Connect with us


Prophets Of Profit

It’s one of the fastest growing and most controversial businesses in Africa. Many pay millions in the cash-for-prayers-answered game that has fostered a $10-billion investment company.




It was a strange and unsettling experience on a Thursday night; easier to shrink from than describe.

It was Walter Magaya’s first South African crusade at the Pretoria Showgrounds; 54 kilometers from Johannesburg. The crowd sang and danced as the Zimbabwean founder of Prophetic, Healing and Deliverance (PHD) Ministries took the stage.

As we sat, there was a sudden, soul-rattling chill; accompanied by shrieks. A woman ran through the congregation. Speaking in a strange language no one could understand. She sounded like two different people; one male, one female. She lost control.

“Leave me, Leave me!” she screams, as Magaya’s ushers shepherded her to the front of the stage; closer to the charismatic preacher.

In a green shirt and jeans, the woman squirmed on the ground; tearing her hair. Her eyebrows knit as she appeared consumed by rage.

“Leave me alone!” she shrieked; trying to bite the ushers’ gripping hands.

From the stage above booms the voice of Magaya.

“Come out, come out,” he says, attempting to command the demons he believes are in the frantic woman. The woman vomits.

There are 50 more people; screaming, rolling on the ground and vomiting.

This is the theater of the faithful on which the curtain went up with the arrival of Magaya, at OR Tambo, two nights before. Hundreds filled the Johannesburg airport to welcome him. They sang, danced and carried large posters like he was a rock star or politician.

This is more than worship. It’s also a thriving business that’s turning over millions every year. People risk their lives to get close to Magaya. Last year, 11 people died in a stampede during a crusade in Kwekwe in Zimbabwe.

“We have put measures in place to make sure something like that never happens again,” says Magaya.

On this night in Pretoria, people ran to the stage to offer cash for the answer of prayers.

This frantic scene is being played out across Africa. The commercialization of churches is arguably one of the fastest growing businesses in the continent.

Magaya claims to pull 200,000 people every week to his Harare church. Many of the faithful dig deep into torn pockets. Most earn about $350 a month; yet they pay handsomely for this spectacular display of power from above.

Money is scarce in Zimbabwe right now. According to independent Harare-based economist, John Robertson, the total workforce in the formal sector is about 700,000 people; out of a population of 14 million.

“We employed that number in 1968 when the population was one third of its present size. So employment has gone backwards at an alarming rate,” he says.

“Part of our problem is that production workers’ wages are making many of our goods uncompetitive. Wages are lower in China and many other countries, but productivity is higher elsewhere because businesses have been able to keep up with changing technology. Zimbabwean factories have not. So, wages plus productivity are working against us as all imports are now cheaper than local products.”

No matter how hard times are, still they come. Thousands offer money in hope of riches and health. They call it partnerships; giving to receive.

Magaya claims he is a trillionaire in spirit; but is unable to calculate his worth, that could be frowned upon by the scriptures.

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” so says Matthew 19, verse 23, in the Bible. Magaya believes people should also live comfortably on earth.

“We all want to go to heaven but we all want to stay on earth. No one wants to die now. Before you go to heaven, what about now? [Jesus] was rich yet he became poor for our riches and we should not only focus on one part. We are underutilizing Jesus. He wants you to go to heaven, but he also wants you healthy on earth. He wants you to be happy, married,” he says.

“I don’t see anything wrong with people in ministry living a good life because they represent the largest corporation (Kingdom of God) on the earth.”

It is wealth that began with 45 followers and now has hundreds of thousands who give. His ministry has no board or clear means of regulation. Many, outside the church, question how he maintains his alleged lavish lifestyle. Word is, Magaya makes around $2 million a month.

Critics say churches like Magaya’s exist to boost wallets and egos; without transparency, nor accountability. Magaya counters he is accountable to his financial director.

“I created a team which governs me. My wife has a salary and I have a salary. If I go to [the financial director] and ask for $20,000 to give to someone, they know how God speaks, I have trained them, they will give me that money,” he says.

Magaya says his ministry does not depend on offerings and tithes. It is bankrolled by a multitude that understands, have been healed, or merely want to support – the churches call these donations seed.

“The finance team has pushed a lot for me to have nice things. The people that give money actually think my living standards are low and I should upgrade them. Whenever the church and my financial directors decide to get me things; that’s the only time I get them,” he says.

The Financial Director of PHD Ministries, Nelson Marimo, every inch the accountant, says he makes sure every penny given to the church is banked and accounted for.

“Three people in the ministry, including myself, have access to the account. The prophet has no access to it. He doesn’t have anything to do with the money. It’s our decision what he gets. If he needs anything we advise him correctly about the funds available,” says Marimo.

“We cannot put a price on what he is worth or what he should have. He has done so many things for us and the people.”

Brendon Strauss, the Food Distribution Co-ordinator for the Bryanston Methodist Church in South Africa, says prosperity churches give a bad name to other churches. He says the church is not meant to be run as a business.

“The bible says people should give 10% of whatever God blesses them with to say thank you and that’s all God asks for,” Strauss says.

He says his church helps people in the community without demanding money from the congregation.

“We for example get food from shops and give to the needy in shelters and HIV support groups. We don’t subscribe to selling things in the church. Pastors get stipends for their role and it is enough for them to survive.”

Father Xolani Dlwati of St Monnica’s Anglican Church in Midrand, South Africa, says the most import thing is to help people understand that healing comes from God and churches are just vehicles of healing.

“The challenge is our ignorance where we don’t study the bible and see what the bible says. People need knowledge so they can see if they are being taken for a ride. The grace of God is sufficient for all. You cannot be paying back the priest for blessings God has given you. If you want to give, you can do so voluntarily through giving thanks and not because you are being forced to,” says Dlwathi.

Prosperity preachers sometimes find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Many followers give money for results. A problem arises when the promises are not kept. In Magaya’s words, “When people give money, they partner with the vision [of the ministry]”.

It’s not always that simple. Earlier this year, Magaya was hit with a nearly $2-million lawsuit by a Harare couple who allegedly gave him money and cars to fulfil a prophecy that they would own an airline. The Zimbabwean entrepreneurs, Upenyu and Blessing Mashangwa, behind the lawsuit, allegedly also “seeded” $15,000 towards this prophecy.

Blessing says they came into contact with Magaya when they were selling their eight-bedroom house in the Harare suburbs.

“Magaya requested to see us… about an airline vision he claims he had received from God when he visited the property we were selling. We worship in (UFIC Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa’s church) and we felt if there was any airline deal then Prophet Makandiwa would tell us, therefore there was no need to meet him and we denied meeting him,” she says.

They eventually sold the house for $450,000 to Magaya.

“At the time we had three offers ranging between $500,000 to $550,000. We sold the house for a lower offer because we felt we were supporting the work of God,” she says.

According to her, Magaya asked them to “seed” for the airline prophecy to come to fruition. The couple seeded a 2014 Land Rover Discovery 4 Limited Edition. Magaya denies this.

So, does Magaya accept gifts from the poor?

“I accept gifts because whoever gives is blessed. If I don’t accept, I will be blocking someone else’s blessings,” he says.

Magaya says that he educates more than 5,000 children each year and passes on 90% of all he receives.

PHD Ministries is not the only church accepting gifts and it can turn ugly.

Zimbabwean single mother, Amanda Tshuma, says she left the Roman Catholic Church in search of miracles. She went to a Pentecostal church in Bulawayo.

“The situation in Zimbabwe is very hard. I was starting a business because I had lost my job. Every Sunday, the pastor would tell us to give money in tithe and offerings and also seed so that God can bless us,” she says.

Because of her search for economic emancipation, Tshuma did what she was told.

“I seeded almost everything I had. I even took the little money I had to start my business and gave to the church.”

After two years of waiting for a miracle, life became unbearable.

“I had debt and couldn’t afford food or a place to stay and I got kicked out,” says Tshuma.

The church, the one place she expected help from, didn’t help.

“The pastor wouldn’t even let me and my children sleep in the church while I thought of a plan. That’s when I saw that he doesn’t care. I left the church and I no longer attend any church because I don’t know who is after my money and who wants to help me go to heaven.”

Tshuma refuses to name the church for fear of retribution.

Like Magaya, many of these preachers are seen to be as much about profit as prophecies. Nigeria’s TB Joshua, Chris Okotie, Matthew Ashimolowo and Chris Oyakhilome live like rock stars and pull large congregations. In South Africa, some pastors have been known to make people eat grass, hair, snakes and drink petrol, all in the name of Jesus.

In the Christian Bible, Jesus turned the money changers out of the temple.

“It is written,” Jesus said to the traders, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers”.

In the 21st century, money has a home in many churches which sell copies of the sermons, gospel music videos and anointing oil. During Magaya’s crusade in Pretoria, worshippers bought both a DVD and anointing oil for R100 ($7.5).


Like in any business, style and reputation are huge marketing and selling points. This is not just an African thing. In Los Angeles in the United States (US), some pastors flaunt their wealth through a television reality show called Preachers of L.A. These pastors live in mansions, drive expensive cars and wear the latest fashion.

“P. Diddy, JZ, they are not the only ones that should be driving Ferraris and living in large houses,” says Bishop Ron Gibson on the show’s 2013 trailer.

Pastor Jay Haizlip says “the Bible says that those who sow among us should reap from us, that’s implying that preachers should be taken care of.”

“The Bible says I wish above all things that you would prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. I believe that,” declares Bishop Clarence McClendon, one of the stars of the show.

Most of those who believe in these charismatic pastors don’t mind coughing up.

“It is our will as congregants to make sure they [pastors] are safe and all their needs are met. The only problem comes when they get richer and forget the poor. The media is only focusing on one side of the story. A lot of good things are happening in the church but no one is reporting about it. Most of them are rich but they take care of the poor. No one sees that,” says one of Magaya’s followers, Panashe Mandebvu.

These fundraising schemes make religion more emotive and controversial. Governments and religious groups in Africa are taking notice. The State is wading into the realm of prayer.

The government-backed Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities, in South Africa, recently launched an investigation into the commercialization of religion.

“We are launching an investigative study on the commercialization of religion and the abuse of people’s belief systems in terms of when these institutions are being run, how are they being run, where is their funding going into, who collects how much and what do they do with the money, where does the money eventually go to, what are the governing principles that are there,” says chairperson Thoko Mkhwanazi-Xaluva.

Findings will be released in April.

Magaya’s advice?

“If you feel like someone is eating your money, the best thing is not to give them.”

According to Statistics South Africa, based on their 2001 study, almost 80% of South Africa’s population follows the Christian faith. This means about 80% of the population are inclined to give money towards the Christian churches, steering the debate towards church taxation.

In South Africa, churches are classified under Section 15(1) of the Constitution, one of the most liberal in the world. This means they are registered to provide services without intent to make a profit.

According to the South African Revenue Services (SARS), non-profit organizations take a shared responsibility with government for the social and developmental needs of the country. Preferential tax treatment is designed to nurture non-profit organizations.

“The preferential tax treatment for not for profit organizations is however not automatic and organizations that meet the requirements set out in the Income Tax Act, 1962, must apply for this exemption. If the exemption application has been approved by SARS, the organization is registered as a Public Benefit Organisation (PBO) and allocated a unique PBO reference number,” says SARS on their website.

A 2012 report by The Economist estimated the annual spending by the Vatican and church-owned entities in the US to be around $170 billion. According to FORBES, Catholic Charities USA has annual revenue of $4.39 billion. According to a 2012 University of Tampa study, not taxing churches is costing US government coffers an estimated $71 billion each year.

Steven Friedman, a University of Johannesburg political scientist, who has specialized in the study of democracy, says governments need to be careful when they come up with ways to curb the rise of churches making money.

“Some churches are exploitative but it’s simply not clever people preying on the poor. We need to be careful with the interventions we put in place. Everybody should pay tax but where do you draw the line? How do you put it into law when there are so many different churches,” he says.

“I am not sure there is a solution beyond encouraging people that are being exploited to stop being exploited.”

Magaya counters that churches are neither businesses nor exploiters.

“It is very wrong to tax churches because churches are not being celebrated enough for the job they are doing. They [authorities] must actually look at areas where they can make sure that they celebrate churches,” he says.

In Kenya, the government has had enough of fly-by-night churches. Last year, it issued a ban on the registration of new churches; following a television exposé of a Salvation Healing Ministries pastor, Victor Kanyari, tricking his followers into donating seed money.

Kenya’s Attorney General, Githu Muigai, said in a press conference early this year, it is not the policy of the government of the Republic of Kenya to interfere with the freedom of religion and worship. The government also called for fresh registration of existing churches. The religious bodies were also required to file details of their financial returns with the registrar of societies.

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world,” so says the Bible. Maybe words worth thinking about if you go to church this Sunday.

The Day I Was Attacked By Demons

“If I could hit her with my camera, I would have,” I remember thinking.

In the midst of Walter Magaya’s service, it was drama. One by one, men and women were flocking to the stage claiming they were possessed by demons. I clicked away.

Suddenly, like a rugby tackle, I felt someone grab me around my thighs; it was a woman. She grabbed me, lifted me, and the next thing I was on the ground fighting. My one hand was in the air to protect my camera and the other was pushing her away to protect the sensitive parts of my body. She was mumbling loudly and crying. It took three ushers to make her let go.

I got up, ran away from the demon zone to where I was seated, checked for vomit, I was clean but felt dirty nonetheless. An usher who saw the attack ran to me and asked if I was okay. I was fine, but I looked back and thought “what the f**k did I just go through?”

For a split second during my ordeal, I thought the demons were coming for me. Had I known the day was going to be dramatic, I would have taken a long lens, worn a pair of work boots and a helmet.

Despite the ‘demonized’ woman, the hospitality shown by one of the members, Jerome Galiao, was great.

All I have now is a cut on my finger as a reminder.

Continue Reading


How LinkedIn Is Looking To Help Close The Ever-Growing Skills Gap





As the job market has evolved, so too have the skills required of seekers. But when 75% of human resources professionals say a skills shortage has made recruiting particularly challenging in recent months, it would appear as though the workforce hasn’t quite kept pace. Now LinkedIn is stepping in to help close the gap.

On Tuesday, the professional social network announced the launch of a “Skills Assessments” tool, through which users can put their knowledge to the test. Those who pass are given the opportunity to display a badge that reads “passed” next to the skill on their profile pages, a validation of sorts that LinkedIn hopes will encourage skills development among its users and help better match potential employees with the right employers.  

READ MORE | Not Just Equality, But Recognition Of Excellence

“We see an evolving labor market and much more sophistication in how recruiters and hiring managers look for skills. … We also see a changing learning market,” says Hari Srinivasan, senior director of product management at LinkedIn Learning. “The combination of those two made us excited about changing our opportunity marketplace to make the hiring side and the learning side work better together.”

So how exactly does it work? Let’s say a user wants to showcase her proficiency in Microsoft Excel. Rather than simply listing “Excel” in the skills section of her profile, she can take a multiple-choice test to demonstrate the extent to which she is an expert.

If she aces the test, not only will a badge verifying her aptitude will appear on her profile, but she will be more likely to surface in searches by recruiters, who can search for candidates by skill in the same way they might do so by college or employer. If she fails, she can take the test again, but she’ll have to wait a few months—plenty of time to develop her skillset.   

The tool has been in beta mode since March, and while just 2 million people have used it—a mere fraction of LinkedIn’s 630 million members—early results seem promising. According to LinkedIn, members who’ve completed skills assessments have been nearly 30% more likely to land jobs than their counterparts who did not take the tests.

READ MORE | Challenging The Gender Divide

“This has been a really good way for members to represent what they know, what they are good at,” says Emrecan Dogan, LinkedIn group product manager.

While new to LinkedIn, the practice of assessing candidates’ skills has been a standard among hiring managers for decades. But when research commissioned by LinkedIn revealed that 69% of employees feel that skills have become more important to recruiters than education, LinkedIn felt as though this was the time to give job seekers the opportunity to prove themselves from the get-go.

As important as the hard skills that members can put to the test through LinkedIn’s new tool may be, Dawn Fay, senior district president at recruiting firm Robert Half, encourages those on both side of the job search not to forget the importance of soft skills. “You wouldn’t want to rule somebody in or out just based on how they did on one particular skill assessment,” she says.

“Have another data point that you can use, question people about how they did on something and see if it’s something that can feed into the puzzle to find out if somebody is going to be a good fit.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

Continue Reading


Why The High Number Of Employees Quitting Reveals A Strong Job Market





While recession fears may be looming in the minds of some, new data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the economy and job market may actually be strengthening.

The quits rate—or the percentage of all employees who quit during a given month—rose to 2.4% in July, according to the BLS’s Jobs Openings and Labor Turnover report, released Tuesday. That translates to 3.6 million people who voluntarily left their jobs in July.

This is the highest the quits rate has been since April 2001, just five months after the Labor Department began tracking it. According to Nick Bunker, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, the quits rate tends to be a reflection of the state of the economy.

READ MORE | 5 Things You Should Do The Night Before A Job Interview

“The level of the quits rate really is a sign of how strong the labor market is,” he says. “If you look at the quits rate over time, it really drops quite a bit when the labor market gets weak. During the recession it was quite low, and now it’s picked up.”

The monthly jobs report, released last week, revealed that the economy gained 130,000 jobs in August, which is 20,000 less than expected, and just a few weeks earlier, the BLS issued a correction stating that it had overestimated by 501,000 how many jobs had been added to the market in 2018 and the first quarter of 2019. Yet despite all that, employees still seem to have confidence in the job market.Today In: Leadership

The quits level, according to the BLS, increased in the private sector by 127,000 for July but was little changed in government. Healthcare and social assistance saw an uptick in departures to the tune of 54,000 workers, while the federal government saw a rise of 3,000.

READ MORE | 5 Questions You Should Never Ask During A Job Interview

The July quits rate in construction was 2.4%, while the number in trade, professional and business services, and leisure and hospitality were 2.6%, 3.1% and 4.8%, respectively. Bunker of Indeed says that the industries that tend to see the highest rate of departuresare those where pay is relatively low, such as leisure and hospitality. An unknown is whether employees are quitting these jobs to go to a new industry or whether they’re leaving for another job in the same industry. Either could be the case, says Bunker.

In a recently published article on the industries seeing the most worker departures, Bunker attributes the uptick to two factors—the strong labor market and faster wage growth in the industries concerned: “A stronger labor market means employers must fill more openings from the ranks of the already employed, who have to quit their jobs, instead of hiring jobless workers. Similarly, faster wage growth in an industry signals workers that opportunities abound and they might get higher pay by taking a new job.”

Even so, recession fears still dominate headlines. According to Bunker, the data shows that when a recession hits, employers pull back on hiring and workers don’t have the opportunity to find new jobs. Thus, workers feel less confident and are less likely to quit.

READ MORE | South Africa’s Informal Sector: Why People Get Stuck In Precarious Jobs

“As the labor market gets stronger, there’s more opportunities for workers who already have jobs. So they quit to go to new jobs or they quit in the hopes of getting new jobs again,” Bunker says. He also notes that recession fears may have little to do with the job market, instead stemming from what is happening in the financial markets, international relations or Washington, D.C.

So what does the BLS report say about the job market? “Taking this report as a whole, it’s indicating that the labor market is still quite strong, but then we lost momentum,” Bunker says. While workers are quitting their jobs, he says that employers are pulling back on the pace at which they’re adding jobs. “While things are quite good right now and workers are taking advantage of that,” he notes, “those opportunities moving forward might be fewer and fewer if the trend keeps up.”

-Samantha Todd; Forbes

Continue Reading


No Seat At The Global Table For Indigenous African Cuisine



Gastronomic tourism based on African food could easily increase and create new value chains that unlock billions in untapped wealth for the continent, but what is stopping us?

Food and tourism are an integral part of most economies, globally. Food is undeniably a core part of all cultures and an increasingly important attraction for tourists. To satisfy their wanderlust, contemporary tourists require an array of experiences that include elements of education, entertainment, picturesque scenery and culinary wonders.  The link between food and tourism allows destinations to develop local economies; and food experiences help to brand and market them, as well as supporting the local culture and knowledge systems.

 This is particularly important for rural communities, where 61% of sub-Saharan Africans live, according to the World Bank last year. These communities have often felt the brunt of urbanization, which has resulted in a shift away from rural economies. If implemented effectively, Africa could get a piece of the gastronomic tourism pie, which was worth $8.8 trillion last year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

World-renowned chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu and author of her self-published cookbook, Through the Eyes Of An African Chef. Picture: Motlaban Monnakgotla

However, there is currently very little public information to pique the interest of tourists about African food. World-renowned South African chef Nompumelelo Mqwebu sought to remedy this with her self-published cookbook, Through the Eyes Of An African Chef.

“I think where it was very clear to me that I needed to do something was when I went to cooking school. I trained at Christina Martin School of Food and Wine. I thought I was actually going to get training on South African food and, somehow, I assumed we were talking indigenous food.

 “I was shocked that we went through the whole year’s curriculum and we didn’t cover anything that I ate at home; we didn’t cover anything that my first cousins, who are Sotho, ate in Nelspruit (in South Africa’s Mpumalanga Province); we didn’t cover anything that would come from eSwatini, which is where my mother is from,” Mqwebu says.

By self-publishing, she has ultimately contributed to a value chain that has linked local food producers and suppliers, which includes agriculture, food production, country branding and cultural and creative industries.

“I am a member of Proudly South African, not only my business, but the book as well. Part of the reason is that the cookbook was 100% published in South Africa. So, everybody who worked on the cookbook, and printing, was all in South Africa, which is something quite rare these days because authors have their books published abroad.”

The Proudly South African campaign is a South African ‘buy local’ initiative that sells her cookbook on their online platform as its production adheres to the initiative’s campaign standards. Self-publishing has allowed Mqwebu to promote her book for two years and to directly communicate with her audience in a way she thought was best, while exposing her to a vast community of local networks. She recalls her first step towards creating her own body of work.

Amadumbe gnocchi. Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

“I was in culinary school when I wrote the recipe for amadumbe (potato of the tropics) gnocchi. We were making gnocchi and I thought, ‘so why aren’t we using amadumbe because it’s a starch?’ and when I tasted it, I thought, ‘this could definitely work’. I started doing my recipes then.

 “And there was talk about, ‘we don’t have desserts as Africans’. I did some research and found we ate berries, we were never big on sugar to begin with. That’s why I took the same isidudu (soft porridge made from ground corn) with pumpkin that my grandmother used to make and that became my dessert. “I also found that when I went to libraries looking for indigenous recipes, I couldn’t really find something that spoke to me as a chef. I found content that looked like history books. It was not appealing. It was not something, as a chef, I could proudly present to another chef from a different part of the world, so I knew I had to write my book,” Mqwebu says about the award-winning recipe book that chronicles African cuisine.

Isidudu (soft porridge made from ground corn) with pumpkin. Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

Financial and health benefits

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2018, the tourism sector “contributed 319 million jobs, representing one in 10 of all jobs globally and is responsible for one in five of all new jobs created in the world over the last five years. It has increased its share of leisure spending to 78.5%, meaning 21.5% of spending was on business.”

To narrow in on how lucrative food can be, the World Food Travel Association estimates that visitors spend approximately 25% of their travel budget on food and beverages. The figure can get as high as 35% in expensive destinations, and as low as 15% in more affordable destinations. “Confirmed food lovers also spend a bit more than the average of 25% spent by travelers in general.”

However, there is a widely-held view that the African continent is not doing enough to maximize its potential to also position itself as a gastronomic tourism destination, using its unique edge of indigenous knowledge systems (IKS).

“We are not a culinary destination and we will never be while we are still offering pasta as the attraction for our tourists,” Mqwebu says.

Dr George Sedupane, who is the Coordinator of the Bachelor of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems program in South Africa’s North-West University, echoes Mqwebu’s sentiments.

“I often cringe when I go to conferences and there are guests from all over the world and we serve them pasta. Why would they come from Brazil to eat pasta here? They can have pasta in Italy. Why don’t we serve them umngqusho (samp and beans)?

Umngqusho (samp and beans). Picture: Nompumelelo Mqwebu and Nicole Louw Photography

“We need to be creating those experiences around our culture. We are failing to capitalize on our strengths. There is a lack of drive to celebrate what we have,” says Sedupane, who also teaches modules and supervises research in indigenous health and nutrition.

Writer and historian Sibusiso Mnyanda says current innovations in African food technology are born out of necessity, rather tourism and cultural ambitions.

“Food security is becoming an issue that is leading to IKS around farming being prioritized. In Nigeria, they are innovating dry season farming, because of deforestation and soil being de-cultivated. 

“So those indigenous knowledge strategies are being used in countries where it is a necessity and where there are enough advances related to the fourth industrial revolution. The traditional ways of producing food are not only much more organic, they are also crop-efficient,” Mnyanda says.

Nigeria may have inadvertently innovated a health solution related to colon cancer through its diet. Sedupane tells FORBES AFRICA an anecdote.

“There was a study where the colons of an African country that did not consume a lot of meat was compared to Europeans. The Africans had a much better profile as a result and there are people who want to buy African stool to get that kind of rich bacteria, that you get on an African plant-based diet.”

Dr George Sedupane, who is the Coordinator of the Bachelor of the Indigenous Knowledge Systems. Picture: Supplied

The study Sedupane is referring to was conducted in Nigeria and it states that: “Nigeria showed the average annual incidence of colorectal cancer was 27 patients per year. This shows that even if it seems that incidence rates are increasing in Nigeria, such rates are still about one-tenth of what is seen in the truly developed countries.”

In a bid to find reasons for this rarity of colon and rectal cancer, the study concluded that, among other reasons, the protective effects of Nigeria’s starch-based, vegetable-based, fruit-based, and spicy, peppery diet, and geographical location which ensures sunshine all year round, played a role in the country’s colon health.

Interestingly, it seems the potential value of African food could not only be based on what goes in but what also comes out as healthy faecal matter is big business globally. In 2015, The Washington Post published that one could potentially earn $13,000 a year selling their poop. 

The American-based company OpenBiome has been processing and shipping frozen stool to patients who are very sick with infections of a bacteria called C.difficile. It causes diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, leaving some sufferers house-bound. “Antibiotics often help, but sometimes, the bacteria rears back as soon as treatment stops. By introducing healthy faecal matter into the gut of a patient (by way of endoscopy, nasal tubes, or swallowed capsules), doctors can abolish C. difficile for good… And yes, they pay for healthy poop: $40 a sample, with a $50 bonus if you come in five days a week. That’s $250 for a week of donations, or $13,000 a year,” the publication stated.

Sedupane is of the view that a diet which includes indigenous foods could vastly improve one’s quality of life.

He says small changes could be made, such as including more of indigenous greens, namely sorghum and millet, to breakfast. The grains are gluten-free and produce alkaline which boosts the pH level of fluids in the body and reduces acidity.

Moringa fruit which is an African superfood. Picture: Getty Images

“Moving to our legumes, we have indlubu (Bambara groundnut) which is very rich and helps in the secretion of serotonin in the brain. This so important nowadays with the increase of depression. It’s easy to digest, and is great for cholesterol and moderating blood sugar,” Sedupane says.

 Mnyanda is also of the view that food is imperative to health and medicinal properties. He says traditional healers primarily use natural herbs in their practice. “These are used in pain relief and healing. Things like cannabis, camphor, African potatao and red carrots. So, food is not just used for nutritional purposes.”

Other African superfoods include, Baobab fruit, Hibiscus, Tamarind, Kenkiliba, Amaranth, Moringa and pumpkin leaves. 

Cultural and historical benefits

Gastronomic tourism also includes the promotion of heritage sites that are known to revolve around dishes that are of historic importance. They enhance the travel experience, they encourage the acquisition of knowledge and a cultural exchange.

There is a unanimous view that vast amounts of knowledge have been lost to history and there is a huge knowledge gap in African societies as a result of colonization and urbanization.

“Part of the colonial agenda was to make sure food security did not belong to indigenous groups. Therefore, archiving of these knowledge systems was not a priority. Especially during industrialization, where people moved from their villages to the city you found that the knowledge got left behind,” Mnyanda says.

Abathwa (the San people) hunting. Picture: Getty Images

He offers a contemporary example of how modernization continues to push African practices to the fringes: “To this day, abathwa (the San people) hunt their meat, but you find that because of changing agricultural practices and land reform on the Kruger National Park, they are being forced to move into the cities and industrial areas, therefore they are no longer able to practice their culture of hunting. As a result, their diet is changing.” Sedupane shares the view that the fundamentals of farming and astrology have also been exiled from public knowledge.

“The fundamentals of IKS were based on the understanding of the laws of nature – how and when things were done. Harvest cycles were linked with understanding astrology. They would not harvest until certain stars were visible in the sky. There was a dependence on nature.

“With industrialization, rather than working with nature, humans are seen as being above, as controlling, as directing it. The natural cycle is often tempered with rather than trying to work with it.”

Not all is lost however. There are historical practices that have stood the test of time and continue to be a part the few foods that are internationally associated with South Africa. Mqwebu says that, “historically, we ate more plants than meat because our ancestors had to hunt and the game back then was not tame. So, there were no guarantees that you would return with meat. And that’s where things like umqwayiba (biltong) come from. They had to preserve the meat, because wasting was not part of the culture”.

Umqwayiba (biltong). Picture: Getty Images

According to a 2015 exploratory research project conducted under the guidance of research institute Tourism Research in Economic Environs and Society director Professor Melville Saayman, biltong contributes more than R2.5 billion ($163 million) to the South African economy.

Perhaps, like the faecal transporting company, Africa will soon realize the ‘wasted’ opportunity and that there is loads of money to be made in gastronomic tourism for all its inhabitants, whether they are rural or urban, technological or indigenous.

Continue Reading