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The Faith of Zebulon – The missing link in Africa’s Development

Wednesday April 9 2014

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In my village lived a man called Zebulon Moturi. He was a 35-year-old faithful man of God. At his age, the Bogonko clan was getting concerned of his status as single man. Elders urged him to get married, but he would respond that God had not found him a suitable wife. As he was approaching 40, the matter became even more serious. The Clergy too were getting concerned.

Sindiga, his friend and age mate, could not withstand the barrage of questions coming from the villagers wanting to know if their son was alright. Women brought their relatives in the hope that Zebulon could get excited but instead he prayed for them and wished them well. Women plotted to deny him any sign of respect in order to provoke him into marriage.

One night Sindiga and a few friends came up with a plan in which Kabwere would be the star. Kabwere had a deep voice and came from nearby Bumburia, but was unknown to Moturi.

When night fell, they hid behind a garden of bananas next to Zebulon’s grass-thatched house. Slowly Kabwere climbed up the roof and removed grass to create a hole. Suddenly, something dropped down into the room sending Moturi on to his knees to pray for God’s help. As he knelt to pray, Kabwere called him with a deep voice, “Zebulon, Zebulon, this is the voice of the Lord”. Zebulon answered, “Yes my Lord”. “I have found a wife for you,” Kabwere said. "Thank you Lord," Zebulon responded. “Tomorrow, wake up at six a.m. and see your friend Sindiga. He will direct you to your wife–to-be,” said Kabwere.

Indeed, early the following day, Zebulon was at Sindiga’s doorstep. Sindiga looked shocked, asking Zebulon what was happening. “The Lord has given me a wife and you are to play a key role in this”. “Yes, I had a dream on this subject last night,” said Sindiga. “Wait a minute. I saw us going to Nyakongo at the marketplace and meeting this beautiful lady. Could this be your wife-to-be?” asked Sindiga. As usual, they quickly borrowed suits to wear as they travelled to Nyakongo.

An in-law of Sindiga had arranged that his sister be picked and become Zebulon’s wife. Seeing Nyamoita his wife-to-be for the first time, Zebulon was in tears: “I have waited for you for so long”. As he hugged Nyamoita she could not help it, but also broke down in tears for being dragged into a marriage. Her attempt to run away was thwarted by relatives since tradition dictated that in an arranged marriage you try your best to fit in.

Several years later, Sindiga and Kabwere decided to disclose the plan they had hatched to get him married. Zebulon laughed at them and said, “There is nothing you hatched. It was the Lord’s plan that you would find me a wife”. Today Zebulon is happily married with five children and lives in the rolling hills of Manga.


When you are down, you can choose to look sideways or upwards with passion and faith. Zebulon did. But this has been the story of the Southern hemisphere over the past 50 years. Those who looked upwards with conviction did move up, at least Singapore, Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan did. Deng Xiaoping’s upward reformist agenda in China has moved close to 300 million people out of poverty. Lula da Silva’s reform program, the Bolsa Familia moved 50 million people out of poverty.

Xiaoping and da Silva were passionate and had the faith in what they did to get to where their countries stand today. Europe’s Reformation changed the world. Sub-Saharan Africa looked sideways – for the donors – and poverty worsened.

Does faith or religion have a place in Africa’s future development? Swami Paramananda (Indian Philosopher), tells us that the origin of the word religion is "religare" meaning "to bind", but I would rather use the word ‘unite’. Also, I would use the word spirituality instead of 'religion'.

Religion or spirituality is the science and art that teaches man how to get united with the cosmos or with God. It connotes the same meaning as the word yoga. Man is not separate from the cosmos, but due to ignorance and the limitations of his mind, he identifies himself with merely his physical body. This creates the notion of fragmented consciousness or separation from the whole, hence the feeling of 'I, mine and thine.'

The world is a big family and we are all children of the one God (or cosmos for non-believers). Therefore what should concern us more is the progress of the whole world, not only ourselves. The end of economic progress is a sound material base so that the individual can evolve and flourish mentally and emotionally. Today that is far from being the case. Economic progress should be for the individual, not vice versa. What is the use of wealth or affluence if the individual does not know love, peace, freedom and bliss?

We should have these in mind, then economic progress will become easy and attainable. It should be a means to a higher end that can be reached through religion (spirituality). Once we know the end, then the means becomes justified. And the means towards such a lofty end will automatically build a better human being. With intelligent, creative, honest and peaceful people, economic progress becomes inevitable.

Of all continents, Africans trust themselves least going by the level of intra-Africa trade (10 per cent), compared to other parts of the world. Although Europeans are less religious today than Africans, religion through the Protestant Ethic, Puritanism as well as Catholicism created strong belief in Europeanism which gave rise to respect of others and trust that has become a key pillar in entrepreneurial success.


There are thousands of scholarly works attributing Buddhism to economic development in Asia to the extent that we now have Buddhist Economics. Wikipedia says that Buddhist Economics examines the psychology of the human mind and the anxiety, aspirations, and emotions that direct economic activity. A Buddhist understanding of economics aims to clear the confusion about what is harmful and beneficial in the range of human activities involving production and consumption, and ultimately tries to make human beings ethically mature.

From these arguments, there is an urgent need for Africa to re-examine how we relate to ethics that were not part of the African psychology and aspirations. It is for this reason that you find an outwardly religious-looking religious person whose actions are contrary to what you expect of them. The glaring cognitive dissonance explains why someone can steal from the church but cannot take even a penny from a funeral fund. We need to emulate Zebulon. He had the faith and conviction with his psychology fully convinced that God indeed spoke through Kabwere.

American Novelist Ayn Rand, once said in Atlas Shrugged: “Your emotional capacity is an empty motor, and your values are the fuel with which your mind fills it. If you choose a mix of contradictions, it will clog your motor, corrode your transmission and wreck you on your first attempt to move with a machine which you, the driver, have corrupted.”

We must develop our internal consistencies.

Dr Ndemo is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Business School, Lower Kabete Campus. He is a former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Information and Communication. Twitter: @bantigito