Reflection of Kiswahili Language as a Tool of Social Inclusion in East Africa – Ubuntu Perspective

Author: Meinrad Lembuka (The Open University of Tanzania)
Speaker: Meinrad Lembuka
Topic: Multifunctionality
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 Colloquium



Kiswahili is a basically a Bantu language under Ubuntu culture, and most of Africans are Bantu speaking. Ubuntu is way of African life that is practiced across Africa thus Kiswahili and Ubuntu culture are inseparable (Citizens, 2023).Kiswahili Language is not merely a tool for communication, but the bearer of a whole nexus of African Ubuntu expressions and conveys identity, values, inclusion and vision of United Africa to the world.

The article used desk review method to conduct a systematic review of existing literature and respective presentation. Ubuntu theory was used to guide the review process and was though relevant to understand respective African language.


Kiswahili language remains to be unique as it represents African cultural values and ecology (Ubuntu) with super-diverse communities that contributes to the primary goal of alleviation of poverty through social inclusion. Kiswahili Language mediates access to key social inclusion sites such as employment, education or health. Second, a sense of belonging is negotiated through language and often tied to specific competencies (Piller & Takahashi 2011).


Kiswahili is one of the most widely used languages of the African family, and the most widely spoken in sub-Saharan Africa. It is among the 10 most widely spoken languages in the world, with more than 200 million speakers (UNESCO, 2021). Apart from the historical contribution in peace-building and liberation struggles of Southern Africa and Africa in general (SADC, 2019), yet Kiswahili language is used by new EAC to rekindle the spirit of cooperation and integration among the East African people. It is, therefore, an indispensable tool in achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and an essential factor in harmonious communication between peoples, as it promotes unity in diversity and international understanding, tolerance and dialogue.

Lesson Learnt

Kiswahili helps to fight against racism, tribalism and all mother form of injustice Africans and it does this well because it does not raise any negative emotions amongst the users.
Kiswahili is a vessel which contains cultural diversity and a richer diversity of forms of interaction, and exchange of support, super diversity and empowerment to all (Vertovec, 2007 & UNESCO, 2021).

Kiswahili continues to attract and unite millions of people all over the world with a fact that it embraces African Ubuntu values including love, compassion, care, harmony, unity, cooperation and collective responsibility etc”

The colloquium will consist of 4 papers, convened by Marcelyn Oostendorp:

Challenging notions of language, space, and materiality in African sociolinguistics
In this introduction to the colloquium, Marcelyn Oostendorp (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), will provide an overview of recent research in African sociolinguistics that has questioned spatial and linguistic dichotomies.

Glocal entanglements in the linguistic landscape of Tana River Country
Rehema Abiyo (Stellenbosch University, South Africa & Aston University, UK) reports on a linguistic ethnography conducted in Tana River County (Kenya) and points out how local and colonial languages interact in the linguistic landscape. She argues that specific materialities are essential to expressing local identity.

Transnational linguistic repertoires of Samia speakers in Uganda and Kenya
Sylvia Nahayo (Makerere University, Uganda) focusses on the cross-border language community of the Samia in Uganda and Kenya. Her linguistic ethnographic study showed how the Samia’s mobility between countries, and urban-rural centers, shaped their linguistic repertoires. Samia speakers are thus argued to inhabit a multilingual identity.

Discursive placemaking in South African cookbooks
Samantha Roman (Stellenbosch University, South Africa), uses multimodal discourse analysis to looks at the entanglements of language, food, and (urban)space in the discursive construction of place in two South African cookbooks. Food, language, and relationality is shown to be interweaved in discursive placemaking practices.

Keywords: Kiswahili