Saturday, May 8, 2010


This morning one of the most prestigious Dutch newspapers, NRC, reported on the referendum for the new Kenyan constitution. The current one stems from the early days of post-colonialism. Efforts to update it in 2005 failed due to disagreement between rivaling political f...ractions. The riots in 2008 were directly related to animosity concerning the new constitution. This time round the parties of PM Odinga and President Kibaki seem to agree.

Kibaki (left) and Odinga; in agreement about new constituion for Kenya

But there is something worrying us, and NRC. Once again it became clear that international - mainly US-based - orthodox Christian organizations try to interfere in decision processes taking place in Africa in a way that seems almost unethical by any standards. In a continent struggling with poverty, malnutrition, lack of women's rights, AIDS/HIV and other diseases, the Kenyan new constitution's article 26 that deals with abortion (not a general legalization, but one under strict conditions related to the well-being of the mother) urged active campaigning by TV Evangelist Pat Robertson (see picture below) and a group called The National Right to Life Committee

Televangelist Pat Robertson: Focus on Africa

Last year something similar happened in Uganda when a local politician plead for a death penalty for gay criminals. He got the support from another US-based Christian activist group.

Now, in-and-of-itself we are not against people trying to convince others that their political or ethical views are correct. But when looking at the current economic and welfare situation in Africa one the one hand, and the one in the 'donor' countries of this alleged 'ethical and compassionate' support groups on the other, we can only conclude that these groups do still have a lot of work to do in their own country that they could focus on. But with declining interest in churches and sex scandals in their own backyard 'internationalization' of marketing and evangelization efforts is a logical step from their perspective. Especially in poor, populous areas of the world. In economic terms: the poorer the living conditions the bigger the chance to convince people that you are following the right way ('isn't your well-being a sign of success?') and the lower the 'costs' per saved soul.

We are not against Christianity or any other religion at all. And we are also not suggesting that there aren't similar efforts undertaken by active zealots from other religions. As we indicated in our contribution about the work of Francisco Ayala a few days earlier: religion, science and politics are all essential elements of what the world is about. Different ways of looking at that one thing that is important for us: LIFE

But in the African case it is clear that LIFE is about growing the economic base. Fight poverty first but in a structural way. Not with ad-hoc actions and traditional development AID, but with structural INVESTMENTS. The Chinese and other big investors from richer Emerging countries that help create harbors and ports, logistics facilities and other infrastructure projects etc. seem to understand this. And of course, it is not out of compassion that these investments are made. They are pure business decisions. But It is time that the West will follow. The Singaporean success story did also indicate that a 'business-like approach' is the best way forward when you want to leave poverty behind you. We cannot say anymore that we did not know. Ever since Dambisa Moyo wrote her book 'Dead Aid', we know what to do when we want to unleash Africa's potential while at the same time doing something against Poverty. If Western leaders and interest groups from developed nations find it difficult to focus on a more business-like agenda, they should focus on 'governance' and 'corruption' as another important part of the agenda. There is a lot of work to be done in this area as well. Most African nations dwell in the lower part of the tables in Transparency International's corruption rankings.

We cannot imagine that there is any single acceptable religion in the world that would not subscribe to such an agenda. Africa does have the economic potential and it is time to unleash it!

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