"Umuntu Ngumumtu Ngabantu:” An Afrocentric Approach to Bioethics

Monday, 22 July 2013: 1:30 PM

T. Muoni, BScN (Hons), BSc (Hons), MA
Maternity, States of Jersey, General Hospital, St Helier, United Kingdom

Learning Objective 1: To understand the African ethic of ubuntu and how the concept of ubuntu is applied to everyday life in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Learning Objective 2: Apply the African ethic ubuntu into bioethics / healthcare ethics.


 The purpose of the study was to examine the African ethic of ubuntu as a framework for African bioethics.  The study defines what the terms African and ubuntu mean and describes how ubuntu is applied in the everyday lives of Sub-Saharan African. The study rejects UNESCO's proposal for a normative apporach towards bioethics.


 This was a case study. African folktale, African music,  Africcan proverbs, sayings and idioms were used for the study. The study also relied on work already published on global bioethics and ubuntu.


 Bioethics is relatively new field in Africa. Culture and bioethics are closely related. Ubuntu is a an African philosiphy which for many years has anchored and shaped the African way of living. Ubuntu is a reckonised African concpet which drives and anchors African communities.  It is a concept which promotes oneness and togetherness within African communities. The  Zulu maxim umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu epitomizes the concept of ubuntu. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu means a person is a person through others meaning, that for a person to fluourish, his success can only come through the support of others. Ubuntu is about the community and from this perspective African ethics differs from Western bioethics which promotes individual autonomy. The study determined that ubuntu can be successfully applied to bieothics in an African context.

Conclusion: There is a growing need for bioethics in Africa - but, there is need to ensure that bioethics programmes are culture sensative. Globalizing bioethics is not ideal as it poses a threat to culture and heritage.  Ubuntu has been and still remains the  bedrock for African ethics. Ubuntu has its roots deeply anchored in traditional African life. It is an ancient African concept upon which the certain traditional  African values such as communalism and interdepency are built.