Africa is the second-largest and second-most-populous continent in the world with an estimated population of over 1.3 billion people. It is home to the highest linguistic diversity in the world, with over 1500-2,000 different languages (Epstein 1998: 9). The vast linguistic diversity is attributed to historical and political developments not only across the continent but also in the world. It is widely accepted that human ancestors originated in Africa. The fact that Africa has been home to humans for longer than any other continent is one influential factor in terms of language evolution.
Christianity in Africa began shortly after the founding of the church. It was well established in North Africa in the early centuries after its founding. By the A.D. 500s, Christian missionaries had succeeded in spreading their faith into the heart of the continent. Important Africans who influenced the early development of Christianity include Tertullian, Perpetua, Felicity, Clement of Alexandria, Origen of Alexandria, Cyprian, Athanasius, and Augustine of Hippo. (1)
However, by the beginning of the 19th century, there were few practicing Christians in Africa. 80 percent of Christians lived in North America and Europe. The church in North America and Europe (global North) began to send missionaries in central and southern Africa in the early 19th century. These missions lead to an increase in the number of Christians in the African continent. Today, Africa has a significant share of the world’s 2.2 billion Christians. It has about 30 percent of the world’s evangelicals, 20 percent of the world’s Pentecostals and charismatics, and about 15 percent of the world’s Roman Catholics. (2)
The Church in the Global North has been the dominant missionary sending agent for many years. However, in recent years, the church in the global South has been responding to the call to missions (Mathew 28:19-20) and has also become a missionary-sending agent. Today the number of international missionaries from the Global South continues to increase, even as the number of missionaries sent from the Global North is decreasing. It’s a phenomenon that has marked a paradigm shift with missionaries now moving from everywhere to everywhere”. Bible translation and literacy among the minority people groups has been a catalyst for the growth of the church in Africa and other parts of the world. Africans with a call to serve in Bible translation Ministry had a challenge, in that there was no recruiting and sending organization in Africa, through which they could fulfill their call. To address the challenge, Wycliffe Africa was founded in the year 2004 to recruit Missionaries from different African countries to serve in the ministry of Bible translation.
Today, 171 million people, speaking 2115 languages, still need translation work to begin. Of these, 643 languages accounting for 25 million people live in Africa (3). If Bible translation is to be successful in Africa, it must become the vision of Christians across the continent to provide the Word of God in every African language. Are you ready to see what your church can do when God’s power is released through it? Let’s embrace what God is doing!