Is Africa Cursed? 

Due to many problems in Africa in comparison to other continents, it is not unusual to hear claims that Africa is cursed. Many have wondered whether wars, genocide, poverty, disease, starvation, etc., that continue to devastate the African continent are largely a fulfilment of the biblical curse of Noah. Moreover, the common perception of blessings as purely material has led to the enslavement of many within the continent through prosperity preaching. And yet, despite the numerous promises of ‘better’, it is often the reality for many that their circumstances never change, year in and year out.

The Abuse of the Curse on Canaan

During the slave trade, the Bible was indeed used to support the notion that Africans were cursed and should accept their fate across the Atlantic. Some ministers promoted the idea that Africans, as descendants of Ham, were cursed in Genesis 9:25-27 and that their enslavement was deserved. Slaveholders further justified their actions with the fact that the Israelites also held slaves. Those who tried to speak against slavery were in the minority, and hence, their voice could not be heard. They were considered infidels as they were said to be opposed to something that God accepted in the scriptures.

But as soon as the enslaved could read and understand English, they diligently studied the scriptures. One priest was quoted saying that the only way they could be heard was to speak the language of their slave masters and speak to them about the text they loved and believed in. Wrong biblical interpretation was, therefore, responsible for human trafficking and abuse. 

The Bible and Curses

The Bible declares curses on various individuals and groups of people. It is essential to examine who is considered cursed and why. Then, we can ask if, as Africans, we are indeed in that category. Here are a few scenarios. 

  1. The curse on the ground (Genesis 3:17-24): The ground was cursed because Adam listened to Eve and disobeyed God. This meant he would toil painfully to feed his family. The curse was shifted from Adam to the ground as God had already blessed Adam in Genesis 1:28. Again, death was introduced into the world because of sin. Humanity was to die not only physically but also spiritually, wherein man would be separated from God because of sin. So, every child born to them, despite still possessing God’s image to a measure, would be born subject to the fall (Genesis 5:1-3). We are born sinners worthy of God’s wrath. 
  2. The curse on Canaan (Genesis 9:25-27): Noah cursed his grandson Canaan after Ham, his father, saw his nakedness. Noah had many sons, and Africans could have descended from any but Canaan. Canaan, the cursed race, was eliminated when the Israelites conquered them. Thus, nothing could be more misplaced than the claim that the curse of Genesis 9:25 applies to Africans.  
  3. Some curses were pronounced on individuals or a nation: These include, for example, pestilence, fever, inflammation, extreme burning, the sword, blasting, and mildew (Exodus 28:21-22). In Deuteronomy 21:23, we read that one who committed a crime worthy of death should be hanged on a tree, in which the “victim”/”criminal” is described as “cursed by God” (Deuteronomy 21:24). We also read in both Exodus (21:15) and Deuteronomy (21:16-21) that children would be cursed for striking their parents and for being contemptuous toward their fathers and mothers. 
  4. Breaking curses: The notion of curses is also apparent in the New Testament. The Gospels in Matthew (Matthew 27:32-56, Mark (Mark 15:21-41), Luke (Luke 23:26-49), and John (John 19:17-37) indicate that God cursed and condemned his son to death on the Cross for the salvation of the sinful human race. Because God gave his son to the wicked world, the Old Testament curse and other “generational” curses are transferred to Jesus, who is now considered the “cursed one” (John 3:16-17; Galatians 3:13). Unfortunately, some Africans have leaned towards the sacrifice of animals and calling people to go back to their traditions to reverse the curse. In the Bible, there were no curses without cause. Africans are not exempted from the aspect of sinful nature. All who have rejected God will face his wrath. Again, since not all Africans are living in sin, it is wrong to generalise all Africans as cursed. 

The African Problem

If it isn’t a curse, what could be the cause of Africa’s evident disparities? Msingi Afrika argues that the problem of Africa is not a curse, either from God or the African forefathers. It is a deep-seated case of self-hate, self-sabotaging acts by some few who are too greedy to see and live for the greater good, mental devaluation that lowers self-worth, an African disunity stemming from the false borders that created false sovereign nations, among many other things that have lowered Africans to mere servitude. 

There is no doubt that many Africans are not what God expects them to be. Many have rejected God in favour of cultures that offer no answers to the fundamental questions of life. The real problem is that of the heart, which cannot be dealt with any other way apart from God’s way of salvation. But many do not see themselves as God sees them, viewing themselves, instead, through the lenses of their oppressors, who are themselves fallen. Salvation is supposed to address every one of the issues highlighted above courtesy of Msingi Afrika. For example, we cannot hate ourselves if we see ourselves as God sees us in Psalm 139:13-14. How could anyone who walks with God be motivated by greed when the Holy Spirit gives us the power to consider others better (Philippians 2:3-4)? Moreover, Christ restores dignity for humanity (Deuteronomy 10:17-19), the Bible encourages unity (Psalm 133), and servanthood leads to greatness in the Kingdom of God (Mark 10:45). 

Blessed, not Cursed

Africa is not cursed. Quite to the contrary, it is an immensely blessed continent. Consider the following: 

  1. Natural Resources: God has blessed Africa with both renewable and non-renewable resources. God’s blessings range from ample arable to natural gases, water, oil, minerals, forests, and wild animals. Lack of prudent management of these resources or interference from other nations does not equate to being cursed. When we don’t confine ourselves within God’s boundaries, then the consequences of that separation take effect. These range from hatred, lack of unity, killing each other, stealing, and selfishness (Galatians 5:19-20). 
  2. Community aspect: Africa has been blessed with a very united community. As much as nations have factions, we are still highly communal. It is our proud heritage, as evidenced by the stories passed down through generations. Perhaps not to the same degree as it was a few generations ago, but it still takes an entire village to raise a child. Therefore, we can handle the scriptural command of meeting together to a greater extent (Hebrews 10:25). You see the entire community come together at childbirth, initiation, academic excellence, marriage, death, etc. At all critical stages of transition, the community is always involved. This is a great blessing in our lives. 
  3. Young Population: Statistics say that the average age in Africa is about 19 years. Unfortunately, despite our high population of young people, we have some of the world’s oldest leaders, averaging 62 years. The young population is highly innovative and, hence, a big blessing to the continent. The Bible highly regards young people. God chose individuals from their youth to lead nations. For example, God chose David while a teenager (1 Samuel 16:7); Joseph was a teenager; Jeremiah was chosen to be a prophet while very young (Jeremiah 1:5); Timothy pastored the church while a youth (1 Timothy 4:12); and many more individuals we can talk about. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin when God chose her (Luke 1;26-33). Africa’s youthful population is a blessing, as the youth can transform the continent significantly if given the chance.

Overall, God has been gracious to Africa by blessing us beyond what we deserve. However, our issue is not a problem of curses but a heart problem. Our hearts are incredibly deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9), and we are dead in our sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-3), which means we need one who could bring us back to life. Thankfully, through Jesus Christ, that was made possible (Ephesians 2:4-7). In short, we deserve nothing good, but God has graciously granted us good things. He is still mindful of us and cares for us despite our insignificance (Psalm 8:4). Thus, instead of complaining about our shortcomings and saying that we are cursed, we should say with the Psalmist: O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:8). Also, instead of going our own way, may we, as Africans, put our trust in God and lean not on our own understanding. In all our ways, may we acknowledge him, for only he, not our cultures, can make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6).

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