Pope Francis is in eastern Africa Thursday, carrying his warnings about climate change and poverty that have become the hallmark of his papacy.
He arrived in Kenya on Wednesday, beginning a six-day tour that will include stops in Uganda and the Central African Republic. Pope Francis used his first stop in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, to warn of the “grave environmental crisis” of climate change.
“Kenya’s really been at the forefront of development of renewable energy in the region, and is doing a lot of work, particularly on geo-thermal and wind energy,” said Adjoa Anyimadu, who researches East Africa for UK-based think tank Chatham House.
Anyimadu said the Pope’s emphasis on the poor will resonate in Kenya, as well.
“While Kenya’s had really steady, sustained economic growth for a number of years — about 5 percent — it still does have a significantly poor population, particularly in rural areas,” said Anyimadu, adding that rampant corruption is a significant factor in that poverty.
Temple University’s Leonard Swidler, who studies how Catholic messages play out in different cultures, said the Pope should use the attention of African leaders on this trip to challenge corruption.
“It almost totally destroys a developing economy,” said Swidler. “It’s much worse than the amount of money that is dissipated, it just permeates the whole of the economic system. And it’s like throwing sand into the gears. It just grinds it almost to a halt. And so this is certainly a devastatingly important issue for sub-Saharan Africa.”
Meeting with Kenyan leaders on Wednesday, the Pope asked officials to “work with integrity and transparency” for the common good.