migrant in Belgium.

The two diasporas examined in this essay along the key words: congruency, conformity, amalgamation, adaptation, assimilation, transnationalism, and integration.

The Congolese community in Brussels has a transnational hybrid cultural identity that is multiscaled. The identity is based on the tribal, African cultural values with transnational adaptation to life in Belgium and Europe. This is facilitated by the Ubuntu Philosophy: “the dance of being We and the others.”

The Hasidim community is a different case, where cultural values are based on religion and strict religious laws. The Jewish culture based on identity, solely on religion and culture has little chance of being sustainable. “By accepting the reduction of their Jewish identity to its cultural dimension, the integrated Jews, voluntarily or not, are willing to put it at risk for integration’s sake. They accept being not Jews, but Europeans”. (3)


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                                                                      Bio Dr. Luc Zwaenepoel

    He is a Drs in Development economics, PhD Development management and a Master’s in Family Sciences and Sexology. He lived and worked for 40 years on the African continent, the Indian Ocean and the Far East. His international work in economic development brought him in contact with a better understanding of African organizations and communities, with a great interest in the Bantu philosophy and the Ubuntu approach. He worked as a social demographer in the Institut de Formation et de Recherche Démographique (IFORD) and was a programme manager of the KFW/IGAD migration fund for the Horn of Africa.

    As a novelist, he wrote a book: “Sartre in the Congo” 2020, a magical realism story, against the background of the first genocide in Kongo and Rwanda.


Culture and Nation-building in Africa.


This paper Culture and Nation-building in Africa is trying to assess two hypotheses by answering the following questions:

  • Nation-building in Africa guided by the colonization and decolonization process? Following some African nations the colonial administration par excellence in their post-Independence phases?
  • The culture of Ubuntu and leadership in building a nation as a community?
  • “Violence reduces the cost for an organization”?
  • What happened with all donor aid assisting nation-building, good governance, and fundamental rights?
  • Are Nations only built when there is an Enemy?
  • Nation-building in times of COVID?
  • The role of national heroes as catalysts for fomenting national identity?
  • Is African Nation-building following the principles of Native Nation Building?
  • Conclusions


Nation-building, Ubuntu, Attuned leadership, native nation, decolonization, black economic empowerment

Introduction: (Falode 2019, Lemay Hebert 2009)

There is a difference between Nation-building and State building. This paper is trying to explain how Nation-building in Africa was based on the power of tribes, the Bantu culture Ubuntu and the existence of an enemy (the colonizer, the intruder, Covid pandemic)

State-building is rather artificial, state borders have been made artificially by the colonizers. Tribal and clan-related territories have been split up into new states in a more mathematical way, not taking into account the reality of cultural, tribal, and clan relations.

Nation-building is wider, and deeper and can be defined as:

“Nation-building is the process whereby a society of people with diverse origins, histories, languages, cultures, and religions come together within the boundaries of a sovereign state with a unified constitutional and legal dispensation, a national public education system, an integrated national economy, shared symbols, national heroes and catalysts. “ (14,6)

“The primary objective of nation-building is to make a violent society peaceful. Security, food, shelter, and basic services should be provided first. Economic and political objectives can be pursued once these first-order needs are met.”

“Nation-building theory was primarily used to describe the processes of national integration and consolidation that led up to the establishment of the modern nation-state as distinct from various forms of traditional states, such as feudal and dynastic states, church states, empires, etc. “(Falode, 2019, p. 181).

“State-building as a specific term in social sciences and humanities refers to political and historical processes of creation, institutional consolidation, stabilization and sustainable development of states, from the earliest emergence of statehood up to the modern times.”

Hypotheses on Nation-building and culture in Africa

Two hypotheses need to be analyzed in this paper:

  • Post decolonized African countries are not built on nation-building projects financed by Development partners and International funding?
  • Is Nation-building built on the shape of sociological communities and the intercultural management of tribal/national identities in an African country?
Is Nation-building in Africa initially guided by the colonization and decolonization processes? (Peters 2016, Native Nation Institute 2010)

Most African nations have known long colonization processes and a fight for independence period. The main colonizers were France, the UK, Portugal, Spain, the Netherlands, and Belgium with RDC and two protectorates Rwanda and Burundi.

There are two schools in the Nation-building in Africa. The former French colonies have known nation-building efforts while mirroring the Mother country: la France, based on the Language (La Francophonie) and the French social values (Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité)

The British former colonies have known for strong state-building efforts. (Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya)

The first one, nation-building (legitimacy approach) needs consolidated state institutions but not without the socio-cultural-political (Durkheimian sociology) cohesion during the process.

The second one: The “institutional approach” (Weberian approach” of nation-building, stressed the importance of institutional reconstruction where state-building efforts do not need a sociological cultural coherence nor nation-building efforts. In the state-society relationship in institutional approaches, state and society are viewed as intrinsically separable.

The first approach, the legitimacy approach is more sociologically or anthropologically oriented, relativizing generalizing assumptions and emphasizing the particularities of each state and its societal context. The legitimacy approach, therefore, poses obstacles to measuring state strength in quantitative terms.”

A good example is the “Afrobarometer” project that studies public opinion in various African countries, notably the citizen-government relationship.

The questions concern the theme of the citizens-state relationship, the way the political institutions and system are understood, and how public services and goods are assessed given the state’s legitimacy. An important perception is their own needs and how a high-level perception of corruption is changing the view of the legitimacy of the state machinery.

Legitimacy and the process of nation-building are hindered by having less voice of the citizen in the process and the lack of adequate accountability of state actors in the process. Therefore, there is an important role for non-state actors and the civil society as well as their own elected representatives in free elections.

There is this important paradox in the reconstruction of state institutions without an eye on the socio-cultural cohesion of states and nations. Before having important state-building efforts, it is recommended to analyze the socio-cultural data of what is intended to become a “modern democratic” nation/state. The colonial and post-colonial times in Africa had this important default that the socio-cultural factors were not fully understood. The Bantu concept and moral compass of Ubuntu ( “I am because we are”) came only lately upfront in nation-building. And with Mandela, Ubuntu (African humanism) became part of the new Constitution of the RSA after Apartheid. Mandela was an “attuned leader” who brought the spirit of Ubuntu, the protection of people and their communities rooted in justice and equality to the foreground.

Do some African nations follow the colonial administration model par excellence in their post-Independence phases? (Sidane 2000, Boudja 2019)

The independence of many African states was ill-prepared and was not anticipated by the colonizers who thought that independence would come much later ( 20 years later at least). But this was a misinterpretation. Under charismatic leaders like Lumumba, Nyerere, Nkrumah, and Nasser independency came earlier, at the beginning of the sixties. Some African states/nations were only independent in the seventies. (Comoros, Djibouti, Angola, Mozambique). The latest independent nation was South Sudan (2011).

The colonial society and the colonial administration were excellent mirrors of the motherland. There was a difference between the term “the fatherland” (when” the colon” left the home country) but when in the colonies reference was made to the “motherland”, to whom every colonized person belonged.

The situation of installing an independent new state was chaotic at that time. The case of Congo (now DRC) is a good example. The Belgians had bought the colony from Leopold 1, who had Congo Free state under his possession. Hence, all the proven stories about institutionalized mistreatment of the local population (White King, Red Rubber, Black Deaths.) Congo officially became independent from Belgium on 30th June in1960. The King of Belgium came to Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) and he was caught off guard during the impassioned independency speech of Patrice Lumumba, the first Prime Minister in the government of Kasavubu.

Extract of the speech in 1960, Leopoldville:

“Although this independence of the Congo is being proclaimed today by agreement with Belgium, an amicable country, with which we are on equal terms, no Congolese will ever forget that independence was won in struggle, a persevering and inspired struggle carried on from day to day, a struggle, in which we were undaunted by privation or suffering and stinted neither strength nor blood.

It was filled with tears, fire, and blood. We are deeply proud of our struggle because it was just and noble and indispensable in putting an end to the humiliating bondage forced upon us.

That was our lot for the eighty years of colonial rule and our wounds are too fresh and much too painful to be forgotten.”

We have experienced forced labor in exchange for pay that did not allow us to satisfy our hunger, to clothe ourselves, to have decent lodgings, or to bring up our children as dearly loved ones.”

That was the spirit in Congo when the whole Belgian colonial apparatus left the Congo; The country had no university-educated people, except for the postal employee, the teacher, the candidate priest, and the “ évolués”. The newly elected government struggled to keep the new state functioning but failed as the old colonizers wanted to show that the independent Congo will not function. But nation-building, the Ubuntu philosophy, and the young politized generation tried to make it work. The best example of excellence was to continue the old colonial administrative Belgian model. The state institutions, the schools, the tax office, and all other public services were taken over by the new elite. Manuals, Standard operations, procedures, and the rule of law were taken over and the old legal acquis was still in place. The Congo became a prismatic society in public administration, with a subsystem of interpretation and in development of a society in transition from fused towards diffraction of its social, cultural, political, and economic systems and values. (Zwaenepoel 90)

 But the colonizer and special the USA CIA had other plans as the Congo was a geological abundant country with an important uranium reserve. The USA and its allies were also afraid that the new State would come under the influence of the USSR bloc. Several CIA sponsored and Belgian sabotage activities were planned to undermine the new government of Kasavubu (the First Congolese president) and were set up: the kidnap and the murder of Patrice Lumumba, the secession of Katanga ( rich copper province), the killing of Dag Hammarskjöld, Secretary-General of the United Nations on a peace mission in the Congo.

But it was much later when Colonel Mobutu Seseko started his reign after a coup d’ état in 1965. He was seen in his later years as a nation builder but one with bloody hands or an enlightened despot. He was as a former journalist aware that the Congo needed to become” authentic”, with a shared national identity in line with the Bantu philosophy, to unite all tribes and with common cultural values. So he changed the country and the “fleuve” name into “Zaire”, all citizens, now called “citoyen(ne)” had to change their colonial names and have ancestral Bantu names, and the vestimentary outfits were changed into cultural clothing (abacost (à bas costume) for men, traditional” pagnes” for women), everybody became a member of the One state party; Le Mouvement Populaire des Peuples. It brought a sense of belonging to a new nation with pride in their Bantu culture, ancestral beliefs, and values. This is well seen in the first sentence of his famous speech:

« Tout comme le soleil se lève avec éclat chaque matin sur le grand et majestueux fleuve Zaïre.. »

Mobutu was, after all, cruelly, a nation builder using the sociological cultural consensus of his citoyens and citoyennes, making Zaire the country of authenticity. But what happened with the state-building; Zaire was and is a fragile state, where the state cannot provide all public services to all citizens, where the immense wealth of the elite was made by corruption, and where the many dollars brought in by international donors, the private sector, the international banking, and the CIA disappeared.

Mobutu failed in getting the state build as efficiently, with sound systems and a share for all. State-building without nation-building cannot be a good and sustained case of cultural nation-building.

Seseko Mobutu and also Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu dreamed about the renaissance of Ubuntu in political and societal life in Congo and RSA, but it was Mobutu who brought the “authenticité” of the Ubuntu culture, the African society as an important factor in building the nation.

However, on the other hand, Mobutu also build a failed state and the most important threats are the loss of democratic and fundamental rights the oppression and killing of opponents, the limitation of the free flow of information in the community, and the most important factor was the collapse of the financial self-sustenance by the “greed” of his tribe and cronies.

When corruption and fraud in colonial times were seen as patriotic deeds, nowadays corruption is an act of individualism as it is taken away from the community. Population expects to be protected by the chiefs as a good family father and do have trust in a moral leader.

A second threat is a large population that lives under the poverty line and who is not inclusive in political life. Their only frustration is that security, and social needs for their extended family are no longer secured by the Chiefs and responsible.

A third threat is tribal strife and conflict in the region. A great part of Africa encounters continual armed conflict and war, where strong human rights abuses and discriminations are no longer punished. These fragile states like Zaire/Congo are far away from the Ubuntu values and this impact on large migrations, health disasters, and war crimes like the raping of women, girls, and babies (North Kivu, RDC).

The post-Mobutu period showed that nation-building based on Ubuntu cultural values cannot be true if the three factors of failure in state-building are not addressed. The administration apparatus, the “Acquis Communautaire”, the legislation, the financial systems and HR procedures are still the same as in colonial times. The so-called change management, sponsored by the development partners, to a new institutional state setting did not realize. All elements are in place to stay forever a fragile and failed state with an erroneous debt despite all well-intentioned state-building and capacity development efforts of donors and IFIs.

The culture of Ubuntu and leadership in building a nation as a community?
“Violence reduces the cost for the organization”? (Sidane 2000, Zwaenepoel 1990, Gyekye 1994, Ref: Bantu -New World Encyclopedia)

The culture of Ubuntu in Bantu Africa assisted in sustainable nation-building. The tree of basic values in the Bantu part of Africa (see map) leads to a humanism based on solidarity, community-driven, and with social control by peers, tribe, and community.

Several attuned leaders (Mandela, Bishop Tutu) have understood that a fragile broken society can only be healed by the sense of Ubuntu and belief in community focus. After the apartheid, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was installed to give victims and persecutors the chance to reconcile after a process of deep communication and looking for the truth.

The TRC was set up by the Government of National Unity to help deal with what happened under apartheid. The conflict during this period resulted in violence and human rights abuses from all sides. No section of society escaped these abuses.

TRC’s likely biggest failure was its lack of involvement in addressing social and economic transformation. The commission members were given the power to grant amnesty, but not the power to implement reparations.

The TRC has been criticized for having sacrificed justice for reconciliation. Another criticism is that the TRC is built on the Christian sense of forgiveness.

The amnesty process did not lead to a full restoration of a balanced nation and the old “enemy” and class typology was still in place. The state was still organized following the old institutional set-up of the Apartheid machinery, but the nation was scattered along with tribes and races, political parties, and minorities.

The government party ANC could not bridge the divides and had no solution for poverty reduction, the development of minority groups, implementation of reparation payments for victims, and enabling the right of land property for the landless minorities (Indigenous groups and minorities).

When the reconciliation idea was culturally correct, it underestimated the sociological deep divide between different population groups and the have-nots.

A new concept was introduced, as positive racial reinforcement, called the BEE, the Black Economic Empowerment, that was not a success. Later it was replaced by the B-BBEE Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment. A system that allowed “Blacks” to have advantages in job hunting, state jobs, financing, housing etc. “Blacks” were all victims of Apartheid like Africans, Colored, Indian, Indigenous, other minority groups, Chinese and White Women, who are South African citizens.

The main objective of B-BBEE is the inclusion of black people (defined broadly as Africans, Indians, and Colored) in the economy, within a larger goal of nation-building, and national empowerment, targeting historically disadvantaged people such as black people, women, the youth, rural communities, and disabled people.

The seven pillars of B-BBEE currently measured are:

  • Ownership.
  • Management Control.
  • Employment Equity.
  • Skills development.
  • Preferential Procurement.
  • Enterprise development.
  • Socio-Economic Development (Social Responsibility)

THE BEE and the B-BBEE were an answer to the lack of economic transformation and sharing of economic opportunities for all victims of apartheid. They completed the Ubuntu-inspired process of the Commission, which lacked attention to reparation and sustaining economic opportunities for all citizens in the South African economy.

Did the B-BBEE work as a tool for inclusive nation-building? (Boudja 2018, Sinha 2019)

The results are mitigated, giving more power to the ANC party and high funding going to provincial and local governments. It kept in place the “enemy typology”, we gain from the “others”. The old divide between the white population and the nonwhite African population was not solved and made more difficult with the non-solving of old territory and land property problems, as most landowners (Boer) had owned the majority of fertile land. At this problem was added, the problem of mining rights and access to water for industrial farming.

The first Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy has been one of the most direct attempts to achieve racial transformation in the South African economy. They missed key issues in terms of the high barriers that sustain exclusion and concentration.

The BEE approach was later copied by the Government of Namibia through The Targeted Intervention Programme for Employment and Economic Growth, with little success.

All these tools in nation-building by using the Ubuntu cultural values did not give sustainable results of the transformation of the economy and giving citizens an equal share in the wealth of the RSA. The nation-building in RSA is a long political consensus process, where the idea of “ the enemy inside” prevails. These sentiments were made stronger under the Zuma regime and the well-documented state finances robbery called “ state capture”. The former president and his cronies from inside and outside the RSA had a system of plundering Public finances.

On 11 September 2017, former Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan estimated the cost of state capture at 250 billion rands (almost USD 17 billion), in a presentation at the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.

All steps in the nation-building of a young democracy did not work for the RSA and the different tools to effect racial transformation and create an equal share in economic welfare and opportunities had not the expected results. The RSA is, of today, still a divided nation, even when the state machinery built during the Apartheid regime still works and old legislation is in place.

“Violence reduces the cost for the organization”? (Peters 2021)
Can a nation when restoring a national identity be built or restored by having an enemy? (Zwaenepoel 2019, Arino 2015)

 Some African nations like RSA, Angola, and Zimbabwe had known a long history of struggle, independence fighters, guerilla war, and ideologically inspired long conflicts. Most conflicts were supported by foreign countries ( the cold war), the masters of the weapons trade, and the secret services of different countries. Neighboring countries kept a growing interest in keeping the war economy and the access to important mining of crucial ores for industrial developments (coltan, cobalt, uranium, gold, copper, diamonds). This is the case with the war in North Kivu.

The idea of having a common enemy is the denominator to unite the opinions of citizens, “ we against the other”. And as Sartre was saying, “hell is the others”.

The recent invasion in Ukraine is a good non-African example of how a war between two Russian brother populations galvanized Ukraine’s defense and united a nation behind their leader. The principle of defining the everlasting enemy can be a tool in realizing nation-building during conflict and war.

On the other hand, conflict, and war do not stimulate economic growth and necessary transformation. Only foreign weapon production economies and the traders in conventional weaponry are increasing their profits. The importance of the illegal weapon import in Africa is the precursor for more conflict, tribal war, and incursions by neighboring countries to have access to priceless ores in fragile states.

Having a common enemy can be a bad catalysator of having a nation built around a charismatic leader but under the constraints of continuing conflict and war. (The Case of North Kivu)

What happened with all donor’s aid assisting nation-building, good governance, and fundamental rights?

A high part of donor aid and international cooperation is given to nation-building in the new African nations. Development funds and budget support are targeting the building of a new democratic nation based on the example of their old nation organization.

The EU, the biggest provider of donor aid, does have programs based on the European Values. The funds are used to finance political advisors, capacity development programs for state employees, the reform of Public Finances, the role of non-state actors and civic society, the organization of democratic and free elections, the peace and security concerns, and the cross-cutting issues of gender, climate change resilience and social inclusion.

The EU values in democratic nation/state-building:
  • Human dignity. Human dignity is inviolable. EU fundamental rights are primordial.
  • Freedom. Freedom of movement gives citizens the right to move and reside freely within the Union.
  • Democracy. The functioning of the EU is founded on representative democracy.
  • Equality.
  • Rule of law.
  • Human rights.

Many funds have been used by international donors to finance Capacity development programs for leaders, officials, non-state actors, Faith-based organizations, and NGOs. Money was spent on travel, conferences, workshops, structured democratic dialogue, exercises in democracy, and fostering the EU Fundamental Rights. There is no study on what the added value could be of these projects in nation-building and enhancing national identity. A succession of stand-alone projects and programs never fully contributed to the long process of nation-building. Western nations learned it in their history the hard way through war, conflict, and revolt and not by programs and projects in nation-building designed and promoted by international donors. All Nation-building programs in Africa mirror the actual state of Western states that donors use as an excellent example of a democratic nation. It has similarities with the colonization where the idea was to introduce civilization to the uncivilized. In the case of aid and cooperation to assist in building a newly democratic nation and restructuring the state institutions, the same emerges. Two examples: Twenty years of nation-building in Afghanistan and the different funds for a democratic nation, transformative gender, and a strong National army were finished in two weeks with the arrival of the Taliban in Kabul.

Another example of the well understandable self-interest of the donor community in France in West Africa. The former colonizer still has armies in some Sahel countries to protect their mining and other interests in the region. After the independence, the real “decolonization” still needs to start. France linked the CFA (currency used in most West African countries) to their Public finance policies and keeps the gold reserve backing the CFA in their vaults in Paris. The well understandable reaction from the West African young population that never knew colonization, is to get la France out and create a new financial system. Geopolitical interests are prime, and some compare it to a form of neo-colonialism.

Nation-building under the Covid pandemic (Peters 2021)

The world will never know what the exact number of victims of COVID 19 in Africa is. Citizens of Africa face a lot of different health challenges and the life expectancy of women and men is lower than 60 years. When the pandemic broke out, the struggle for vaccinations was the work of the capital-oriented pharmaceutical industry and “the first come first serve” principles; Africa could have a small share of the vaccine production and the efforts to produce vaccinations in the African continent were a lost cause. The result was the many nonvaccinated citizens and many more victims than is officially known.

Another important impact was on livelihood, as non-mobility means that people could not move to sell and buy the necessary products in markets and the streets.

Did Covid 19 assist in nation-building?

In one way, it showed African solidarity and

self-help, which was a great factor to unite the citizens in the struggle to overcome the pandemic. But Africa had known many pandemics and epidemics. There was this sense of resilience during HIV Aids, the EBOLA, and many other pandemics. Facing disasters, communities are built on resilience, unity in organizing, assisting the weak and the children, and Ubuntu, African humanism as a compass.

The role of national heroes as catalysator with football and music (Meeks)

The role of national heroes as catalysts for fomenting national identity is an important factor in nation-building and building a “society of people with diverse origins, histories, languages, cultures, and religions come together within the boundaries of a sovereign state.” The independence struggle brought some attuned leaders. “An attuned leader is an insightful person who stresses the importance of human relationships, empathizing and identifying with the followership, winning their trust and producing results in line with the needs of the followers”. (12) Several African leaders had an important impact on the African post-independence period by being courageous and even giving their own life for a good cause. Leaders like Lumumba, Nyerere, Mandela, Bishop Tutu, Jomo Kenyatta, Thomas Sankara, Kwame Nkrumah, Kofi Annan and Ellen Johnson -Sirleaf were attuned leaders

An attuned leader is an insightful person who stresses the importance of human relationships, empathizing and identifying with the followership, winning their trust, and producing results in line with the needs of the followers. (Khoza 2016)

But also, nonpoliticians or religious leaders like football players, musicians, and writers can be attuned facilitators.

A good example is Didier Drogba’s peace- and nation-building effort on Ivory Coast. Civil war broke out in Cote d’Ivoire in 2002. In 2007, Drogba ended a 5-year civil war in his country, Cote d’Ivoire by scoring a goal, that helped them win a match against Madagascar. He asked that the next game be played in Bouake, a rebel stronghold then got on his knees and pleaded with rebels to drop their arms, and they did. The symbolic gesture of the game in Bouake seemed to have united a country once again.

This campaign impacted the sense of national ownership and identity and influenced the resilience of this political and tribal conflict.

Another good example of nation-building was in Jamaica, where the island state was in a conflict between two parties and two candidates for president. Bob Marley proposed to hold a reunification concert to make peace in Jamaica. Sometime before the concert he was attacked in his house, his wife with a bullet in the head and Bob in his arm and shoulder. He continued to hold the first peace concert “Smile Jamaica Concert” in 1976

and played with his wounded arm. In 1978 he organized with the Wailers the One Love Peace Concert in Kingston. At the end of this concert and during the political

conflict, he asked the Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley and his political opponent Edward Seaga onto the stage, to say “one love “in the microphone.

That is how Rastafari culture helps national identity and resilience. With this important message sang by Bob Marley. (15)

Is Nation-building mirroring the five principles of Native Nation Rebuilding? (Native Nations Institute, Wursten 1997 , Hofstede2010)

Is Nation-building mirroring the five principles of Native Nation Rebuilding? (Native Nations Institute, Wursten 1997 , Hofstede2010)

Five core principles African-nation building Cultural dimension Comments
Sovereignty Nations make the major decision Self-governing power Nations are independent and make institutional decisions but still, there is a great influence of International donors and the community who decided on the conditions of the supply of funds for development
Capable governing institutions



The Nation backs up authority with competence Collective societies with a strong sense of consensus-building UBUNTU compass Following the history of the colonial institutions and procedures for state-building after independence. Successful African nations put in place effective, non-politicized dispute-resolution mechanisms and build capable bureaucracies
Cultural match


Governing institutions match community beliefs about how authority

should be organized:

The strong influence of Ubuntu culture and old governance practices

Cultural values as strong power distance, less individualism but collective based.

Social control and the influences of chiefs, faith-based organizations, and non-state actors

Nation-building is more based on culture, sociologically or anthropologically oriented, relativizing generalizing assumptions and emphasizing the particularities of each state and its societal context.
Strategic orientation



Decisions are in African Nations not made with long-term priorities in mind


African nations score very low on Long term orientation (Hofstede), all decisions are short term and with the own tribe, or clan in mind African nations tend to find short term solutions for long structural problems like poverty, food security, migration, climate resilience


Public spirited leadership

A few numbers of attuned leaders rose in the history, who had a long view and through a charismatic approach have their eye on sustainable change in society, economy, and politics The value of Ubuntu, African humanism The culture of change in African nations is not seen in the political elite, it is more the non-state actors, the faith-based and non-governmental organizations, the unions, and advocacy groups who are working on the grass-root levels. Fundamental changes cannot be brought by evolution but by the revolution of the mind and the masses. The elite does not like major changes that can impact their position, the position of the clan, and their wealth.



There were two hypotheses to be assessed:

  • Post decolonized African countries are not built on nation-building projects financed by Development partners and International funding?
  • Is Nation-building built on the shape of sociological communities and the intercultural management of tribal/national identities in African countries?

As was proved in this paper, after independence the state-building and the institutional concepts were copied from the nations of their former colonizers. There was no time left to prepare for a transition after the declaration of independence by the colonizing power. The new leaders had to continue what was conceived before, to provide public goods and services in the post-Independence time. And even up to now, the International donor community with an arsenal of funds, tools, and techniques provide the new nations with assistance, aid, and cooperation to build the new nation with cultural values from the West. Cross-cutting factors and often conditions for more funds were social inclusion, gender transformation, sexual orientation, trade facilities, and resilience were of importance.

Some capacity development projects have sustainable results, but it is difficult in the long term to define the value-added for and from the nation that received aid and for the provider to know the value for money and the expected rate of return.

Is Nation-building built on the shape of sociological communities and the intercultural management of tribal/national identities in African countries? Nation-building in most African nations is based on deep cultural values, language, and cultural, and sociological identity. The high-power distance is a basic characteristic of traditional communities, where the chief has to provide for his tribe, clan, and nation.

The moral compass in Bantu Africa is Ubuntu or African humanism. Some cases of racial transformation, reconstruction, and the building of national identity were given. They proved not to be always successful and nations with a more “cultural fusion” approach are making more changes in society and economy. The younger African generation with access to social media and ICT tools will be the biggest change-makers in African society, politics, and economic development.


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Dr. Luc Zwaenepoel is a Drs in Development economics, Ph.D. Development management and a Master’s in Sexology. He lived and worked for 40 years on the African continent, the Indian Ocean, and the Far East. His international work in economic development brought him in contact with a better understanding of African organizations and communities, with a great interest in the Bantu philosophy and the Ubuntu approach. As a novelist, he wrote a book: “Sartre in the Congo” 2020, a magical realism story, against the background of the first genocide in Kongo and Rwanda.