Environmental Ethics

Volume 43, Issue 3, Fall 2021

Matthew CrippenOrcid-ID
Pages 235-259

Africapitalism, Ubuntu, and Sustainability

Ubuntu originated in small-scale societies in precolonial Africa. It stresses metaphysical and moral interconnectedness of humans, and newer Africapitalist approaches absorb ubuntu ideology, with the aims of promoting community wellbeing and restoring a love of local place that global free trade has eroded. Ecological degradation violates these goals, which ought to translate into care for the nonhuman world, in addition to which some sub-Saharan thought systems promote environmental concern as a value in its own right. The foregoing story is reinforced by field research on African hunting operations that appear—counterintuitively—to reconcile conservation with business imperatives and local community interests. Though acknowledging shortcomings, I maintain these hunting enterprises do, by and large, adopt Africapitalist and ubuntu attitudes to enhance community wellbeing, environmental sustainability, and long-term economic viability. I also examine how well-intentioned Western conservation agendas are neocolonial impositions that impede local control while exacerbating environmental destruction and socioeconomic hardship. Ubuntu offers a conciliatory epistemology, which Africapitalism incorporates, and I conclude by considering how standard moral theories and political divisions become less antagonistic within these sub-Saharan frameworks, so even opponents can find common cause.