Africa is a vast continent. But most of it is still underdeveloped, compared to other parts of the world. A cursory inquiry into the cause of this quagmire will, no doubt, point to government corruption and ineffectiveness, amongst other factors.
A new book, How Africa will Save the World, written by Tope Apoola and Johannes Stockmeier, however, looks beyond the continent’s sordid predicament and forsees a continent that could become the centrepiece of a new world order.
The authors, both Christians, build their argument on a framework which presupposes that religion, in this case Christianity, is the sole path to the ideal life. And in a world where Christianity, at least the version which still values traditional sacraments and rituals, is declining, Africa’s still relatively undiluted gospel offers rare hope.
The first part of the book, largely written by Apoola, traces Africa’s current woes to biblical times, to Nimrod, who flouted the rules of God, to the Egyptians who enslaved the Jews. This is problematic for two reasons. The first is that it suggests race is a real thing, and not just a fictitious mental construct. The book later notes that ‘racism is a relatively new phenomenon’. So one wonders how something that didn’t exist in Ancient Times is used to explain the trajectory of history.
The second is the inference that Nimrod and/or Ancient Egypt are the pinnacle of black civilisation. This is misleading. There are several black civilisations that have been proven to have no ties to, say, Ancient Egypt or its varied incarnations north of the Sahara. Djenné-Jeno in Mali is a remarkable example of such a civilisation. “Djenné-Jeno’s archaeological treasures resonate with the message that the people of this continent are capable of great things, and indeed always have been,” Howard French writes in ‘A Continent for the Taking’.
Referencing the biblical book of Isaiah and other Jewish prophets, Apoola paints a picture of redemption for Africa, for people of colour. “People of colour are a blessed people of the lord, with whom leadership began, with whom leadership shall also end,” he writes. Again, he acknowledges that race is a factor in God’s sight.
Stockmeir, in the second part of the book, explores the decline of classical christianity in Europe, noting that while Africa may suffer from poverty, the developed world is afflicted with “mental mass suffering”. He accuses pentecostalism of not possessing enough intellectual rigor and abandoning the cultic essence of christianity, the “sacraments, mysterious signs, seal and pledge for the kingdom to come.”
“But the early Christians at the same time held on the sacraments and did not perceive them as a contradiction to them,” he writes. “In Pentecostal services the Holy Communion is not only rare, which would not say anything about its importance, it is an exception. As there is no altar in their meeting places, so there is even no evidence where it emanates from.”
Stockmeir, too, looks to Africa for redemption. “Africa has more to offer than plants and herbalists,” he writes. “Apart from the charismatics there is a Christianity living there which has not cut off its own roots but purified them and transformed them into the sacramental.”
Despite its failings, How Africa will save the world is a deeply thoughtful book that attempts to employ faith and reason to interrogate the history and future of black civilisation. ✚