While many parts of the Western world worries that their millennials are turning away from religion, Africa appears to face an opposite reality: that its young is highly religious. So passionate are some young Africans about religion that many times, they outnumber their elders in interest.
In one country, this interest has been captured by research. According to a global analysis, Ghana is one of two countries in the world and the only country in Africa where young people are more religious than their elders.
According to Washington-based Pew Research Center’s recent report titled, The Age Gap in Religion Around The World, in 46 out of 106 countries, people between the ages of 18 and 39 are less likely to say religion is very important to them than adults over the age of 40. In only two countries, Ghana and the former Soviet republic of Georgia, the opposite is true.
Although Ghanaians are generally very religious, their young are even more so. For one, young Ghanaians are more likely to identify with a religious group. They are also more likely to consider religion very important in their lives than their elders do. “In Ghana – where young adults are also more likely to be affiliated – 91% of younger adults say religion is very important in their lives, compared with 85% of older adults,” Pew says.
Unlike Ghana, most of the world’s young people have turned away from religion. This cuts across various religious and economic classes.
“Although the age gap in religious commitment is larger in some nations than in others, it occurs in many different economic and social contexts – in developing countries as well as advanced industrial countries, in Muslim-majority nations as well as predominantly Christian states, and in societies that are, overall, highly religious as well as those that are comparatively secular,” Pew notes.
Why? Researchers say people turn to religion as they get older and face mortality. Moreover, economic progress means that people become less religious. “Each generation in a steadily developing society would be less religious than the last, which would explain why young adults are less religious than their elders at any given time,” Pew explains.
Although Western philosophers like Nietzsche, Marx and Freud believed that people would become less religious at the turn of the 20th century, countries like Ghana prove that the opposite is true. In fact, Pew says that the most religious areas of the world are experiencing the fastest population growth, due to high fertility rates and having relatively young populations.
As of March 2018, Ghana’s population was nearly an estimated 30 million people. Its population growth rate is 2.5 per cent and almost 40% of its population is made of youth.