Of the world’s 29 nations that have French as an official language, 22 are in Africa. By 2050, 85% of the world’s French speakers will live in Africa. Mostly located in Central and Western Africa, the Francophone region also includes several countries in North Africa, as well as Djibouti and Madagascar in the east. Poverty remains severe: 13 of the 25 poorest African nations (and six of the poorest ten) are among the French-speaking countries. War, rebel factions, and local terrorist groups have further destabilized countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, Mali, and, of course, Rwanda and Burundi. Many countries in Francophone Africa have young populations – in some, the majority are under 25.
Thankfully, reported COVID-19 transmission and mortality rates have been low in the region. However, the long-term economic impact may prove severe, with millions more slipping below the extreme poverty level. Some local economies face a slow recovery and may require increased outside aid.
In this religiously diverse region, Christianity is the largest faith in ten nations and Islam in nine. In some nations, the Church is growing and strong. In others, particularly across North Africa, the Church faces considerable challenges and even persecution. The Church has experienced rapid growth over the last 50 years, but also struggles with syncretism and limited societal impact.
ScholarLeaders collaborates with three key institutions in Francophone Africa through the Vital SustainAbility Initiative: UACA (formerly FATEAC) in Côte d’Ivoire; Faculté de Théologie Évangélique de Bangui (FATEB), with campuses in the Central African Republic and Cameroon; and Shalom University of Bunia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Each offers doctorates in theology, and trains many of the faculty members serving bible schools and seminaries across the region. Through LeaderStudies, ScholarLeaders has sponsored over 30 leaders from Francophone Africa, including four scholars currently.
Historically, Francophone Africa has received less attention and fewer resources than Anglophone Africa. More theological resources and Christian books are in English, and more study opportunities are at English-speaking schools in places such as the US, the UK, and South Africa. The size of the English-speaking Church and the convenience of a shared language have motivated more long- and short-term Western missionary investment in Anglophone Africa. Now, most of the world’s French-speaking Christians live in Africa (or are African immigrants in other parts of the French-speaking world). African Christian leaders certainly have a special need and opportunity to help develop theologically sound resources and training materials for the French-speaking Church.
Photo: Avenue of the Baobab in Madagascar by Sergey Zhesterev (Unsplash)
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