Reducing local causes of poverty, particularly corruption, would reinject many billions of dollars back into the grassroots economy. Were greater economic accountability imposed and budgets actually spent on developing trade and production, many could be lifted out of poverty. Were wars and conflicts ended, infrastructure developed and education and health improved, a massive difference could be made. If Western and Chinese economic interests were less rapacious and dealt fairly and justly with African nations, Africa could potentially make great progress. Pray for economic justice for a region that has endured centuries of plunder.
Africa's continuing struggle with poverty has taken on some new dynamics, but is no less urgent. As explained in the economic section, the causes are many and complex. For a region with many natural resources and a vast, young workforce, the situation should not be as bad as it is. This is partly due to internal, local causes and in part to exploitation and unfair trade practices imposed from abroad. Areas where prayer and action are warranted:
- Appropriate aid and development programmes. Short-term fixes without long-term plans, the distortion of economies and the creation of dependency must all be addressed. Aid that fails to generate local jobs and production, that empowers agencies rather than the people and that can be abused or siphoned away from those for whom it is intended must be ended. Much of the development business is poorly organized and fragmented, and any such work must be done from a servant mentality - neo-colonial, manipulative uses of assistance will only further perpetuate the problems.
- Fairer investments and trade agreements with foreign countries. Africans are calling for more trade, not more aid, but it must be on terms that do not unduly favour richer nations. Fair prices for African produce must be offered. Dumping unwanted and inappropriate foodstuffs and medicines as aid can create more problems than it solves, as can flooding the vulnerable African market with cheap foreign-produced items, such as Chinese textiles.
Disease still looms as a deathly spectre over Africa. A higher proportion of infants, children and adults are lost to disease in Africa than anywhere else. Tens of billions of dollars in productivity are lost each year to the effects of disease upon the working population. Of specific concern are:
- HIV/AIDS. Although no longer at its peak infection rate, HIV still afflicts nearly 23 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone. In some areas, up to one-third of the adult population were infected. This region accounts for 68% of new infections among adults, 91% among children and 72% of AIDS-related deaths. Life expectancy fell by half in parts of southern Africa. A staggering 14.2 million children have lost one or both parents to AIDS. Entire communities and economies have been decimated. NGOs, including many Christian ones, have done much good work in education, prevention, treatment and care for those at risk or already suffering. Still, the Church needs to rise up, break the stigma associated with AIDS and minister life and truth to Africa. Ample opportunity exists to eradicate this plague within one generation; a UN report states that if HIV still infects millions of Africans by 2025, it will not be because there was no choice, but because of a lack of political will. Pray for wise and firm decision making; pray as well for the changing of sinful behavioural patterns that allow for AIDS to persist and spread.
- Malaria, though a much less "glamorous" disease than AIDS, is even more destructive to Africa's health and welfare. Malaria kills a child on average every 30 seconds; this is more than twice as many as HIV/AIDS claims and just as debilitating to the population's strength and wellbeing. More than $12 billion in output is lost each year. The cost of widespread prevention (largely through mosquito nets) is a mere fraction of that amount, yet less than 5% of Africa's children sleep under nets. Treatment-resistant strains of malaria are emerging, making prevention all the more vital. Pray for greater attention to be paid to this disease that steals, kills and destroys, and for greater action mobilized to eradicate it.
African democratic institutions remain vulnerable, but are strengthening with time. Authoritarian, autocratic leadership that suppresses opposition and robs from its own people still exists, but in many parts of the continent, there are signs of it being replaced by more responsible governments. Pray for more Christian politicians who are undefiled by corruption and resolute in transparency and righteousness. Sub-Saharan Africa is majority Christian - surely its elected officials should likewise be. Some Christian leaders have lost credibility in the past decade, but others have maintained a good testimony. The increased involvement of women in politics, both grassroots and leadership, should help to point the way forward to more egalitarian and accountable political structures. Pray that a revolution in African power structures might occur as communication and information technologies spread, empowering local movements to keep leaders accountable.
Emigration, displacement and human trafficking are issues that profoundly affect Africa and, by extension, the rest of the world. Almost all of Africa's countries face these problems. Conflict and poverty have driven tens of millions out of their traditional home areas and, while many seek a better life abroad, the large majority remain displaced within Africa. Often, out of a desire to get a family foothold in a wealthier country, young people - especially women - and even children are sent abroad and into highly vulnerable situations. Getting oneself into Europe by any means necessary is regarded as the pathway to a better life; wicked men profit from this desperation, and many lives and families are ruined by the pursuit of such far-off dreams. Pray for justice and righteousness on a global level that will remove the need for such risky endeavours.
The Muslim-Christian fault line stretches from Senegal across the Sahel to Ethiopia and along Africa's Indian Ocean seaboard. The potential for widened conflagrations and confrontations is high because of increasingly aggressive Islamist movements and because of African Christian evangelism gaining converts from within Muslim communities. This has been a major factor contributing to war or mass violence in Sudan, Nigeria and Côte d'Ivoire, but another nine nations are at risk.
The continued power of African traditional religions. The low percentage of followers of pre-Christian ethnic religions is not a true reflection of reality. Underlying both Muslim and Christian religious profession is a value system steeped in the old ways - fetishism, ancestor worship, idolatry and others. Personal, tribal and national crises reveal this. The terrible events in Africa that have so impacted many nations in recent years cannot be understood without realizing this factor. Pray for the powers of darkness to be bound in Jesus' name, and pray that Christian leaders and churches may challenge these powers and not succumb to them.
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Content taken or adapted from Operation World, 7th Edition (2010) and Pray for the World (2015). Both books are published by InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.