J. Peter Pham’s lecture at Christianity & National Security 2023.

J. Peter Pham discusses the demographic, economic, and spiritual growth of African countries. The following is a transcript of the lecture.

Well I hope you had a, uh, good evening, and we have a full day ahead of us that you’re going to enjoy a great deal. Our first speaker wonderfully is Ambassador Peter Pham, who has had a very distinguished diplomatic career, and, uh, lives here in Washington, D.C. and as an active Episcopalian. And we were very grateful that he spoke to a conference on Anglican political theology that we hosted here in Washington last year with some profound insights on what the Anglican tradition believe, uh, brings to, uh, public policy and statecraft. And so I believe he may touch on some of those themes in his talk, uh, this morning, maybe, but, uh, we’ll find out. So, Ambassador Pham, thanks so much for joining us.  

Thank you very much, Mark, and thanks for the invitation, the opportunity to be here, uh, this morning. I was just about to quip that this is, uh, looking like, um, Church, but then they filled it up, uh, is my church… The front rows are usually empty and they… people start sitting from the back, and the most contested seats are the ones farthest from the front.  

Um, I thought I… I, uh, my time is brief, but I thought would be useful to give kind of a slightly different, uh, kind of approach to it, and I sort of enti- I told Mark I entitled my remarks, uh, “Mission Africa,” Uh, “The stakes in the 21st Century’s Continent of Hope.” I’ve had the blessing in my life, uh, to work on an area that I’ve been passionate about since uh, uh, before I knew enough to realize what I was passionate about, uh, and that’s the continent of Africa. And I’ve been very blessed to spend my career working on that as a political scientist, as a diplomat. Uh, uh, and uh, increasingly also on the corporate side, uh…  

That may seem like a odd fascination, and my parents certainly wondered about me, uh, uh, uh, in my career choices, uh, uh… In fact, I think for a long time they worried whether I was going to be able to support myself being passionate on what they, it seemed to them to be, uh, a hopeless continent, uh, uh, as uh, one famous cover of the economists uh, had, uh, about a quarter of a century ago, but I think increasingly it is the continent of hope for the 21st Century, and uh, why, why is it strategic? Why am I talking about it at a conference that’s focusing on realism, Christian realism and, uh, national security? 

And I’d like to make five points about why this is an important topic, uh, and why perhaps we should focus more about it on a strategic level and then delve a little bit into why, as believers, as followers of Jesus, as Christians, we ought to be interested, uh… 

First on a strategic level, uh, and if we think strategically, and I know my good friend Elbridge Colby was here yesterday. The focus on priorities… uh, first, the sheer diplomatic weight of Africa. It’s the largest block in any… any international organization or for 54 votes, and they often vote as a block, they are various assumptive reasons for that, and we can get into that if you want to, but that’s a solid block representing, uh, almost 30% of the votes in most international organizations, including the United Nations’ General Assembly. 

Second, there’s a demographic shift going on. By 2050, which isn’t that far away now, by that time, hopefully, I will be retired, uh, but especially the young people in the room, I address myself to you. You’ll be at the… well into your careers, in fact, perhaps at the apex of your careers by 2050. One in four working-age persons on this planet is going to be an African. One in four. It’s the youngest continent on the planet. Uh, the median age currently is about 19. Median, not average. Uh, so it’s going to be the youngest. It’s going to be a motor for economic growth or potential security challenge.  

Those numbers, if you think of Africa’s most populous country, one we’ll return to later in my remarks, Nigeria, currently the population’s about 200 million. By the latter part of the century, by which time uh, uh, I will either be retired or hopefully, by God’s grace uh, off to a better place, uh, there will be 400 million Nigerians. By the end of this century, Nigeria will be the third most populous country on the planet. But it’s not just sheer numbers. It’s not just the youth, but it’s where they’re located, uh… Africa is also the fastest urbanizing region in the world, and with that comes people living together. Infrastructure and other costs go down. Economists call it agglomeration effects, but it also means that there are security challenges uh, of people living together. Famine can happen, and it’s tragic in rural areas but generally stays there. Hunger in cities leads to instability, riots, and all sorts of other effects.  

So fast deserving, give you an example… the city of Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, country I did a lot of work on in the last administration, uh, currently has in an area the size of a typical American sprawl midsize city – I was just in Omaha, uh, and it was perfect because the municipal boundaries are virtually, uh, the same area. Omaha has 487,000 people in 156 square miles. Kinshasa has 16.5 million. 

Third thing: economic significance. We usually don’t think of Africa as economically significant, uh, but in the decade leading up to the pandemic, seven of the twenty fastest growing economies in the world, uh, were n Africa. In 2019, the last year before the pandemic, five of the top ten fastest growing economies in the world were in Africa. Um, and it’s not just commodities. It’s all sorts of things, and this is a market opportunity, obviously, for our business, uh, American business.  

And that, with that economy comes adaption of technology. Now again, something counterintuitive, we usually don’t think of Africa as a technological innovator, but in certain financial settings it is. For example, more of Africa’s economies move by mobile money than any other place in the world. Uh, I… I sort of laugh every time my banks sends me a, uh, thing to have me sign up for mobile payments directly without using cards and all those other things, much less cash. I… I laugh because to them it’s the latest and greatest thing. For Africans, it’s something that’s more than a decade old. In Kenya, a quarter of the economy moves by Mesa payment system, developed and used by Safaricom, the leading mobile phone provider in that country. 

Fourth, uh, the reason why this is strategic, uh… Critical materials re… resources. Uh, just a few data points, and one can throw lots out there, but I just want to throw a few to give… tease it out. Cobalt. Cobalt is absolutely necessary for all sorts of high-tech functions, specifically with electric vehicles. Now, whatever one thinks of Mr. Musk and Tesla, whatever one thinks of, uh, environmental issues, whatever one thinks of the, uh, practicality of it, the fact is, electric vehicles and all sorts of, uh, renewable energy works are, uh, there. Can’t ignore them, and whatever technologies have yet to be discovered. Cobalt… 70% of the world’s cobalt is produced in one country: The Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Another data point: Copper. Without copper, we don’t have electric wiring. Without electric wiring, uh, this green revolution isn’t going anywhere. Uh, the international energy agency, which is an umbrella group that, uh, was established after the Arab Oil Embargo of the early 1970s to monitor energy and energy usage and try to coordinate in some fashion, issued a report a week ago estimating that, to achieve the energy goals that the United States, the European Union, and other countries have pledged to achieve by 2050, whatever one thinks of them, uh… To achieve that, those somewhat minimalistic energy goals, one has to add 50 million miles of electric cabling, uh, on the planet between now and 2040, uh, 50.  

Which of you, wondering what 50 million miles of cabling… That’s equal to all the electric wiring and ca- uh, cabling, that exists currently on the planet. We have to double that, and that can’t be done without copper. And how are we this uh, without, uh, without sufficient copper? Since, especially in our country, we don’t care. Uh, we’ve made the political choice, or at least, certain people have made the political choice that we’re not going to mine it here. Uh, again, another, uh, reason Africa is, uh… 

In fact last year, Congo, a country I’m first… shot up to be the world’s second largest producer of copper and then there’s all sorts of other esoteric minerals. Uh, unfortunately for us, and this is a challenge, and I tie this… this back to my friend Elbridge Colby’s talk yesterday… Most of the processing and mining is currently done by China. 17 of the 18 cobalt mines in the DRC are operated by China. And if you’ll forgive me a little bit of uh… uh, political commentary on the side, including the biggest one, the Metalkol, uh, mine, which was a title passed to a Chinese-state-owned company through the good services of a certain Mr. Hunter Biden, and that’s in the New York Times. 

Um, finally, of course, security concerns. Not just jihadism and the crisis of state legitimacy and the coups you’ve heard about, but geopolitical competition. Our geopolitical competitors, China, Russia, have upped their game in Africa. Regional competitors or powers, however, you want to look at Turkey, the Gulf, Arab states, have likewise upped their game, and the former colonial powers – uh, the UK, France – have increasingly, uh, our allies there have increasingly, uh, been pushed off the continent, especially the French who, uh, this week are being kicked out of Niger. Now, all those reasons for why this topic, I think, is important, and deserves more on a strategic level, more consideration.  

But beyond that, and I think this is where I can address at this conference, Africa is also a land of opportunity. Uh, not just on the geopolitical, geoeconomic level, but also on the level of believers. Uh, although Christianity of course has a very old history on the African continent, uh, dating back to the earliest days, uh, to… in the book of Acts, uh, Philip and the conversation with the… the Ethiopian eunuch and his conversation, uh, very… you know, back to New Testament times, of course, Alexandria and Egypt was a center of Christianity in the early days uh, uh, from St. Mark’s arrival there all the way through to the theological, Christological controversies of the third, fourth, and fifth centuries.  

And of course, Ethiopia, one of the oldest Christian countries, uh, in the world, but yet in 1900 there were 7 million Christians on the African continent, 7 million. Roughly 9% of the population. The last year for which we have relatively accurate data – there are some estimates, but really accurate counting – 2020, there were 470 million Christians on the continent. Roughly, uh, 57% of the population. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Christians in Africa represent roughly currently a quarter of all… all Christians on our planet. And while religious, uh, the media and often scholars treat religiosity as somewhat of a static character on the African continent. 

What’s been very interesting, uh, to monitor as a phenomena… and that’s really largely underreported, is the number of Muslims on the African continent who convert ref… to Christianity… just to cite one example: Uganda. Uh, best sociological, uh, anthropological data says, then Ugandan long-term data, roughly one third of those born and raised Muslim at… at some point in their life, midlife, later in life, uh, become Christian. And that’s an overlooked factor. Often in… when we talk about religious dynamics, uh, some of you, although at least, uh, I look around the faces… some may be a little, uh, young for this…  

But some of us will remember 2014, uh and the schoolgirls kidnapped from Chibok in Northeastern Nigeria. And one largely overlooked fact and I… and I kind of, uh, berate the media from failing to point this out with the exception, by the way, of uh, Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw of the Wall Street Journal who actually wrote an excellent book, if you really want a whole book on it, on the subject… most of the media didn’t bat an eye and kept repeating the same nostrums that Northern Nigeria is Muslim, Southern Nigeria is Christian, and the country is evenly divided. Uh, Drew and Joe, who are friends of mine, pointed out that, well, if that was true, then a couple days after the kidnapping, the jihadists who kidnapped them w… wouldn’t have needed to have converted those girls, uh, to Islam. Forced conversion. If they were already Muslim, and the fact is, as Drew and Joe point out in their excellent book which came out two years ago, was that most of them were actually, although they were in the North, Christian, and it was a Christian village that they were kidnapped from. 

Um, the growth of Christianity in Nigeria, uh, by the way, spiritually in Africa… Uh, this is why I say it’s a land of mission. It’s a much more intense if you look at so… sociological experience than other places. Uh, one third of Africans polled, irrespective of where, have witnessed a healing or an exorcism. 61% of Christians in Africa surveyed expect Jesus to return in their lifetimes. Uh, on the other side of the ledger, 52% of Muslims on the continent expect the Khalifa to be restored in their lifetimes. 

Nigeria, I said I’d return to that, uh… some interesting statistics to throw out there about why this is strategic, why it ought to be of concern to us… last year, uh, Open Door’s World Watch, which is an excellent survey for those, uh, don’t, uh, know it on… on Christian persecution around the globe… 90% of the Christians murdered for their faith in the world last year were in one country: in Nigeria. 5,621 Christians, uh, were killed for their faith between October 1, 2021 and September 30th 2022. Uh, and a few months we’ll have the… the figures for last year of those 5,621 fellow believers. 5,400 were in Nigeria, making Nigeria arguably the most dangerous place on the planet, uh, to follow Jesus.  

Nigeria also ranked number one in homes and businesses attacked for faith-based reasons, and where it came in… in second is hardly comforting. Number two in attacks on houses of worship, uh, number one being China, of course. So some sobering statistics. On one hand, we have Africa as a strategic stake, but above and beyond the purely worldly, uh stakes, uh, those of us who profess the belief in Jesus and the faith also have the consideration of, uh, the religiosity and the persecution of fellow believers. 

Uh, so there’s a lot at stake. And I’ll close with one final comment, and that is in the foreign policy of the current U.S. administration, there has been, uh, an increasing attack, I would argue, on the religious faith and sensibilities of our African friends. Uh, just this week, uh, the U.S. State Department issued a business advisory, uh, against doing business in Uganda, telling American businesses and investors that they risk reputational harm by doing business in a country that, according to the U.S. State Department, uh, oppresses, uh LGBTQ+ individuals.  

Now, whether the legislation recently signed into law in Uganda is prudent, the virtue of prudence, uh, that I think people can debate… but to single out Uganda as a place where warnings should be done in business when no such warnings have been issued in other… other places, and I would note places like Iran where I don’t think, uh, the diversity agenda fares much better, uh… or uh, other places is somewhat hypocritical. But I think it does signal something, uh, so with that, let me just, uh, stop with just one last word for you which is the importance of this continent. It’s a passion of mine, I know, and maybe eccentric, but I would argue, especially for the young people in the room, full of challenge and arguably, the most strategic competition, uh, is being engaged. Our foes on every side have already figured this out, and it’s time for us to wake up. 

Thank you very much. Okay. First hand up… 


Question: Thank you very much. My name is Elizabeth Nala; I’m from Taylor University. You mentioned at the beginning of your talk, uh, these pre-pandemic numbers having to do specifically with the economy. How did the Covid pandemic impact Africa? 

Answer: Uh, it… it certainly stopped a lot of the economic growth. Uh, the number of fatality, and this is an interesting one, and I’m not a scientist, uh, biological scientist, so I’m not going to speak to why the… the numbers were certainly nowhere near what the, uh, you know, uh, the… those who were panicking thought they would be, uh… Now whether that is because of inborn immunity because of whatever that… that needs to be studied, but certainly the… the death tolls are nowhere near the numbers that one would have anticipated, uh, for an area that has… doesn’t have the health infrastructure, uh, or the ability to, uh, enforce the type of draconian measures that we did in our own country. Uh, and I think that’s something people are going to have to figure out why. And I’m not an epidemiologist, so, uh… and I… so I’ll wait for the, uh, the… the numbers to be crunched and the data to be collected by, uh… it remains to be seen uh, uh, why that was. 

So it didn’t suffer the consequence, but the overall decline in trade, the overall decline in demand for resources certainly, uh, negatively affected the economies. But many of them have also bounced back relatively rapidly. So we’ll see. I don’t like statistics of… in one year. That’s why I use the statistics of over a decade. Any one year you can have a blip. You know, a place like South Sudan, where, uh, can have the fastest growth in the world because the year before they were in the middle of a civil war. Their economy plummeted down to next to nothing, so you’re going to have huge growth if you stop fighting for a bit. But that… that’s not… you have to look over, uh, a certain period of time. You… 

Okay. So first the gentleman in the far back, yeah, the far back, uh, in the back row. Oh.  

Question: Thank you very much. Tobias with Brownstein. Um, Professor Pham, say that I do agree with you that Africa is important and it is probably most important since it has been since the 1960s. But what exactly should we do? Should we, um, charter private companies to buy land and mine in Congo? Should we do it to Nigeria? What exactly should our proper response be to maintain our interests in the Sub-Saharan Africa region?  

Answer: Uh, one, we need a strategy. Uh, and I would argue that that, uh, thing, uh… We had one not without its flaws, but we had one in the last administration. And I don’t say that because I wrote most of it, uh, but a strategy has to have a couple of things. Uh, one, it… a property strategy, and I’m sure some of the speakers yesterday spoke about this… you have to identify your objectives, what it is you’re trying to achieve. You have to identify what means you have, what resources you have to achieve those objectives. And then you’ve got to connect those to… with a plan of how to go about, do it. One to the other, uh, and that’s a proper strategy. Sounds very elementary, uh… 

The other thing about it is you often can’t put it out there, because obviously certain things can’t be said, uh, for either security reasons or simply diplomatic reasons. Uh, the last administration’s strategy was, and remains, by the way, classified. And the reason it was classified was specifically you… you can’t signal everything in public. You have certain broad outlines but you can’t say “these are our priorities one, two, three, four, five,” because that gives it all away. And not to mention, if you list “these are our priority countries,” if you list five priorities, there are going to be 49 very angry people at the very, very least. Uh, so it had to be classified. Uh, the current administration’s so-called strategy document, uh, on Africa, uh, is entirely open. They published it, so you can get it on the White House website. Well neither… do you say… you can’t list priorities because someone’s going to be offended. So you lists all sorts of things. It’s… it’s a… it’s a list of things that, many of which are unobjectionable, but you can’t do everything. Uh, uh, uh, the good Lord can, but, hum, we creatures are… have limited means.  

And so you have to make those decisions. A proper strategy, one to, uh, recognize the importance of the private sector. Uh, la…. by the way, through administrations, Democrat and Republican, foreign assistance to Africa, what do you think of foreign assistance has been relatively constant fluctuating, given the… our economic cycle, budget cycles… But over the last 15 years, roughly between 6.5 billion and 7.5 billion, uh, a year, in government foreign assistance to Africa. 75% of which, by the way, is eaten up by uh, health, uh, uh, related expenses. Uh, the president’s emergency program for AIDS relief, PEPFAR, uh, and other programs, uh, with 25% left for everything else: democracy promotion, uh, uh, governance issues, uh, everything else.  

Uh, last year, the private sector, the American private sector alone, invested in Africa about 46.2 billion. So it’s clearly the private sector that’s going to drive this, not government money. Government money can, you know, in some circumstances be leveraged, but certainly has its limits. And then we have to be thinking about it strategically, you know? This… we’re… we’re in an era where I think the lack of attention to Africa is almost as criminally negligent on the part of our political leaders as it would have been if in the 1970s, uh, and we did have a little episode of this, we, uh, decided to turn our back and not pay any attention to the Middle East.  

Uh, and of course, we had that little adventure through history, uh, during the, uh, except for the Israel-Egypt peace, uh, during the Carter administration and the Iran hostage crisis and everything else. Uh, we’re at the same type of inflection point with regard to the African continent, and we need to pay attention, but thank you for your question. Uh, uh… 

Question: Thank you, Dr. Pham, uh. So I’ve kind of got a three-part question, but it all goes together. Um, so you talked a lot about uh, economic development in Africa, but I… I was just wondering if, um, there was a certain country that you saw as a democratic leader, uh, and also, I was wondering, what um, evidence you would use to justify because there… there has been a lot of coups, uh, and you know, there’s a lot of different, um, experiences in… in Africa. So I don’t want to oversimplify, but I was just wondering what you thought would be a model of democracy in Africa and also the sec- the other part of the question, um, Max Weber’s the Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism came to mind during your… your talk, um, because… I was wondering if, uh, like, one of the things Weber suggests is that, um, Christian ethics aligns with a lot of other, uh, ethical ideas that align with capitalism, and whether you consider democracy to be… be a ethic as well? So I was wondering if you can see Christianity playing a role in a cultural shift that would move, um, a certain country toward democracy, if Christianity has, has a role in, uh, promoting democracy in Africa? Hopefully all of that made sense, uh yeah, okay. 

Answer: Well thanks for your question. First, uh, let me start with your question on, on… See, uh, you know, we… we’re very quick to condemn coups and I certainly am not an advocate for coups, uh, but that being said, the presupposition is that what came before the coups was democratic or legitimate, and that’s often either superficial reporting or simply not true. A good example is a country I know very well. I in fact lived in… in my youth, uh Guinea, the Republic of Guinea, now Guinea, had a very tragic history. 

Uh, it was the first country to break free of France, uh, but it followed a… a Marxist ideologue who never failed to make the wrong choice when he had an opportunity. Uh, after they got independence from France, uh, Eisenhower reached out, and he rebuffed Eisenhower and went with the Soviet Union. Then, when the Soviet Union had it’s schism with Communist China, he followed Communist China. Uh, anyway… long story short, that first uh, Sekou Toure, the inventive leader, finally when he died uh, uh, he died at the Cleveland Clinic because the medical facilities in his country that he ran weren’t sufficient, so he had the luxury of going to the Cleveland Clinic. Uh, he was followed by Louis Lansana who was his hangman, literally hangman. 

Uh, Lansana was an interesting character. And I, and, uh, every day he went to Sekou Toure’s house. And Sekou Toure had a calendar on his wall, and it was like one of those one-sheet-a-day calendars, and at the end of the day he would tear off the page and on the back in pencil would write down the names of the people, uh, to be taken into custody and executed that night for whatever alleged reasons, uh, his, uh… in his mind, and they would be hung from the Castro Bridge. Uh, again, the name of the bridge itself saying something about Sekou, uh, and toward the end of Sekou Toure’s life, Lansana, his hangman, decided that, uh, figured out that no one was actually checking if he added a few names to the list every night. 

And so, he systematically eliminated anyone who might be a rival. So when Sekou Toure went off to, uh, eternal judgement, uh, all of Lansana’s rivals had been strung up at one point or another in the preceding several years, so he got the presidency and kept it until his death in 2008. Uh, finally there were elections in 2010, uh, and the reason I’m get… going to details is to… to illustrate this point. The elections in 2010 for me… the results were fixed, uh, and fixed by the former colonial power in an attempt to get back in. In the first round, the uh, leading candidate was a former prime minister, Cellou Diallo, who got 42% of the vote.  

Second place was a left-wing oppositionist who’d been in exile and spent most of his time, uh, in cafes on the left bank in Paris, uh, Alpha Conde, who got 17%, uh, so it had to go to a runoff. In the runoff, candidates three and four, who between the two of them had 20% of the vote, endorsed the first… they thought they know which way the thing was going so they endorsed the first place finisher. 

So even presuming for the sake of argument that they could… those two characters uh, could, uh, Cidya Toure, and… I forget the name of the fourth guy, could only get half their followers to vote the way the wanted, that alone would have put Ceillu Diallo over the finish line. And yet, in a strange turn of events, somehow the first place finisher lost votes despite the endorsements in the second round, and Alpha Conde was declared the winner in 2010 and invited to the White House under President Obama as an example of the new democratic Africa. Uh, 2015, he runs for reelection and that, a fiasco of all sorts of problems with it… and wins, in quotation marks, re-election. 

In 2020, he changes the Constitution, uh, to allow to get rid of the term limits and wins, uh, a landslide. So fast forward September 5th 2021, a military, uh, group, uh, overthrew him. My point being, yes, that was a military coup, but was what… what came before a democratic regime? And I would argue that no, it was actually, you know, an illegitimate government. Uh, that was never a democracy. It held, you know, elections with pre-cooked results, and so when you overthrow… throw… when you give people no chance to vote out or vote you in, for that matter, uh, and someone throws you out, is that necessarily the same thing as the overthrow of a democratically, a truly democratically elected government?  

And I think these are some of the questions that one needs to ask. I’m not justifying coups, but I do think we need to look at what comes before that. I think much more important is your other question, which is: is there something and I would… I would agree with you and Weber, uh, to a certain extent, in the fact that I think there is something in, uh, Christianity: uh, the respect for the individual, uh, the idea of grace, and a whole bunch of other things that we can sol… that predispose a country to both a democratic transition, uh, and uh, to sustaining that afterwards. And in fact, if we look at the countries around Africa that have, you know, without… with whatever flaws they have uh, uh, been able to more or less avoid military coups, or, uh, and many of them have a strong… if not a Christian majority, a strong Christian presence, or in some cases even where it’s overly Muslim, Senegal being a good example, uh, where a strong ethos not…  

Despite the numbers in Senegal, the um, the Christian population is possibly 10%, but the first president, uh, Leopold Sedar Senghor, uh, who governed the country and was the first African leader to step down, uh, and retire peacefully when he stepped out in 1980, uh, was, uh, himself a Christian in a Muslim country and established a pattern that to now has prevailed. The country’s never had a military coup, so I think there is something there. Uh, can’t generalize, right? But you can look at other places where the economy’s more… in Kenya, again, a very strong, uh, Christian… there’s a very strong Muslim community, but also imprinted certainly with, uh, with Christianity and even places that are far from perfect… good example being South Africa, uh, the long-standing Christian ethos that enabled certain things… the… the, uh, the… 

Whatever one thinks of the current government, I don’t think very much of it, uh, but the fact that they were able to have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission after years of apartheid, was based upon, on, you know, Christian understanding of confession, forgiveness, redemption… That doesn’t make sense in, without, tak… taken away from that… that matrix, I think.  

Yeah, right there… the… the… your right. 

Question: Good morning. My name is Kendrick, from Canyon University. Um, you talked a lot about the future and prosperous of African countries, um Nigeria, specifically. I wanted to talk about the… the confidence of their government. Um, where they are ranked very, um, low in confidence and high in corruption, and I wanted you to talk about, or hear your thoughts on how we combat that and how you know, we can see that country moving forward. Okay. 

Answer: Thank you. Well, uh, you know, if you’d asked me that question uh, three and a half months ago, I would have said the… the new government was off to a good start, and this is the glass half empty or glass half full. Uh, on one hand, President Bola Tinubu, who took over, uh, uh, has achieved in his first 100 days a whole bunch of changes that had eluded his predecessors. One, he’s allowed the Naira to float, the… the currency to float, uh, instead of having fixed exchange rates, and which were artificially set, and provide all sorts of arbitrage opportunities for the politically connected, uh, but didn’t serve the country’s economy. Great.  

He also got rid of the fuel subsidy, which was a vast, uh, suck-hole for uh, uh, for government expenditures, and again didn’t really benefit people. So two major achievements that eluded his predecessors, uh, and he did that in the first 100 days. Unfortunately, the, uh, more recently, uh, you know in diplomacy you learn very quickly if you’re gonna be successful, never make a promise or threat that you aren’t able and willing to carry out. And they made all sorts of threats about intervening in Niger after the coup that frankly, if he’d consulted a minimally competent military planner, they would have told him this is impossible. Instead, you know, he kind of charged ahead and now they’re… they’ve painted themselves into a corner, and don’t know how to climb down. However, he did achieve, by, uh, threatening that military intervention, you’re uniting, uh, everyone, so I guess he achieved national unity except it was against him. 

Uh, the leading Muslim, uh, organization in the country, the NSCIA, uh, spoke out against it. The Roman Catholic Bishops had a very strong statement against it. And most recently, the Anglican, uh, Archbishop of the… the Anglican Church of Nigeria came out against it. So he’s now managed to unite the three largest religious groups in the country against him. So in that sense, he’s achieved national unity. Uh, I don’t think in the way he intended, uh… He also, you know, is going to be a one… and I’ll make a prediction… one-term president. Uh, the man is not his claimed age.  

Uh, he claims to be 70, which is rather miraculous and precocious of him, uh, considering several years ago, it’s all over social media, his daughter had her 60th birthday. Uh, some you know, precocious young man, uh, quite clearly, uh, but clearly he’s… you know, uh, one can do the math, uh as to what a more likely… is now, Of course, we Americans should be a little more humble and not think too much about age as presidents since uh, uh, people can point out some embarrassing things to us.  

So, um, we have time for one more. One more, okay. The… the… theyoung lady midway through the room. 

Question: Yeah. Hi. My name is Lindsay Heiser, I’m from Messiah University. My question is just, um, what do you think is going to happen moving forward for the Christians in Africa? Do you think the, um, numbers are going to increase with the death rates decrease? And, like, how would America be able to step in and help moving forward? 

Answer: Well I think the… the, the Church is on a trajectory of growth, you know, and uh, you know, this is… it’s the same pattern in the Church throughout the ages, you know? Tertullian wrote about this in the third century. Uh, you know, the blood of Christians is the seed of the Church. And you know, where there’s powerful witness there’s, uh, there’s… there’s growth. Uh, how Americans react, uh, one is by calling spades spades. Uh, you know? Uh, in the last, again the last administration, uh, we had a Secretary of State who took these issues very seriously, uh, and you know, designated countries, including where Christians were, like Nigeria, where 90% of the world’s martyrs are being produced, and label that a country of concern. 

Uh, the current administration delisted Nigeria from that concern, uh, and it was… the listing was so irregular that even its, uh, appointees to… of… to the International Religious Freedom, uh, Commission – body established by its own appointees, question, uh, in their annual report last year questioned how they came about that decision, because no one could point to any data of… of significant improvement. So I think we have to be candid about, uh, about that and include that, I mean, for all the reasons we should pay attention to the minerals, the economics, the demographics, and all that… you know, I think as believers, you know, it’s incumbent upon us to have a little bit of solidarity with our… our, uh, brothers and sisters. 

So, thank you.