It's not every day that policy experts and international financiers share a stage with a Florida pastor who has no qualms about saying homosexuality "makes God want to vomit." But that was all part of the program on Saturday morning at the Rev. O'Neal Dozier's Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach.
Dozier, it turns out, has been selected by Thabo Makgoba, the successor to Desmond Tutu as archbishop of Cape Town, to serve as the North American president of a "spiritual economics" initiative seeking to encourage indigenous Africans and the diaspora to invest in economic development in Africa.
Robert Beatty, publisher of South Florida Times, was MC at the "Winds of Change economic leadership conference" at the church on Saturday. "We are here today to reorder your thinking," he pronounced. "We must find our rightful place on the international platform."
As the leaders of this initiative see it, that involves a spiritual faith "that God wants all his children to have abundance," according to Beatty, and that the centuries of uprooting and hardship endured by African-Americans has led them to a point where they can make money and reinvest it on the African continent.
Archbishop Makgoba chose South Florida -- specifically Dozier's church -- as the place to launch this appeal, ostensibly because of its central location among the diaspora across the Americas. The archbishop appeared in a video message, encouraging those gathered to follow the example of his predecessor, Desmond Tutu, who was a strong voice in abolishing apartheid. He explained that he had selected Dozier as president of the American movement.
"You are in the good hands of Dr. O'Neal Dozier," said Makgoba.
Makgoba is slated to appear in person at the church on June 19 -- or Juneteenth, commemorating the date when the last freed American slaves learned of their freedom -- to unveil more specifics. Details were in short supply on Saturday, but it seems that low-priced shares in native South African business ventures will be available for purchase by African-Americans here.
That might set off alarm bells for skeptics, but the key group behind the appeal has certainly been successful in its own right. The Royal Bafokeng Nation is an indigenous community of 150,000 people in South Africa's North West Province, which just so happens to sit atop one of the world's largest platinum reserves, as well as numerous other minerals and resources.
The wealthy monarchy has managed to keep much of the wealth from its resources in its own hands, channeling it back into an investment body called Royal Bafokeng Holdings (RBH), which had more than $4.5 billion in gross asset value in 2010. This success has won understandable praise from advocates for self-determination and provided an opportunity for novel investment structures.
"In my opinion, [RBH is] the most successful group in the world," said Makgoba in his video message.
Two officials from RBH were present, giving short speeches. Mpueleng Pooe, the corporation's commercial and legal director, said that they had looked at the profit-sharing model used by Florida's Seminole tribe, in which each resident gets a check for their share of the company's profits. "So far, the model is a commercial one," he said. "Our mandate is to make money for the community."
Now Archbishop Makgoba wants foreign investment to piggyback on RBH's success and pour more money (and faith) into Africa. In turn, RBH is considering investing in whatever form the initiative takes. "If we invest in the archbishop's initiative, we will be there for a very long time," said Pooe, adding that the company's long-term investments include companies like Vodacom and DHL.
Thomas Cochran, a financial adviser who has worked with the World Bank (though on the program materials he was billed simply as "World Bank"), was on hand to talk about global markets. He admitted that he "hadn't had any awareness of the Bafokengs until a couple of weeks ago."
Seeking a location-appropriate metaphor, Cochran turned religious. "In financial terms, original sin is the lending of money into a country in hard currency and expecting it will be paid back in hard currency," rather than investing in local markets and projects, explained Cochran.
"All of [the global] institutions didn't get baptized to expiate -- is that the right word? -- their original sin, until a few of them did so recently" and started lending in local currency, he said.
A few other business leaders spoke, as well as Julius Jackson Sr., who runs the African Business Development Group and is helping coordinate Makgoba's initiative. "We aren't claiming that we're victims," he said. "We're being given an opportunity. [Our ancestors] came over in ships [so that we could] gather knowledge and experience to share with people in our homeland."
Dozier, who has been preaching "the uncompromising word of God" in his church for decades and whom Beatty described as a "prayer warrior" who is "bold in his religiosity," plans to spread the message of opportunity far and wide. "We're going to preach the bishop's plan across all of North America," he said. "This is an exciting time."
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The guiding image of the day was self-determination and local investment rather than exploitation of resources by colonizing multinational companies, following the example of the Bafokengs.
"Black folks will have an opportunity to invest through shares," said Beatty. Paraphrasing Exodus, he added, "Through spiritual economics, we will deprive the locusts of the rich natural resources of Africa."