Leaders in sub-Saharan Africa are working hard to create an environment that is attractive to investors to promote economic development and alleviate poverty.

Symphorien Ntibagirirwa, the Jepson School’s Zuzana Simoniova Cmelikova Visiting International Scholar this semester, is conducting research on how the African philosophy of Ubuntu could play an important role in corporate governance and help make this environment a reality.

He is also meeting students, discussing ideas with faculty, attending events and generally immersing himself in the life of the University and the city.

When he returns home, he plans to create an Institute of Development and Economic Ethics, continue his work as editor of a journal on ethics and society and teach leadership ethics at a university in Burundi in Southeast Africa.


Why were you interested in being a visiting scholar at the University?

I was interested in being a visiting scholar for two reasons. The first is the global exposure in the world of learning and research. Global exposure leads me to global questions and global solutions.

The second reason is that a few years ago, I completed a dissertation on the philosophical premises for African economic development from Amartya Sen’s capabilities approach. Some questions which were beyond the scope of my doctoral research kept ringing in my mind. One of these questions was that of leadership. What kind of leadership could translate the proposals I made into concrete actions? Does the African value system provide such kind of leadership? The Jepson School provided me with a context in which I could reflect on these questions.  

What will your research focus on while you’re here?

I am dealing with the concept of Ubuntu, drawing its ethical implications to leadership in action in the field of corporate governance, thus posing the question of ethical leadership in business.

How did you become interested in corporate governance?

My general concern is the issue of economic development in Africa and what should be its philosophical underpinnings. I realize that corporations (could) play an important role in developing countries in Africa as they wrestle with how to achieve economic growth and development to alleviate poverty. Many countries in Africa are operating reforms to create a climate that stimulates investments from within and outside Africa. Thus, the issue of how businesses and corporations should be governed and for whose interests becomes my particular concern. I think that the concept of Ubuntu, which means humanness, could be a key that gives the economy of any country a human face.

What’s next for you?

I have been working on a project of an Institute of Development and Economic Ethics. This institute should have three components: consultancy, training and research. My field of action will be the world of corporation and its impact on economic development, particularly in Burundi and Rwanda. The research I am doing on corporate governance gives me an idea of issues I will have to face.

What is your favorite thing about Richmond so far?

The people are lovely and helpful. People you meet smile and are ready to help. Even if they don’t, their faces talk to you silently. After all, that is Ubuntu (humanness) I am talking about.