[Editorial] OTM Study on African Makeup: Religion, Hardships, Strengths, and Teens

For better mission efforts in the continent of Africa, Olivet Teen Mission (OTM) conducted studies and researched population makeup, religion, hardships, strengths, and most important information of teens to reach them.

Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent, after Asia. Africa is a distinctively unique continent since it is rich in cultural heritage and diversity. There are 54 countries and ten territories. The population of Africa was recorded at more than 1.341 billion in 2020. There are at least 3,000 distinct ethnic groups in Africa and around 2,000 different languages are spoken and each of them has different dialects. While Arabic is the language that is most widely spoken in the African continent, followed by English and Swahili, French respectively.

Christianity is the most represented religion in Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. In Senegal, Islam is the most and for Nigeria and Tanazia both Christianity and Islam are dominant religions. Notably, Nigeria is the second most religious country in the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, six in ten people in the region are Christians (63%) and three-in-then are Muslims (30%) founded in 2010. The Pew Research Center released a survey of religion on the African continent. One of its most important findings is that after years of evangelization almost nine out of 10 Africans are either Christian or Muslim. Nearly 90 percent of the continent believes in one of these two faiths. Today, that number has dropped to 13 percent. Of the remaining, 57 percent are Christians and 29 percent Muslim.

Africa made great progress in 2019, but there are still a number of unresolved challenges. Civil wars, wars between countries in the region, and wars with no African nations have been creating continuous violence, deaths, riots, and killings in the region. Extreme poverty leads to hunger in Africa: More than a quarter of the hungry in the world live on the African continent. One-fifth of people living in Africa are considered malnourished. This gives the continent the highest rate of malnourished people worldwide.

The African continent has been suffering more and more from climate change in recent decades: devastating floods and extraordinary drought periods lead to crop failures. The consequences are regular hunger crises and famine in Africa.

Diseases such as AIDS, malaria, or Ebola are the cause but also the result of poverty in Africa. Lack of education and inadequate medical care in many regions means that diseases spread faster and cannot be treated. The average life expectancy of the population is decreasing and the number of orphans is increasing. Loss of labor is particularly noticeable in agriculture and leads to reduced food production.

Several benefits and strengths can be found in Africa. Africa has such a diverse culture that it is a vast storehouse of various types of mineral resources and home to a diverse group of races. The cost of living in Africa is the lowest in the world. Africa is a mineral-rich continent. It is also home to tropical rainforests and home to a wide variety of animals that are difficult to find in other parts of the world such as rhinos and elephants. In Africa, labor can be sourced at a very cheap rate.

By 2030, young Africans are expected to make up 42 percent of the world’s youth and account for 75 percent of those under age 35 in Africa. According to the US Census Bureau (International Data Base), there were approximately 241 million people aged 15 to 29 living in Africa in 2010, representing approximately 28% of the overall population of the continent. In 2010, 63% of Africa’s overall population was below the age of 25. As shown, there are numerous teens in Africa, however, many of the teens in Africa don’t have the opportunities and ways to grow. Africa has the highest rates of child mortality (1 in 6) and malnutrition (36%) in the world in children up to 5 years of age. Though the UN and other organizations have taken numerous initiatives to improve the education and literacy rates in Africa, more research indicates that close to 61 % of graduates in the region are unemployed. Although more than 144 million kids have enrolled in school in the region, Africa still continues to have the highest number of people who have not ever been enrolled in school. Africa has the lowest schooling outcomes in the world (51% out of school) in the age group from 6 to 14 years.

Depression in young people needs to be addressed in sub-Saharan Africa. The most common mental disorders in the region are depression and anxiety. The prevalence rates of depression and major depressive disorder in sub-Saharan African countries range from 40 to 55 percent. Among the child and adolescent populations of Sub-Saharan Africa, mental health issues are common. Fourteen percent have mental health problems and nearly 10 percent have diagnosable psychiatric disorders. From Global Youth Culture, many youths in Africa responded to several questions. One of the questions asked about loneliness and 70% of them said yes and about 57% experienced high anxiety. 57% of them attend religious services weekly or daily and 75% of them pray weekly or daily.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the World Health Organization estimates that approximately 6–8% of young people live with depression. While research about youth mental health is scant in Malawi and Tanzania, available studies indicate that depression is a common disorder. A study of pregnant women and young mothers (many of whom are teenagers), it reported rates of depression ranging between 10.7% and 21.1%. There was a depression rate of 20% in adolescents attending HIV/AIDS clinics. In Tanzania, the 2008 Global School-Based Student Health Survey (GSHS) reported that 23.6% of students felt sad, lonely, or hopeless daily, with 11.2% reporting suicidal thoughts. Similar rates have been reported in Nigeria and Kenya.

As many more teens are in Africa, this motivates OTM to reach out to each one of them. The great number of hopeful teens motivates OTM Africa and the chapters to be strengthened. The 300 Olivet High School project in Africa is surely a new hope for the teens. Many teens can gather together in a community full of the Word and love. About 20,000 students are expected to join the school. By God’s power, we hope that many teens will be able to grow with the abundance of the Word and thrive in their studies