Adapted from the white paper entitled Africa Calling: Entrepreneurs & Investors To Go Where Missionaries Have Gone first published by the Christian Economic Forum in 2022.
Africa. A continent known for its extremes. It is famed for its magnificent natural beauty, mineral resources, and loving people. You will often hear people say, “There is just something special about Africa,” as if the heartbeat vibrates into your soul the minute you put your foot on her soil. Sadly, the typical Western narrative is one of hopelessness, negativity, and pity.
I am privileged to call South Africa my home. My family has done so for more than 300 years. In my mind, this country and continent contain all the ingredients to have thriving communities, cities, and nations. However, this is not the case, as African nations have seen years of regression on many levels. Of course, some people genuinely care about the welfare and prosperity of South Africa and Africa. But who are these people? Do they have the means to take action against problems so overwhelming that they will truly make an impact? Where should they start?
I wish I had the answers to these complex questions. I do not. But I know the One who does. In the word of John Bloom, Jesus is “unique to anyone else in human history, (He) simply offers himself as the universal solution to all that burdens us”.
In 2017, I had the opportunity to participate in the US-based Praxis Accelerator. There, I was introduced to the concept of redemptive entrepreneurship, which in the words of Praxis means “love in organisational action – following the pattern of creative restoration through sacrifice, integrated across leadership, strategy, and operations in venture creation, innovation, and funding.”
For the first time in my 20 years of following Jesus, I realised that I did not need to decide between being an entrepreneur or an evangelist. This was my “Eureka!” moment. It also gave me the words and community in which I could explore this new realm of thought. But most importantly, it gave me exposure to older Christian leaders who have lived out this integrated calling for years.
The result of this experience led to something new. While my peers at Praxis were focused on scaling their ventures, God was speaking to me to start a new one. Fuelled by a zeal to obey, and the support of two long-time brothers (Willem Meyer and Lance van der Spuy) and the team at Praxis, Triga Ventures was born towards the end of 2017. The call was clear – build a local community where Christian entrepreneurs could have access to like-minded mentors and investors to build redemptive ventures and solve some of Africa’s pressing challenges. At long last, it felt to me that we were on to something that could bring hope and restoration to my beloved country and continent.
Now, I am not saying that Christian entrepreneurs and investors will solve all of Africa’s problems. I am also not advocating this as a superior calling or ministry to that of the evangelist, pastor, politician, lawyer, or farmer. No. We need righteous leaders in all these sectors to see true transformation. But it is an alternative way to blend faith with work that produces fruit – because when we listen, obey, and join God in what He is doing, there is a good chance that we will see the societies around us flourishing.
So, what does it mean to be the kind of founder or CEO of a venture that brings flourishing and prosperity to cities, nations, and a continent? We are still figuring this out, and I am grateful for others who have meticulously given descriptions to our beliefs. For example, Praxis defines redemptive leadership as “marked not by an ambition to live for ourselves, or even just to improve ourselves… but by becoming more surrendered, humble, accountable, generous, and rested.” For us, this simply means a total commitment to walking with God and doing all He says, in both our personal and business lives.
Triga is the Greek word for a three-horse chariot, derived from Judges 1:19 where, “Judah took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.” Despite God ‘being with’ Judah, their resources were inferior to their enemies. In ancient Rome, a triga was a type of chariot used for war, not for racing, as seen in an ancient drawing of Achilles, whose chariot was drawn by two mortal horses and one immortal horse. For us, the three horses are representative of the Trinity, with the chariot representative of business or non-profit ventures.
With this in mind, Triga focuses on entrepreneurs in Africa with a vision to build redemptive ventures that can bring glory to God and be part of the renewal of all things. Depending on the stage of their venture, we serve them through cohort-based programmes and events. These activities have yielded amazing fruit. For example, in our Accelerator programme, we have now had 61 ventures from all over South Africa, as well as Kenya, Uganda, and Nigeria. The 38 ventures who participated from 2018–2020 have created 410 new full-time jobs. They have received about US$2.2 million in funding from our Triga community and 96% of them are still in business. Considering the impact of COVID on most businesses in Africa, this is truly remarkable.
Here are a few stories of our alumni to provide a deeper understanding of the kind of problems they are solving:
These stories give hope. They illustrate that redemptive ventures have the potential to impact society in a very tangible way. We are not claiming the growth and impact of these ventures were unlocked by the greatness of Triga. Nor do we claim to have a winning strategy that guarantees success. But we do know that there has been ‘much fruit’ and a continued sense of necessity for a community like ours.
Sometimes, however, these stories feel like a drop in the ocean. The levels of poverty, corruption, unemployment, and poor health feels overwhelming. We need to do so much more and at a bigger scale.
Robert Moffat spoke one sentence to David Livingstone that shaped his future, and that of Africa. Moffat said, “In the vast plain to the north I have sometimes seen, in the morning sun, the smoke of a thousand villages where no missionary has ever been.” This was Livingstone’s call to action. He and many others followed the ‘smoke’ to bring the gospel to millions. Now, we believe it is a season where God is calling entrepreneurs and investors to go where Livingstone and other missionaries have gone. The time is now. The opportunity great.
Africa is calling. Entrepreneurs, investors, will you go?
Philip is co-founder and CEO of Triga Ventures, a community for redemptive entrepreneurs and investors in Africa. He also co-founded Community Keepers and Calling Education and served as the former’s CEO for ten years. Philip holds a PhD in Social Development from the University of Cape Town and was a Visiting Researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, in the US.