ubuntu – in rough terms, humanity, not as an individual as defined by one's interrelationships. The South African Governmental White Paper on Welfare officially recognizes ubuntu as "The principle of caring for each other's well-being...and a spirit of mutual support …"
further down, the site quotes:
Christianity in North America and Europe tends to buy into the Enlightenment ethos of "enlightened self-interest" and "rational individualism." The individual as free agent is the starting point for thinking about society, and this of course reduces community to little more than a collection of individuals who come together out of self-interest.
In contrast, the underlying principle of Archbishop Tutu's Christian ethics is the African notion of "ubuntu." Ubuntu is a difficult word to translate, but it connotes community, with the understanding that it's impossible to isolate persons from community, that there's an organic relationship between all people such that when we see another, we should recognize ourselves and the God in whose image all people are made. Interdependence and reciprocity, not independence and self-sufficiency, are the keys here. As Tutu magnificently says, "A self-sufficient human being is subhuman. I have gifts that you do not have, so consequently, I am unique--you have gifts that I do not have, so you are unique. God has made us so that we will need each other. We are made for a delicate network of interdependence." – Kerry Walters, reviewing Reconciliation: The Ubuntu Theology of Desmond Tutu by Michael Jesse Battle and Desmond Mpilo Tutu