Archives For Africa

Thirty years ago, a greater percentage of China’s population lived below the poverty line than in most other countries, according to the World Bank.

Drastic economic reforms were undertaken.  From 1981 to 2005, the proportion of China’s population living in poverty dropped from 84 percent to 16 percent.

sunset africa

Photo courtesy of Joel Esler

China’s phenomenal progress occurred in part because individuals had the opportunity to unleash their entrepreneurial spirit:  On average China’s economy grew almost 10 percent annually, and today nearly half the economy is driven by privately owned businesses.

A similar story is unfolding in Brazil, in India, and in other countries focused on unlocking entrepreneurial abilities.

From 1981 to 2005, Brazil’s poverty rate was cut from 17 to eight percent, and India’s, from 60 to 40 percent.  Through job creation, more people than ever before are being lifted out of poverty, according to the Brookings Institute, and as Dr. Scott Todd of 58: has pointed out, between 1981 and 2005, extreme global poverty was cut in half, from 52 to 26 percent.

Is Africa Next?

According to a recent report from the World Bank, countries in Africa are on the verge of the same remarkable path toward wealth creation as China was 30 years ago.  Until the recent financial crisis, its economy was, on average, expanding five percent annually, and even after the recession, it has experienced rapid recovery.

To eradicate poverty in Africa, we need to recognize the way economic development led to China’s success.  Then we can focus on initiatives that enable Africans to use their creativity to transform their communities.

Thankfully, there are innovative ways the church is already getting involved:

  • Private Investments:  Africa’s future looks bright because of the difference private investments are making in the continent.  Generating 1.7 million jobs from 2003 to 2010, its impact bypasses the effect of aid, according toThe New Africa: Emerging Opportunities for Business and AfricaSpringHill Equity Partners, Sinapis Group, Karisimbi Business Partners are showing how larger investments and mentoring can create successful, large-scale enterprises.  See;;
  • Education: Prior to its economic reforms, China’s educational system was far more advanced than most other developing countries.   According to the World Bank, primary education was “well over 100 percent” in 1980, and its “adult literacy rate… was 66 percent in 1981.”  Because of its educational foundation, China’s poor had skills and knowledge that translated to employment in a free-market economy.  My friends, Chris Crane and Tiger Dawson, are helping to build the foundation for economic success in the developing world through Edify.  Taking an entrepreneurial approach to low-cost private education, they are coming alongside Christian educators and providing business loans and training to advance a model of low-cost private education in the developing world.  See
  • Health: China’s health-care system was also better developed than other nations at the outset of its economic reforms, giving it an edge to overcome poverty.  To create the groundwork for better healthcare in Africa, a nonprofit called LifeNet is franchising Burundi’s church-based health clinics—upgrading and expanding existing clinics, providing nurse, management and pharmaceutical training—so that more of the poor have access to quality, affordable healthcare than ever before.  See
  • Microfinance: Microfinance—encompassing business training, small loans, and savings—has been crucial to China’s poverty reduction, according to the chairman of the board for the Bank of China, Xiao Gang.  While China is making great strides toward financial inclusion, only 25 percent of Africans have access to such services.  Partnering with the poor, HOPE International, Opportunity International, and Five Talents offer small loans to entrepreneurs who can start or expand their businesses and provide for their families—helping pave the way for a flourishing middle class.  They often provide biblically based business training and savings.  See; ;

As we as a Church awaken to what is possible within our lifetime—eliminating extreme global poverty—social entrepreneurs and Kingdom-minded investors are playing a critical role.


Re-posted from my guest blog for 58:

58: is an unprecedented global alliance of Christians, churches and world-class poverty-fighting organizations working together to end extreme poverty in our lifetime by living the True Fast of Isaiah 58.

Headlines often paint one image of Africa—a portrait of poverty, AIDs, and war.

That’s unfortunate. There is so much life, vitality, and beauty.  I recently had a chance to visit three countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Burundi, the Republic of Congo, and Rwanda, and I came away with images of hope, not of despair.

Burundi Millionth Loan photos 133

Here are just a few of the things I loved about visiting these countries:

  1. Dancing. From a HOPE community meeting to church services, the Congolese I met took every opportunity to break out in spontaneous dance. I know that I can’t dance, but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying.
  2. Relationships. At the end of staff devotions in Brazzaville, I saw each staff member shake hands with every other person. A striking contrast to our “let’s get things done quickly” culture, this simple act was a beautiful way of valuing each person.
  3. Maracuja juice. Made out of passion fruit, simply there is no better beverage in the world. If anyone knows how to get some of this liquid gold in the U.S., please tell me. I’m an addict.
  4. Ceremony. When we went to church, there was a whole team of individuals assigned to “protocol.” We greeted the church leaders before the service and then followed up with the proper greetings afterwards.  The ceremony accorded an atmosphere of respect to everyone.
  5. Hospitality. The archbishop of the Anglican Church in Burundi welcomed us with a meal of rice, beans, chicken, and gracious enthusiasm. It was obvious that he had a love for his country and a plan for how the Church can contribute to rebuilding this nation.

While there is suffering, war, and poverty in Africa, we must remember to look beyond the headlines and see its beauty and that we have many reasons for hope.

If you are interested in learning more, watch the incredible Ted talk by Chimamanda Adichie: The danger of a single story.

Gifted writer and storyteller, Chimamanda Adichie, shares a TED talk on why we cannot tell just one story of Africa.


For too long, she says, Africa’s story has been limited to one of suffering, catastrophe, and poverty.

Adichie says, “The consequence of the single story is this: it robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different, rather than how we are similar.”

If we are ever going to combat poverty, we need to tell a more complete story: a story of people’s culture, passions, and ambitions–as well as their pain.

“Stories matter,” Adichie says. “Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. Stories can also be used to empower and to humanize.  Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity.”

At HOPE, we have the greatest privilege to tell the stories of individuals who are making a difference in their communities, who are hardworking and intelligent, skilled and talented.

We have the opportunity to tell a more complex–and beautiful–story of Africa, one of challenge, hope, human flourishing, and faith.

Riding on a motorcycle taxi—the best way to travel in Rwanda—I started talking with the driver about his kids.  Unexpectedly, he whipped out a smartphone and showed me pictures of his children on Facebook. I was disturbed by his one-armed motorcycle driving, but fascinated at the way Facebook is connecting the world.


Here are just a few ways Facebook is changing the world for the better.

  1. Going Public. When I arrived at my last travel destination, HOPE’s program in the Republic of Congo, some staff already knew what I had been doing in the other countries.  They had been following me on Facebook.  Little is private in our interconnected world, and (for the most part), that’s a great thing.
  2. Transparency.  A decade ago, we could tell whatever stories we wanted, and no one would be able to verify. Now, chances are that you are Facebook friends with the people you just met during your travels, and they’re probably reading your version of the stories. The added accountability to ensure truthfulness in story-telling is a very good thing.
  3. Close to Home.  Even though I was miles apart, I felt closer to my family than I ever have when traveling. Through Facebook, I could share my life on the road with them and see what had been happening at home. With three small kids at home, that’s a blessing for which I’m very grateful!

It’s incredible to see the changes in the way we communicate whether we live in Lancaster, Pa., in Brazzaville, or in Bujumbura. The world really is becoming flat.