The Role of Christian Churches in Geo-Economical and Geopolitical Rivalry of European Nations in Africa: 20th – 21st Centuries


Ivan Zakharov


The article analyses the dynamics of Africa’s religious landscape from the perspective of European nations’ rivalry in 1910–2010 with particular attention towards the largest Christian denominations in the region – Catholic, Anglican, Dutch Reformed and Pentecostal Churches. The time frame under review is divided into Colonial and Postcolonial stages. It is established, that during Colonial stage the spread of Western Christianity in Africa was extensive and was largely motivated by the geopolitical and geo-economic interests of the leading world nations. The spread of Protestantism and Catholicism in Africa was determined by the state-confessional principle – religions formed stable nuclei in territories where they enjoyed the long-term support of colonial powers and carried out the function of its legitimation. In Postcolonial stage, due to the decline of metropolitan’s influence, Christian churches, numbering millions of adherents, have been turning into independent political and economic actors in African countries. Their competitiveness is determined by the attractiveness of the intra and extra-cult “product” offered by religions as well as the accumulated political and social partnerships of the Churches and other countries, including the governments of leading world powers, international and local organizations. In this regard, the spatial dynamics of the largest denominations of Christianity, especially Protestant, begins to acquire an intensive character, but the expansion of the nuclei of Christianity in the second half of the 20th and beginning of the 21st centuries still preserved. This led to the “alignment” of the Christianity geospace – if, most African countries in the early 20th century were characterized by the absolute dominance of one denomination, then by the 21st century there are almost no such countries. In other words, the boundaries of Christianity’s nucleus “blurred” due to an increase of intra-religious diversity. The article emphasizes that the role of Pentecostal Churches has grown significantly, which in the wake of the global evangelization movement have become the most important agents for the spread of the ideas of cultural, economic and political globalization in Africa. The author assumes further strengthening of the Pentecostal, Charismatic and some other denominations of Christianity in terms of their socio-political, economical and cultural influence on African countries.


Africa, religious landscape, Western Christianity, missionary, religious competition, geography of religions, Pentecostalism




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