AFRICA: Home to the future of faith?

AFRICA: Home to the future of faith?

Africa Day (formerly African Freedom Day and African Liberation Day) is the annual commemoration of the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity on 25 May 1963.  The day was originally inspired by Ghana’s independence.

The end of World War II saw exceeding efforts from Africans over the process of decolonisation of the African continent for more political rights and independence from colonial rule; thus, between 1945 and 1965, a significant number of African countries gained independence from European colonial powers, with Ghana becoming the first African country in the South of the Sahara gaining its independence on March 6, 1957, under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah. Ghana’s independence, therein, served as an inspiration to other African countries fighting against colonial rule, and Ghana played a central role in this objective.  

Today, Africa looks like follows:

  • There are 54 internationally recognized countries in Africa. South Sudan is the newest independent addition to the continent.  South Sudan gained independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 as the outcome of a 2005 agreement that ended Africa’s longest-running civil war.
  • It is thought that there are more than 3,000 ethnic groups in Africa.
  • The total number of indigenous languages spoken in Africa is estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000. Nigeria alone has over 520 different languages; although the country with the most official languages is Zimbabwe, with 16. 
  • Nigeria is the most populated country with more than 206 million people.
  • South Africa is 5th
  • Namibia is 41st
  • Seychelles the least populated country with 98,000 people (excluding the island of St.Helena with 6,800 people)
  • Africa is the second most populous continent in the world, with over 1,369 billion people, or about 16% of the world’s population. Asia is the most populous continent, with over 4.4 billion people, or 59% of the world’s population. 
  • However, all the people who live in Africa are still fewer in number than the population of China or of India
  • Africa is the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped continent. The average poor person in sub-Saharan Africa is estimated to live on just $.70 a day.
  • The good news is that over the past ten years, the poverty rate in Africa has declined by 1% each year which is an impressive figure by World Bank standards.  In the past three years, 9 million people have been lifted out of extreme poverty which is defined as living on US$ 1.25 a day or less. 
  • Of the 40% of Africans who are illiterate, 2/3 are women.
  • Similarly, 33% of those between 12 and 14 years of age are out of school. In general, the estimate is that a total of 30 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are out of school. Similarly, it is only about 6% of young people in sub-Saharan Africa that are enrolled in higher education institutions compared to the global average of 26%.
  • Africa has the world’s youngest population. Over half of the population of Africa is under 25 years old, which makes it the youngest population in the world.
  • In Africa, over 25 million people have HIV and over 17 million have died of the disease already.
  • More people in New York City have Internet connections than people in all of Africa.
  • In Africa, women and children walk an average of 6 km a day just to get the water they need to survive.

But here is the Christian perspective.

While wealth in the Western world is moving people away from God,  poverty and other challenges in Africa are drawing people to God.

Currently, Faith in Africa looks like follows:

  • Most Africans are Christians. Ethiopia was the first country to adopt Christianity as a doctrine.
  • Islam is the second most popular religion in the continent. About 420 million people practice it.
  • It is estimated that close to one hundred million or ten percent of the African population still follows the indigenous religious beliefs.
  • Hinduism has approximately 3.5 million followers. Mauritius is the only country with Hinduism as its dominant religiosity in this continent.
  • The Baha’I Faith community has over 2 million followers.

Christianity in Africa

  • In 1900 9 million Christians lived in Africa
  • 100 years later – in 2000 – the Christian population has grown to 380 million
  • Today 20 years later it has nearly doubled to 650 million
  • Africa is now home to the most number of Christians in the world.
  • The good news from an African perspective is that the recent growth of Christianity in Africa is mainly attributed to Africans reaching out to their own people with the Gospel of Christ.

Philip Jenkins writes in the Gospel Coalition that “as the century proceeds, Christianity will become ever more markedly a religion of the world, Africa and the African diaspora. African numerical dominance within the faith will arrive sooner than I argued–and it’ll be more sizable, too.”

Let us continue to pray for a continent that will no doubt play a key role in taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth:  “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika”  –  God bless Africa!


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