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Embodying “Ubuntu” in African Geotechnical Engineering – Sharing Knowledge, Recognizing Legends

By Reginald Hammah

Recently, there has been a keen interest among African geotechnical engineers and engineering geologists to see greater involvement of our continent in advancing geotechnical engineering. They have all shared strong beliefs in strengthening the ties between our various national groups and inspiring the upcoming generation. This got me thinking of how we could achieve any of these goals.

This also got me thinking about ubuntu. A Nguni Bantu term that means “humanity,” ubuntu is often translated as “I am because we are” or “humanity towards others.” This African term expresses a strong belief that a universal bond of sharing binds us together.

When Nelson Mandela was asked to define ubuntu, this is what he said (paraphrasing): “Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. They should. However, the question is, are they going to do so to enable the community around them to improve? If they can do that, they would have done something exciting which everyone will appreciate.”

We, African geotechnical professionals, can succeed in advancing the field and its practice by exercising the spirit of ubuntu. With ubuntu, we can stimulate each other, share knowledge and foster conversations among ourselves that can offer us more opportunities to grow.

To help live the spirit of ubuntu, Rocscience will be attending a few conferences on the continent this year. The first will be to attend the upcoming regional ISRM conference in Tunisia in March 2022.

We will also be organizing a conference in Accra dubbed “From Rich History to Promising Future.” The primary purpose is to gather geotechnical professionals and allow these industry peers to meet and learn about important issues and developments in geotechnical modelling and applications. It will help them exchange ideas and work towards solutions to the challenges we face.

The Rocscience Africa Conference will offer you the chance to present your ideas and work to others. While sharing your knowledge and getting feedback, you will gain new perspectives. These interactions will help you dig deeper into your topic of interest. We, therefore, look forward to your papers.

In the spirit of ubuntu, Rocscience has always fiercely respected and revered those who have made geotechnical history and helped us get to where we are today. This year we plan to celebrate the men and women of African origin who helped create a journey of geotechnical engineering excellence. We want to say thank you to them and rejoice in their achievements. The first of these celebrations will be a talk by Dr. Evert Hoek on “Design Challenges, Disasters & Lessons in Rock Engineering” on February 25th, 2022, at 6:00 pm CAT. A question-and-answer session will follow his presentation.

Success is not just about what people accomplish in life but is also about what they inspire others to do. Who has inspired you? We would love you to tell us your stories. We will celebrate these African geotechnical legends in our webinar series, newsletter and other activities.

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