SOUTHERN AFRICA: Financial crisis due to free-for-all market, says Africa church head

December 9, 2008

The global financial crisis accompanied by one of the worst economic recessions in recent times is due to the doctrine of private capital summed up by the idea of economic growth propelled by unregulated markets, the outgoing general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, the Rev. Mvume Dandala, has said.

"Even the rich and the most powerful countries have succumbed to the failure of the doctrine and they cannot produce the much-needed surplus capital to tame their markets," Dandala said in his final address as general secretary of the AACC at its once-every-five-years general assembly. "We are witnessing the worst economic crisis at the beginning of a century that was full of optimism."

Dandala told the December 7-12 meeting of the highest governing body of Africa's largest grouping of Christian churches and organizations that there was a delusion brought about by the notion of wealth accumulated in the form of plastic money and private profit. He said money now crosses boundaries from one part of the globe to another without regard to how it is acquired and poses both an ethical and a theological challenge to the ecumenical movement.

The AACC general secretary, a Methodist from South Africa, said on December 8 that the economic crisis has not spared the church and church organizations in Africa. In fact, he said, the crisis has hit the church in Africa even harder that other organizations.

Dandala cited an example of the AACC assembly which nearly hit a snag when people and organizations who had pledged financial assistance held on to their money due to the financial crisis, while organizations that provide credit lines to the grouping, like travel agents demanded cash up-front.

"The lessons we are drawing from this economic crisis is that Africa should start developing its own resources," said Dandala, who became AACC general secretary in 2003 and is stepping down after one term. "We cannot afford to continue being dependant on foreign aid."

Dandala said the church in Africa started experiencing donor fatigue from the late 1980s when the continent recorded an influx of non-governmental organizations. These followed the social and political deficits "created by a new doctrine of development which argues that the state, especially in Africa, cannot be absolutely trusted with development aid," the Methodist cleric said.

"Up to sometime in the late 1980s the churches were about the only non-governmental practitioners in development," noted Dandala. "But from the '80s onwards, the churches were no longer the exclusive actors in the arena of aid-driven development. We continue to find ourselves immersed in a global maze."

The 9th AACC general assembly was opened by Mozambican President Armando Guebuza and is being held at Maputo's Joachim Chissano International Conference Centre. The immediate past president of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, will speak to the participants on December 12.