The Greatest Africans of All Time - Reader Survey Results

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The results of the Christian Action reader survey of who are the greatest Africans of all times are:

David Livingstone
David Livingstone

1. David Livingstone (1813 - 1873)

The missionary, explorer and liberator of slaves who opened up Africa for the Gospel and exposed the horrors of the Islamic slave trade in East Africa.  Dr. Livingstone walked across Africa from coast to coast before there were any roads, bridges, hospitals or shops.  He survived fevers and infections, attacks by wild animals and Muslim slave traders.  Livingstone was the first person to bring medicine and the Gospel or Christ to many remote regions of Central Africa.  He died in Zambia where his heart is buried under a tree near Chitambo's village.  He gave his life so that Africans could be freed from slavery and liberated by the Gospel of Christ. 

"The salvation of men ought to be the chief desire and aim of every Christian." David Livingstone

2. Augustine (354 - 430)

St. Augustine of Hippo (in North Africa) is considered one of the most influential theologians in Church history.  His Confessions was the first biography ever  written.  He wrote 242 books, including the monumentally important City of God which during the fall of the Roman Empire gave direction to Christians in a time of political turmoil.  Augustine was Bishop of Hippo for 34 years, combating heresy and dying in 430 AD as Vandal invaders burned his city.  Augustine faced down external Barbarian invaders and threats from heretics within the Church with boldness and Biblical clarity.

"Thou hast made us  for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee."  St. Augustine of Hippo

3. St. Mark

The founder of the Apostolic See of Alexandria, the Church in Egypt, in AD 62.  St. Mark, the disciple of St. Peter, author of the Gospel according to St. Mark, died for Christ in Alexandria.

"Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His Word by the signs that accompanied it" Mark 16:20

4. Andrew Murray (1828 - 1917)

Rev. Andrew Murray is Africa's most prolific and popular author with more titles in print and more copies in circulation worldwide than any other.  For over a century his works have never been out of print.  Andrew Murray was the first minister in the Orange Free State, and was a pastor in Worcester, Cape Town and Wellington.  In Wellington God blessed his ministry with an extra-ordinary Revival which resulted  in missionaries being trained and sent throughout Africa.  Missionaries from Andrew Murray's Sending Institute planted churches throughout Africa.

5. Robert Moffat (1795 - 1883)

Robert Moffat was the pioneer missionary and Bible translator who gave to Africa the very first complete Bible to be translated into an African language.  Moffat translated the entire Bible into Tswana, authored the first hymn in Tswana and translated the Westminster Catechism and some great hymns  of the Reformation into the Tswana language  - which he codified into writing.  Moffat also developed a remarkable friendship with King Mizilikazi and was the first to present the Gospel of Christ to the Matabele people.          

6. Bishop Samuel Ajai Crowther (1807-1891)             

Samuel Crowther, the first African bishop of the Church of England, laid solid foundations for an Evangelical church which was truly African in Nigeria.  Today there are eighteen times more Anglicans worshipping in Church every Sunday in Nigeria than there are in Great Britain.  When Samuel was thirteen years old he was captured by Muslim slave traders and sold to Portuguese slavers for transport across the Atlantic.  A British Naval squadron rescued him.  Crowther became a missionary for the Church Missionary Society and dedicated his life to freeing people from the slavery of man, sin and satan.  He laboured diligently to evangelise and discipline Yorubuland (Western Nigeria). 

7. Mary Slessor (1848 - 1915)

Mary Slessor of Calabar is renowned in Nigeria as Eko Kpukpro Owa (Mother of All the People), the pioneer missionary who ended the prevalent killing of twins.  Mary was tireless in building schools, clinics and churches, and in opposing slavery, cannibalism and witchcraft.  She adopted abandoned children and raised them as her own.  Through her sacrificial efforts the killing of twins ceased, slave trading in Calabar was eradicated, drunkenness, witchcraft and killing diminished and most of the people of Calabar came to embrace the Gospel of Christ.

8. Nelson Mandela

The living legend who, although he legalised pornography and abortion in South Africa, is respected as one who championed reconciliation instead of the reverse racism of his successor and has had the integrity to condemn the present ANC policy of appeasing Mugabe's tyranny in Zimbabwe.

9. General Charles Gordon (1833 - 1885)

As Governor of the Sudan, Gordon eradicated the slave trade in Equatoria and Bahr-el-Ghazal.  Against the orders of the British government, Gordon remained with his people in Khartoum and died at the hands of the Mahdi's forces.  His death in Khartoum brought down the British government and compelled the next administration to liberate Sudan from the murderous Calipha and make Sudan a British protectorate under which the Sudanese experienced their only 58 years of efficient government- free from corruption and slavery.

10. Ian Smith

The courageous and principled Rhodesian Prime Minister who led his country in a unilateral declaration on independence from Great Britain, and against all odds in a vicious civil war where the communist terrorists received vast amounts of support from the Soviet Union, Red China, the United Nations, the Commonwealth, the OAU and the World Council of Churches.  Ian Smith was a fighter pilot in the Second World War and was twice shot down and once fought behind enemy lines in Northern Italy, evading enemy patrols for five months.


Dr. David Livingstone the pioneer missionary explorer who died in his adopted continent dealing a deathblow to the Islamic slave trade has been voted by the readers of the Christian Action magazine as "The Greatest African of All Time". St. Augustine of Hippo, considered one of the greatest theologians on all of history, received the second largest number of votes in this survey.  St. Mark, the author of the Gospel according to St. Mark, who founded the Church in Egypt, dying for Christ in Alexandria, received the third largest amount of nominations.

As one of our subscribers put it:  "It is difficult to name the greatest Africans of all time, because it depends on what is meant with 'the greatest'.  Some Africans had tremendous influence on thousands of people's lives (i.e. families of victims being killed, etc.), others displayed rare character, like faith, integrity, courage and wisdom, while still others did not directly touch as many lives, but changed the course of history!  For me, the greatest African would be the one who demonstrated Christ's love for the world the best."

Some correspondents complained about the inclusion of missionaries who adopted Africa.  As one put it:  "I really find your article very malicious, to say the least.  Africa is the home of the Black person.To be African, one has to be Black."

This very racist definition of who has the right to be called an African, was obviously rejected by the readers who took part in the Christian Action survey.  If applied to other continents, it would suggest that no Black person could be an American, or a European!  Are such readers suggesting that Black people born in Europe or America are not worthy of being citizens there?  What then of the White Africans, the Afrikaners, in the South of Africa who over 300 years ago were the first people to identify themselves as Africans?

The Bible makes it clear:  "From one man He made every nation of men."  Acts 17:26.  Equality before the Law is a Biblical principle:  "The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for all generations to come." Numbers 15:15.  To define an African by race alone, is to suggest that all others who call Africa their home, including those missionaries who gave their lives for Africa, are somehow not worthy to be identified as:  Africans.  But plainly the readers of Christian Action, and those who voted online in this six-month survey, rejected such racist thinking.

An analysis of the top ten "Greatest Africans" shows that 7 were fulltime Christian workers, of whom 2 were bishops, 5 were missionaries, 3 were particularly involved in the abolition of slavery, and 6 were renowned authors.  Of the 10 Greatest Africans, 2 were politicians, 4 served as pastors, one was a renowned Bible translator, and 2 served as soldiers.  Most of the choices came from the 19th Century, but others from the 1st, 4rd and 20th Century.

Other Greatest Africans voted for include:

  • 11 The Ethiopian treasurer of Acts 8, who brought the Gospel to Sudan
  • 12 President Paul Kruger, who pioneered nature conservation with the first national park in Africa
  • 13 Clement of Alexandria, the theologian for the intelligensia
  • 14 Tertullian, the great North African church leader
  • 15 Shaka Zulu, the military genius who built up the Zulu nation into the most formidable military power in Southern Africa
  • 16 Origen, the Egyptian Biblical scholar and philosopher who stood firm under persecution and torture
  • 17 Dr. Kenneth Fraser, the pioneer missionary who established the first school, the first church and the first hospital in Moruland in Sudan
  • 18 Rev. Erlo Stegen, God's Apostle to the Zulus
  • 19 Simon of Cyrene, who helped carry the cross of Christ
  • 20 Dr. Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the courageous Zulu leader
  • 21 Cecil John Rhodes, the ruthless empire builder, the only Englishman to have a country named after him
  • 22 General Christian de Wet, the courageous, principled commander of the Orange Free State Army in the Anglo Boer War
  • 23 Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the controversial cleric who has had the courage to challenge the ANC government over their support for Mugabe in Zimbabwe
  • 24 Dr. Jonas Savimbi, the UNITA freedom fighter who so courageously opposed Soviet and Cuban colonialism in Angola
  • 25 Harry Oppenheimer, the brilliant financier behind so much of South Africa's economy
  • 26 King Mzilikazi, the founding King of the Matabele
  • 27 General Jan Smuts, Boer War veteran, Prime Minister of South Africa and General of the British Empire in both World Wars
  • 28 General Louis Botha, the courageous Boer War veteran and the first Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa
  • 29 The Queen of Sheba, whose visit to Jerusalem is recorded in Scripture
  • 30 Moses, the great deliverer of Exodus.

Thank you very much for everyone who participated in this survey.  We trust that it will continue to provoke thought, study and discussion.  If some of these names are relatively unknown to you, may I suggest that you dig out the books and read up why so many readers identified them as, in their opinion:  The Greatest Africans of All Time.

Christian Action P.O.Box 23632 Claremont 7735 Cape Town South Africa info@christianaction.org.za - 021-689-4481 - www.christianaction.org.za
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