Religion and Poverty in Africa. Why is the ‘Most religious’ country the ‘poorest’?

Religion and Poverty in Africa. Why is the ‘Most religious’ country the ‘poorest’?  

I haven’t been to all countries in Africa but I have seen enough to understand some of the poverty stories that CNN churn out. Many find these reports offensive because it builds a negative continent equity . Alas, it doesn’t show the other beautiful sides of Africa- Our culture, our people, our values, our vibrancy, a rich history, the arable lands, our entrepreneurs, the tourist locations and so much more.


Statista published the list of nationalities that consider religion most important. Interestingly, 7 out of the top 10 countries with the highest ranking are African. Ethiopia ranked 1st with 98% and Nigeria grabbed the 9th position with 88%.  No African country made the bottom 10 list. China has just 3% of her population considering religion important in their lives.



Curiosity creeped in and I did a side by side comparison of the GDP/Capita (amount of average income per person in a country) and the Corruption perception index (A ranking of countries according to the extent to which corruption is understood to occur.) I overlapped these with the religion importance ranking and there is a clear INVERSE relationship between the religion dependency and both the corruption and poverty levels.  

most religious


least relig


Key insights.  
  1. China is the LEAST religious country yet its corruption perception level is lower than 7 of the most religious countries.
  2. Ethiopia is the MOST religious country yet it is the ‘poorest’ within this pool which is counter intuitive.
  3. Ukraine which has the lowest GDP/Capita amongst the least religious countries is richer than 90% of the most religious countries.
  4. 70% of the least religious countries are less corrupt than the most religious countries.
  5. Japan, the 2nd least religious country ranks 18th on corruption perception index ahead of EVERY top 10 religious country.

From this, it shows the religious dependency in Africa hasn’t translated to lower corruption nor improved economic conditions . Does this mean Africans should become less religious?

I believe some of these actions will go a long way to help. 

  1. Focus more on Salvation versus Religion. There will be fewer wars if personal salvation is the focus versus religious intolerance or advocacy.
  2. Practice the GOLDEN rule. ‘Do unto others as you want them to do unto you’. Do this EVERYDAY no matter your title or hierarchy.
  3. Show Love. These days, LOVE is becoming one of the world’s scarcest resources, ahead of precious stones and Energy.  If we all truly loved our neighbors, we will think of common good versus personal greed. There will be better leadership , less public funds looting, fewer traffic offences, less hate campaigns, less fake drugs in circulation, less pollution, less oil pipelines damages, less sabotage, less social media bullying. The list is endless
  4. Do what God has placed in your abilities already. This is a sensitive one as it can come across as being less God dependent but the truth is God has given us brains already. Creation is already done; it is not work in progress. We have been given health, amazing arable land, great weather, natural resources and more. We are 1.1 billion Africans; we are 15% of the worlds’ population. It is up to us to turn Africa around.

Why are some of the most religious countries the poorest corrupt countries whilst some of the least religious are the richest and least corrupt?

It is often said that curiosity killed the cat.  What are your thoughts?

Tolu Adedeji, March 18th 2016

Picture credit; Africanleadership, watoto, sheknows


Corruption perception index : Transparency international

GDP per capita, PPP (current international $) GDP/Capita source: World bank:



21 thoughts on “Religion and Poverty in Africa. Why is the ‘Most religious’ country the ‘poorest’?”

  1. Very interesting thought, Tolu. The correlation between poverty and religiosity in Africa is quite instructive. More disturbing is how we manage to live within the moral standards of religion and the depravity of corruption.

    It’s no surprise religious leaders on our continent are some of the most flamboyant and financially successful. What it tells me is that religion is largely a tool for exploitation in Africa.

    And as the legendary Bob Marley put it, until we ’emancipate ourselves from mental slavery’ we shall remain slaves to the self-serving ploys of the salvation peddlers.

    You did a good job with this article. Well done!

    Smallstarter Africa

      1. Very apt and insightful thoughts shared with clear erudition. I liked correlative analysis and the ‘straightforwardness’ of the piece. One cannot but keep wondering why ‘those who cherish the Lordship of the creator of all ‘are the ones continually at the mercy of ‘those who hardly think much of the need for a supreme sovereign maker. This article has helped throw some light on this and also profferred some simple steps that can be adopted by we (Africa) out of self-imposed and limiting paradigms that do not glorify the God we so rever. I think this is nothing short of a good wake up call for us to Arise from our slumber and dig up treasures from both our minds and lands to take ourselves out of this quagmire of backwardness and victim mentality.

  2. Thanks Tolu . Africans are deceiv ing themselves with religion . Our religious leaders are also deceiving d congregation for d sake of what they will put in their purses . Emphasy is mainly on Tithes and Offering in churches and Hijab in Mosques . Where has it taken us to . Africans Wake Up .stop deceiving urselves b

      1. Indeed, Africans are being exploited, impoverished, pauperised, radicalised and killed – in the name of God – by important-looking ‘religious’ goons across board who manipulate them and ferry their sweat into treasuries abroad. Thank you, Tolu for your thought-provoking analysis…A day shall come…soon.

  3. My good God. I wish every religion fanatics could see this. it’s so disheartening, d level at which pastors bamboozle their concregation to give their all, materially. Sometimes, some pastors can use their worker so much without any welfare in place for them and at d end they ll say that is God that ll reward u, mind you, they sell their messages, books…n make money for themselves oo

  4. Religion definitely helps in providing solace to disturbed persons psychologically but in the name of religion killing innocent persons, looting, raping and disturbing social harmony definitely hinders growth. Corruption which no religion teaches still has direct relation with religion. Why those who believe in religion should remain poor still this has also direct relationship. It seems in religious dominated countries a few cheats large number of society and become very rich and rest believers accept their corruption as fate accomply in the name of god and these types of persons enjoy life in the same poor country.

  5. The author of this article definitely has a background in philosophy. Everyday i weep for my African brothers and sisters. We need to spread the knowledge! Religion is cancer! It could be used sometimes for tranquility, but it ends there (for the good). What gets me angry is that the religion (Christianity and Islam) we kill ourselves over are not even originated from Africa. In India, majority are Hindus, In Europe(Christianity), the middle east (Islam) and china (Buddhism). One could even make a case that religion is good for cultural reasons, but that would only be valid if we were worshiping our own gods rather than blonde Jesus. Africans wake up oooo

  6. It’s not a mystery! You see that something is not right, now go further; connect the dots.

    “When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the land and the missionaries had the Bible. They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.” –Jomo Kenyatta

    The pattern seen by Kenyatta has been repeated around the world where ever imperial conquest and colonialism too place. Whether it be in Africa, the Americas, or Asia-Pacific. Religion was used as a weapon to pacify, control, enslave and conquer others to make the work of extracting their resources easier.

    In Africa your people were forced into adopting a foreign religion, this means that your ancestral heritage, wisdom and strength was cut off. That’s is why most of the countries in Africa are so lost because they are still being duped into believing something that is not from themselves.

    Africans will never figure it out as long as they keep using tools that oppressed their ancestors to try to uplift themselves. Go back to the fundamental philosophies of your own religions, because the answers have always been there. And read the Great Correction or something similar (if there is such a thing) that shows you the truth of the origin and agenda of the world’s dominant religions.

  7. What is most amazing, my Jamaican 12 year old self instinctively knew that poverty and religion were inextricably linked, though I could not articulate it, nor did I possess the world view to substantiate my intuitive.
    Your piece pulled no punches and took no hostages in laying bare the facts. It’s pathetically disturbing watching my people flounder aimlessly in the biggest lie ever told to mankind…what’s even more devastating than the lie itself is the sheer number of people who believe it.
    Africa, top to bottom be the epicenter of this cancer.

    Good job.

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