Monday, April 21, 2008

Africa: the challenges and the progress

In Africa the most important challenges are considered by most experts to be governance related. Corrupt and totalitarian regimes have resulted in wars, revolutions, conscription of child soldiers, genocide, slavery, and other atrocities.
However, in many countries in Africa there are challenges of a physical nature which may actually be the primary challenges:
1. Tropical diseases. For instance, malaria kills more than 3 million people each year in Africa, more deaths than from AIDS or any other infection. Malaria is also the top killer of children under 5; about 75% of malaria deaths in Africa are in children under 5. Only 5% of Africa's children sleep under mosquito or bed nets. Malaria, by itself, accounts for 10% of all Africa's disease burden.
2. Agriculture. Crops are dependent on rain, and since there is no irrigation in the dry areas like the Sahel, famines, food shortages, hunger, and malnutrition are frequently seen.
3. Infrastructure. Lack of roads, ports, airports, power plants, and sanitation are pervasive problems.

Yet, there are also many positive developements:
1. The poverty rate has dropped 6 percentage points in the past 7 years.
2. The economic growth rate has been 6% per year in recent years in sub-Saharan Africa.
3. The struggles against AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, measles, smallpox, polio, black fever (visceral leishmaniasis) and guinea-worm disease have all produced some results, in some cases impressive results. Anti-retrovirals and treated bednets are now available to many more people, because of recent initiatives.
4. More children and women are in school.
5. More women are engaged in the political process.
6. The Achievement in Africa Leadership Prize, established by Sudanese billionaire, Mo Ibrahim, as part of his foundation, is giving $5 million annually to a democratically elected sub- Sahara African leader. The leaders will be judged by how they perform in eight categories, including the security of citizens, the rule of law, economic opportunity, and political freedom. To collect the prize the leader must leave office when the term ends, with no cloud over the tenure in office.
7. Evangelical Christianity is growing. These evangelicals in Africa are more optimistic about Africa's future, and are very involved in the positive developements occuring. Growing churches, some of these being megachurches, have been a very positive influence for good.

Please pray for Africa. I suggest you start by praying for a country, or a people group: its leaders, its churches, its people, etc. Perhaps a country where you have friends or acquaintances, or where your church has missionaries, would be the best place to start.

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