05 What could an Abundant Africa movement look like?

Looking at history, it is clear that the tides often turn because of the emergence of a movement for change, united around common stories and values.

The scale of change we need for an Abundant African economy requires not just policy shifts but the wholesale transformation of lifestyles, institutions and systems.

Churches in Africa are central to this endeavour given their scale; relational networks; organising capacity; their reach to grassroots, grasstops and the elites; and trusted position in society. At the centre of many successful secular movements you will find a Christian core holding the ethical heart of the movement. This Christian core needs to grow and be like yeast within dough.

People of faith within movements and public spheres can help catalyse an African epiphany – a shared moment of great clarity and revelation – through their vision and courageous imagination. Such change will require brave, selfless, valuesdriven leaders with a desire for change who can organise a large-scale grassroots movement and can seize opportunities that arise.

By acknowledging our history and current context, we recognise that Africa is a complex environment dealing with multifarious, interdependent problems that “can only be solved peacefully if the people who are part of the problem[s] work together creatively to understand their situation and improve it.”

But Africa is no stranger to powerful social movements. Movements have shaped the story of our continent – from church planting and evangelism initiatives spreading the gospel; liberation groups bringing independence from colonialism; post-independence social movements like the Green Belt Movement and Treatment Action Campaign advocating for the environment and healthcare; and contemporary youth movements like #EndSARS or #FeesMustFall challenging the status quo.

Africa also has scores of less well-known movements led by inspired and courageous leaders working to improve their communities and nations. An Abundant Africa movement does not require the start of something new, but rather the identification and connection of emerging Christian movements that share common values and which are willing to work within a broader multi-sectoral movement to serve our continent.

As we face our Joseph kairos moment, these movements will need to rise up to respond to the challenges and opportunities we face.

The state of the African movement
The story of Moses and Joshua was a popular scripture narrative used by some African liberation movements to inspire hope and action in the long struggle to liberate our continent from colonialism. The story of crossing the Jordan to enter the Promised Land, continues to be a powerful narrative to explain the present state of the movement of God in Africa.

In the past 50 years Africa has experienced a political liberation and one of the greatest spiritual revivals the world has ever seen. Our liberating Moses generations have been some of the greatest generations in our history. They successfully freed the continent from captivity; shared a vision for the future; and moved us in the direction of the Promised Land. Unfortunately, like the Israelites, since liberation we have been walking in circles, lost in the desert for many hard years. We have not yet reached the Promised Land!

The leaders of the movements that are rising up now were born in the metaphorical desert and are no longer captive to the ideas and gods of Egypt. They are standing on the banks of the Jordan river and want to cross into the Promised Land, a vision of the physical manifestation of shalom. They are the heirs of the values of the movement of God during the liberation generation. In turn they will prepare the way for the next generation to inherit the fruits of the Promised Land.

A generation ready to cross the Jordan
The main preoccupation for African movements at this moment should be generational transition. Africa is ready for a generational transition in leadership as we move from the legendary Moses-like liberation leaders to a new Joshua generation that has the courage and skill to take us over the Jordan towards the Promised Land. At present, the median age of an African leader is 62 and the median age of an African citizen is 20 – that’s a 42-year gap in the average age between leaders and the people they lead. In the rest of the world the average gap between the age of leaders and citizens is just 10 years.

With young leaders multiplying, and older leaders often refusing to let go of power, in some cases going so far as to persecute younger leaders, we risk a forced or a failed transition. With the contextual pressures of poverty, population growth, the COVID-19 pandemic, and an environmental crisis, Africa can’t afford to waste energy on generational conflict.

We are seeing movements like #EndSARS in Nigeria, #FeesMustFall in South Africa and Uganda’s People Power Movement pushing back against youth repression and articulating the ideas of a new generation. Young leaders aligned with Abundant Africa are voicing their call to the AU to “Silence the Guns – Not the Youth” and end the brutal targeting of young people to enable their genuine participation in public life. Unless older leaders actively work to engage the younger generation, it could be a matter of time until frustration spills over the borders and we have a sub-Saharan version of the Arab Spring.

The context is shifting so quickly that for change to happen some older Moses-type leaders may not be able to adapt and will be forced to stay in the desert, like Moses, never getting to enter the Promised Land. While other older leaders could be like Caleb, identifying the godly leaders of the new generation and working with them to create the Promised Land.

The older generation is essential for curating values, mentoring leaders and sharing stories of what was learned in the liberation struggle. Leaders of all generations must build bridges to ensure the generations can overcome any divisions, learn from one another, and work together towards an Abundant Africa.

Credit: Carlos Latuff