Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Vatican is coming. Is Africa ready?

Back in the '90s an old friend who worked as a manager at Playboy told me about the problems her company was facing.    With feminism on the rise, new distribution channels opening up, and faced with increasing competition from more explicit vendors, Playboy -- as a brand -- was in big trouble.

But the company's difficulties only extended to North America.   Playboy would be among the first American brands to seize upon the possibilities of the emerging Asian market.  As a result, today many people in Asia sport the Playboy logo.
Essentially, the Vatican finds itself where Playboy was in the 1990s.  Both in Europe and the Americas, the Catholic brand has long endured decline due to factors reminiscent of those which undermined Playboy:  feminism, new distribution channels, competitive upstarts (Evangelicals).  Of course, that is where the similarities end.  

Having failed to root out and punish those involved in serious crimes, the Catholic Church seems poised for free-fall in the West.    Towards sub-Saharan Africa the Vatican will no doubt turn with renewed vigor.   From Accra to Capetown, magnificent new cathedrals are likely to be built.   Looking forward, the odds that the next pope -- or the one after that -- will be an African vastly increased last week. 

The Church needs Africa, but does Africa need the Church?   Unfortunately, the Pope's anti-condom message is not what Africa most needs to hear.   How to spare Africa potentially deadly and environmentally destructive repercussions of the fall of the Church in the West?

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