Ubuntu = I am because we are

At YSWARA, we are guided by the Ubuntu philosophy – “I am because we are.” It’s the driving force behind our brand. The core of our business model is the community, and wealth creation.

 

In the ubuntu spirit, we put people at the centre of everything we do.

“Luxe Ubuntu” is our own special term, describes our inclusive luxury business model, in which there is economic benefit for everyone who contributes to the production of a luxury product.

 

This philosophy is manifested in the spirit of kinship and is upheld by the ideals of compassion, dignity, harmony and humanity. Our YSWARA brand strives to benefit local suppliers by encouraging the world to appreciate high quality African-made products. Luxe Ubuntu is reversing the commodity trap and uplifting African farmers and artisans – especially women. With Luxe Ubuntu, we’re changing the perceptions of Africa and its products, supporting conservation of our cultural heritage, and giving Africa a positive, contemporary image.

 

Ubuntu speaks of the very essence of being human. It is to say, ‘My humanity is inextricably bound up in yours.’ We belong in a bundle of life.
— Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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The development of an authentic African luxury: Luxe Ubuntu

“What makes a luxury brand everlasting is its distinctive, powerful and immutable features and references”[1] Developing an authentic African luxury meant identifying with core values and cultural meaning shared by the entire continent. Though each community has weaved its own social fabric, each one has done so based on tradition, heritage and experience. With these follows the impact of every action onto the community. One deeply African concept shared by Africa’s people that translates this thought is Ubuntu. Throughout all of Africa, its many positive connotations come down to the “humanness” of one’s self: “The essence (of the concept) is that one’s humanity is dependent upon one’s relationship with others.”[2]  The Zulu proverb “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu” which translates to “A person is a person through other persons” or “I am because we are” expresses this profound interconnectedness.

The underlying philosophy of Ubuntu gives African luxury an added purpose: it creates a unique and dynamic relationship with the community by promoting a model that takes into account its wellbeing and strives for the overall creation of wealth. In other words, Ubuntu luxury’s focus isn’t solely based on its own success, rather on the possibility of positively contributing to its environment as a whole, which in turn makes it unique. With this in mind, an authentic African luxury can only thrive if it synthetizes both economics and social values.

The Luxe Ubuntu thereby creates economic value in a way that also creates value for the African society at large by addressing its prosperity needs and challenges. It aims to expand the meaningful income of all stakeholders contributing to luxury at the various levels of supply chain – whether it be farmers and artisans, artists, manufacturers and so on - by essentially providing routes to market their products and keeping the added-value in Africa. The focus is thus on broad based wealth creation by enabling access to markets thanks to high-end quality products conceptualized and produced in Africa and sought after by connoisseurs worldwide as well as “limited editions” to showcase exceptional local artists, and the development of skills including organizational and business capacity of co-operatives.

[1] « Luxe… Métiers et management atypiques », Danielle Allères, 2006. / [2] « Attuned Leadership ; African Humanism as Compass », Rehuel J. Khoza, 2011.

Read more about LUXE UBUNTU in Luxury Brands in Emerging Markets, Palgrave McMillan, 2014. (chapter " Towards a definition of authentic African luxury: LUXE UBUNTU" by Swaady Martin and Elizabeth Ellis)