Last week I reviewed Dr Tokunboh Adeyemo’s book: Is Africa Cursed? A Vision For The Radical Transformation Of An Ailing Continent. It’s an important book which I highly recommend. Essentially, the review summarises Adeyemo’s key ideas and makes a few comments along the way. Yet in this article I want to go deeper: drawing out key lessons, painting a correct picture of Africa, and encouraging African Christians and church leaders not only to take action, but to have hope. Indeed my aim is that by the end of this article you’ll see that although Africa faces challenges, it’s not cursed, it’s blessed!
God created everything, including Africans, and he saw that it was good.
Africa Is Not Cursed
It’s important to start this article by stressing Adeyemo’s answer to the question of his book: Is Africa cursed? No. Africa is not cursed. Many know of or think of Africans as the dark skinned people, with some still calling Africa the ‘Dark Continent‘. Many also associate this darkness with poverty, diseases, ignorance, backwardness, and wars. But the rest of the world is no stranger to devastating war or disease. World War II killed as many as 75 million people. Israel and Palestine have been fighting for decades, and thousands of people have died as a result. Yet no one says that the countries involved in these conflicts are cursed.
God created everything, including Africans, and he saw that it was good (Genesis 1:31). If other people are good, Africa and Africans are also good. Darker skin does not signify curse. In fact, Solomon calls it beautiful (Song of Songs 1:5).
Africans are created in the image of God. Therefore, just like all other peoples, God loves Africans.
African People Aren’t Cursed
Africans are not less human. They are created in the image of God. Therefore, just like all other peoples, God loves Africans. God does not want them to wander and die in sin (1 Timothy 2:4). He sent his only son to come and die for them; for the world (John 3:16). God did all this to take way the curse of sin from all people. If God did this for Africans, then the continent is not cursed.
Africa is not cursed because God has not cursed it. Furthermore, God is at work in Africa. For many African sons and daughters fear God, believing in Christ. Neither our continent nor our people are cursed. In fact, as Adeyemo argues, it is only a matter of time before Africans realise this. Then, when the people of Africa obey God and work rightly, they will more fully enjoy God’s great blessings.
Africa Is Blessed
Far from being cursed, Adeyemo calls Africa blessed. Blessing here is not what the health and wealth gospel propagates. This is not some form of the prosperity gospel, about ‘sowing seeds’ in order to become materially rich. For Africa is already blessed in so many ways, both historically and at present.
Let’s take a look at just a few of these blessings.
Incredible Human & Natural Resources
Africa is blessed with human resources. Africa has produced significant Church fathers such as Augustine, Tertullian, and Athanasius. Other Africans have played important roles in the development of the body of Christ in the world (just consider Samuel Crowther, Festo Kivengere, and Byang Kato). Still other Africans have excelled in the fields of sports and academia, to name just two arenas. Many Africans have successfully held influential international posts. The African people and Church have blessed the world in many ways.
The African people and Church have blessed the world in many ways.
Africa also possesses immense natural resources. This is a blessing. The UN says, “Africa is home to some 30 per cent of the world’s mineral reserves, 8 per cent of the world’s natural gas, 12 per cent of the world’s oil reserves; the continent has 40 per cent of the world’s gold and up to 90 per cent of its chromium and platinum. The largest reserves of cobalt, diamonds, platinum and uranium in the world are in Africa. Africa holds 65 per cent of the world’s arable land, 10 per cent of internal renewable fresh water source”. Through this wealth, Africa is blessed and continues to bless the world.
We Must Apply Ourselves
However, in order for Africa to enjoy these blessings, Africans need to embrace a culture of work. The Bible encourages all the followers of Christ to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10; Proverbs 12:11). But “work” here does not refer exclusively to physical activity. It must include mental activity as well. Africans need to apply themselves to working both hard and smart. This will generate wealth from the continent’s resources.
Work does not refer exclusively to physical activity. It must include mental activity as well.
Africans must shun the enemies of hard work: laziness, tardiness, procrastination, and a lack of diligence. I have heard several times that Africans do “half baked” work. In other words, they do not properly complete works, or strive after excellence. This has to change. When Africans work in the right ways, they will fully realise and enjoy our continent’s rich blessings.
Christians Have A Crucial Role In Africa
There are voices in Africa that say Christianity is not relevant to Africa. This claim is coupled with the belief that Christianity is a Western religion. But Adeyemo argues that Christianity is very relevant to Africa. For the Church has blessed Africa in many ways. It has not only sustained but improved the wellbeing of the African society. Far from offering an intangible and exclusively spiritual gospel, the Church addresses important social aspects and the welfare of Africans.
In the history of Africa, the Church brought development wherever it went. This still happens today. The Church has brought with it not only the Bible but also education and health care. In most African countries, many schools, universities, and health centres are church owned or run. Many senior African leaders went to missionary schools. This is a clear indication that the Church is important and relevant in Africa.
The Church is the agent of Christ to implement the love and unity he preached and prayed for.
The Church is the agent of Christ to implement the love and unity he preached and prayed for (John 17). The togetherness—or Ubuntu—that Africa yearns for can be experienced in the Church, especially when the Church follows the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Christians & The State
The Church has the role to positively influence the state. We should not only focus on ‘spiritual’ matters, leaving political or state affairs to non-Christians. Many African leaders insist that the Church should not interfere with politics; that we should mind our own business. But Christians must resist these trends and take an interest in their countries. Politics are not off limits for Christians. In fact, criticising our leaders in the channels provided and holding them accountable is surely a way of loving our neighbours.
The Church has the role to positively influence the state.
But Christians should not blindly get into politics. They should be both mature and conversant with the affairs of their respective countries. Navigating politics with integrity that honours God requires much wisdom. Furthermore, entering politics should be driven by a desire to better the lives of their people and develop their countries. The Church has the responsibility to correct the state. The Church has the prophetic voice to correct the political leaders when they do wrong.
African Christians’ Role in The World
The African Church also has a role in the broader transformation of our world, by the gospel of Jesus Christ. In The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, Philip Jenkins says that the centre of Christianity is shifting to Africa. Inevitably, Africa will have the immense privilege and charge of spreading of the gospel to the rest of the world. This has already begun. Some churches in Africa have already sent missionaries into the world, establishing churches on other continents.
Africans shouldn’t feel like mere recipients of the gospel ‘here’. We are tasked with taking the gospel out there!
Therefore the African Church needs to build its capacity for the sending of missionaries. Without proper training, this mission will end in enormous failure. At the same time, the African Church needs to fight denominationalism in its mission. No one denomination will be able to transform the world.
To evangelise the world, the African Church needs to plan and strategise for this mission. With more deliberation, strategy and training, the African church can do much more. Thus Christian leaders should not feel they are mere recipients of the gospel ‘here’. We are tasked with taking the gospel out ‘there’. We are capable to continue with the biblical and historical legacy of Africa in spreading the gospel.
Hope Is Important
Hope is important for the Christians in Africa. And it is not built on wishful thoughts but on the facts given in the word of God. Despite the reality of poverty and tribalism in Africa, Africans can be realistically optimistic that Africa will become better. Hope will keep us focused on the positive and important issues for our continent. When we are hopeful, we wake up every morning feeling energised as we think about the issues that matter most. When we focus on issues of less importance we waste our time and achieve nothing.
Hope is not built on wishful thoughts but on the facts given in the word of God.
As Christians in Africa, we need gospel grounded ambition as we work hard to achieve what we hope for. The Bible encourages us to be hopeful (Psalm 42:11; Romans 15:13; Lamentations 3:24). Our hope should be built on God and on the fact that we are a people just like any other. We can make Africa a better continent. That is the hope should have.
The Road Ahead
Above are some key lessons we should all learn from Adeyemo’s book. Africa is blessed with talented people and enormous resources that the world can benefit from. But Africa needs to work hard and think rightly in order to make these blessing a tangible reality in Africa. Obedience to God is paramount in order to have God’s blessings come to realisation.
God loves Africans. Jesus died for Africans. God hasn’t cursed Africa.
God loves Africans. Jesus died for Africans. God hasn’t cursed Africa. Africa is not cursed but blessed! People and Church of Africa, let’s have hope: let’s build our hope on God.