“It is not our land that is poor. It is not even our minds that are poor. The truth is that we have received freely so much for so long that we have lost the power to choose for our own, empower our own, create our own, think for ourselves. No human is as deserving of help as he who loses the power of his mind to create and no amount of wealth can redeem he who is not ready to redeem himself. Philanthropy however great will never solve problems of one whose mind is not redeemed. Philanthropy must empower, not just provide. We must change how we acquire and share wealth for Africa to change. Benevolence is never enough to catalyze change: if perpetuated it only paralyzes.”
Dr. Bright Mawudor, Deputy General Secretary and Head of Finance at the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) reiterated his statement from the AACC Financial Sustainability Conference in 2004 during the FaithInvest: Impactful Cooperation conference on 17-18 January 2020 in Geneva, Switzerland where he delivered the Keynote address.
Organized by Geneva Agape Foundation, Faithinvest and World Council of Churches, the International Conference for Christian Development Agencies and Investors, explicated how churches can use their investments for greater impact. Dr. Mawudor spoke on Church Investments in Africa while citing successful examples and strategies for the future.
“The development history of Sub-Saharan Africa has in many ways hinged on the roles played by Churches and their related organizations over the last 50 years,” says Dr. Mawudor.
Churches built hospitals, schools, agricultural stations etc. as part of their mission work. In 2009, the mega-rich Trinity Church in New York commissioned six African Anglican Bishops to explore the possibilities of rendering the Anglican Communion in Africa financially sustainable.
In 1996, the AACC in response to its 173 member Churches held a conference in Nairobi on “Sustainability of the Church in Africa”. For the greater part of its nearly 60 years in existence, the AACC relied heavily (almost 80%) on grants from its overseas partners for its programme delivery with little in-built mechanism or strategy for financial independence.
When a financial crisis hit AACC in 2002, there was need for an upend strategy. AACC, therefore, reviewed its systems, rebranded, developed policies manuals and a financial Sustainability Strategy which included a Strategic Business Unit (SBU). Profit from the Unit is used to support the mission and programmatic work. The AACC leadership plans to make All Africa Conference of Churches a donor organization by 2025, all things being equal.
Some of the commercial enterprises from the SBU include Desmond Tutu Conference Center which has 106 rooms, Sir Francis Ibiam House; a commercial building that hosts several offices and the Africa Dignity Centre in Ethiopia. Between 2013 and 2019 the total support from the strategic business unit to programmes was almost $ 2.0M. AACC has then been able to support 32 Churches across Africa on programmes such as widowhood rights, youth entrepreneurship, Migration and Human trafficking and restructuring of the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Zambia.
The All Africa Conference of Churches is a testament that Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) and churches can invest while upholding religious values as well as economic values for a better world.