What is the Ubuntu Love Challenge? New online campaign hopes to become a global movement

Started by Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi and Mamadou Toure, the positivity movement encourages 'love over fear' in the time of coronavirus

Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi and Mamadou Toure speak about the Ubuntu Love Challenge. YouTube
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In African popular philosophy, the concept of Ubuntu can be summed up in a phrase: “I am because we are.” In other words, a person’s humanity is defined by their relationship with others.

Ubuntu is also at the core of a new online campaign by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, founder of publishing company Kalimat Group, and philanthropist Mamadou Toure. Named the Ubuntu Love Challenge, it encourages people to share skills and knowledge to tackle global issues amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“The meaning of Ubuntu is that we are all connected and that we are all part of this global community … If something happens to one person, it not only affects the community, but the whole world,” Sheikha Bodour says in the promotional video for the challenge.

The Ubuntu Love Challenge is simple – participants should identify issues within their communities and find solutions for them. They can be small-scale and community-focused, ranging from delivering groceries to someone in need to volunteering to conduct online classes.

Participants record a video of themselves speaking about the experience, and then share the clip on social media with the hashtag #UbuntuLoveChallenge. They must then urge other people within their community to join.  

As the challenge brings in more voices and contributions, Sheikha Bodour and Toure hope it will become a “global movement” – one that will form a network of people to collaborate on projects for social good.

“It is going to be a global community of people who are digitally interconnected and work together to design solutions, leveraging on their skills, their knowledge, their network and their creativity to propose innovative solutions that will help address those global challenges and prepare humanity for the new world ahead,” Toure says in the video.

The challenge is in line with the ethos of non-profit activities that both organisers undertake. Sheikha Bodour  is also the founder of the Kalimat Foundation, which advocates for childhood literacy in the region. One of its initiatives included the donation of 2,000 books to children in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Toure is founder of the Africa 2.0 Foundation, which focuses on mentorship and advocating for the leadership of young people across Africa.

The two met at the World Economic Forum in January as part of the Forum of Young Global Leaders. They collaborated on the Ubuntu Love Challenge in April after Toure found himself unable to fly out of the UAE after the pandemic struck.

“I came for a business trip, and all of a sudden, all airports around the world shut down. I could not go back home. In those circumstances, that is where you look within and you trust your heart,” he says.

Speaking of the Covid-19 crisis, Sheikha Bodour says: "What I saw in front of my eyes was this loss of hope that was spreading like wildfire around the world … A global epidemic of hopelessness. People are losing jobs. The future is uncertain … We need to be prepared. We need to come up with a solution."

“Love over fear,” Tuore says. The phrase is also the tagline for the campaign.

A number of figures from around the world have already  participated in the Ubuntu Love Challenge. These include musicians Tyrese, Maxwell and Sons of Yusuf, and regional director of UN Women for West and Central Africa, Oulimata Sarr.

Prominent figures in the UAE community have also joined. In a video, Marwan Al Sarkal, executive chairman of Sharjah investment authority Shurooq, used the challenge to highlight its efforts with start-up VeggiTech to deliver more than 6,000 kilograms of fresh vegetables to a 1,000 families in need in the emirate.  

Nawal Al Hosany, UAE representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency encouraged people to make environmentally friendly decisions in their everyday lives. She then shared her own ways to help and challenged others to do the same. “As we continue working from home, here is what we will do and hope you can join us. Turn off unused devices, recycle as much as you can, purchase and use energy-efficient devices … and don’t leave the tap running when you wash your hands. No matter how little, these acts can make a big difference.”

Other participants include radio host Hassan Ahmad, better known as Big Hass, whose challenge involved a small gesture. Ahmad, who has an autistic son, asked people to send words of compassion to parents of autistic children. “Say, ‘I see you. I see your struggle. Peace and blessings to you and your family.’ This means a lot,” he says in his video submission.

More information on the challenge is at UbuntuLoveChallenge.org