By Pa Komrabai
Africa is home to nearly 600 million people. Christianity and Islam are leading religions and each has in excess of nearly 250 million followers in Africa.
Religion and development are two ambiguous phenomena, yet we can map their creative interaction with an intricate interconnectedness.
In public discourse, ideas about development generally undermine the complex role of religion, or it is assumed that religion would be relegated to a matter of private belief in Africa, as secular states burgeoned, or even saw religion as an obstacle to development.
Development was largely conceived of primarily in economic terms or as economic development.
In contemporary era, the concept of human development has to vogue, accentuating aspects of people’s lives that go beyond the economic dimension.
There is no gain saying in the fact that religion has been a dynamic entity and remains a growing force in public life in Africa.
Both Islam and Christianity were imported into Africa in the historical past. Islam gradually spread over the last thousand years where as Christianity was imported by and intimately associated with Europeans, especially British and French colonialists.
The main analytical problem involving and understanding of the relation between religion and politics in Africa is the religion’s astonishing multifariousness of religious beliefs, ethnic divisions, cultural distinction and political modes.
Africa is marked by a high degree of political and religious heterogeneity, making the study of politics and religion in the region complex but rewarding.
To ascertain the nature of the contemporary relation between religion and politics in Africa, it is necessary to take into account the impact of European colonialism especially from the 1880s as it was then the primary modernizing force throughout the region.
The spread of what I will refer to as commercial Christianity is one of the factors that have seriously eaten into the fabrics of Africa’s development.
The emergence of spiritual churches that based their preaching on financial breakthroughs is another factor for the economic hardship in Africa.
When some cunning and intelligent Africans studied the psyche of fellow Africans, they established churches with names synonymous to prosperity and started preaching about worldly success and prosperity and tell them about Heaven on earth. Most of those spiritual churches that have their origin from Southern Nigeria, have dwindled the membership of traditional churches; Catholic, Wesleyan, Methodist, Anglican and Presbyterian.
Majority of Africans that have subdued their intelligence and surrendered their economic fortitude in the hands of those deceptive Pastors, have nothing to offer in the economic development of Africa. Church members take their pastors abroad for medical checkup and offer prayers for ordinary members when they fall sick.
Born again Churches have established schools that children and wards of ordinary members cannot attend.
African religious leaders have transformed religious houses (Mosques and Churches) into resource mobilization hubs and the reason or purpose of becoming an Imam or Pastor is no more for leading and guiding followers to gain paradise in the hereafter, but for the economic benefits on earth.
In Nigeria, there are edifices housing more than 10 churches preaching the same thing, but have different methods of extortion.
There are churches in Nigeria, Ghana with their branches in Sierra Leone that are economically stable than most government offices
In Uganda there is a regulation that prevents churches from extortion. Many informal Pentecostal church preachers and self-styled “prophets” have been accused of extorting their followers to enrich themselves, or misleading them to abandon medicines or to sell properties or possessions.
In Uganda, one has to go through theology, philosophy and epistemology and be able to analyze reality and the spiritual part of it.
Though religion in Africa is now a resource mobilization enterprise, it still has the potential to influence socio-political and economic processes in Africa.
Such positive influence could ameliorate poverty and corruption thereby assisting with socio-political and economic transformation of the continent.
Religion constitutes an inextricable part of the African society. But although religion is flourishing in Africa, many Sub-Saharan African countries are amongst the world’s poorest nations.
The resilience of religion in developing countries is now plain to see. In Africa, religion shows no sign of disappearing or diminishing in public importance, as development theorists have generally supposed.