Doing ‘Good’ Business In Africa

Nkulu Madonko is the CEO for the Common Good Foundation, and draws on 25 years of corporate human resources experience in his work as a life and team coach. He holds an MBA in Executive Management from the UCT Graduate School of Business and an Honours in Industrial Psychology from Rhodes University. He is passionate about partnering with individuals who have a deep desire for impactful lives, and is a qualified advanced practitioner with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Coaches and Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA).

Christian business leaders who want to integrate biblical principles into their businesses understand that their companies exist for a greater purpose – to honour God, create wealth, and support the community through Christian service. This is a company’s mission statement redefined – with eternal objectives.

In chapter three of his letter to Titus, Paul reminds us to “be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good” (my emphasis). He then re-affirms that God’s saving grace towards us is “not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy”. He also writes that, because of Christ’s sacrificial love for us, we have become “heirs who have the confidence that we have everlasting life”. Paul ends the chapter with this powerful statement: “I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone” (my emphasis).

While ‘doing good’ certainly means “always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15), it means more. These passages demonstrate that the early church saw themselves as a group of people called to serve and build their communities. Business and wealth creation is important to God – to glorify Him, serve the common good, and further His kingdom. When we as believers use our ‘time, treasures and talents’ to serve our city and nation, we extend the reign of Christ through a practical demonstration of His love in and through our work – and therein find true purpose and significance.

Globally, and on the African continent, Christians who lead businesses have the opportunity to build successful companies, that build flourishing communities. They have the ability to create financial, social and spiritual capital and then re-invest this capital back into their communities. Even small businesses can have a significant impact – by providing sustained employment to one low-income or unemployed individual, a whole family can be lifted out of poverty. Work extends dignity, and has a generational impact. For businessmen and women, ‘doing something good’ that is “excellent and profitable for everyone” may take many forms:

  • Building a business that demonstrates ethical and an effective stewardship of God’s resources.
  • Supporting individuals who have had limited opportunities to develop valuable, in-demand skills and competencies.
  • Creating products or provide services that meet real needs at a fair price.

Historically, business leaders have most often been asked to give money to and pray for missions and/or non-profits. Recently, however, we have seen the mobilisation of experienced Christian businessmen and women across the African continent, who provide kingdom-focused expertise in areas such as:

  • Financial consulting: Analysing performance measures and business operations.
  • Strategic planning: Developing the vision and mission of a company.
  • CEO coaching: Assisting and mentoring company management in best business practices.
  • Board and staff training: Sharing executive, legal, or operational knowledge.
  • Start-up support: Providing appropriate business models.

There are vast opportunities to deploy business expertise and capital today, especially when we consider that small- and medium-sized businesses form the backbone of most economies – creating value, increasing wealth and causing social transformation. However, several challenges still need to be addressed before we will see biblical, positive transformation across the African continent gain momentum:

  • The sacred versus secular mindset: Many cultures still view business and ministry as separate (and sometimes opposing) spheres. Thus, they may view businesses as greedy and unethical entities.
  • Overlooking certain practices for the sake of social impact: Christian business leaders with a desire for transformation and development tend to permit unprofitable practices to continue because of their ‘social good’. Striking the proper balance is crucial. The business must thrive (not just survive) to enable long-term spiritual, social and economic flourishing.
  • Financing and debt issues: Who should invest in Christian businesses that have a heart for community transformation and development? How much debt should a Christian business have? What kind of returns do the shareholders expect?

Businesses led by Christians may be one of the greatest vehicles in the 21st century to spread the gospel, lift people out of poverty, and build stronger and more stable communities across the African continent. The challenges will be great, but the impact will be even greater. May many men and women in business be stirred by God to better steward and deploy their knowledge, skills and experience – for the sake of flourishing communities and an eternal inheritance.

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Nkulu Madonko