More than a decade after he got a scholarship from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one recipient remains thankful for the chance to continue his education.

Bright Mawudor has come a long way since getting a Global Education and Leadership Development scholarship.

Now the deputy general secretary for the All Africa Conference of Churches, Mawudor was in the States last month to meet with representatives from the World Bank, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other organizations.

Mawudor said that he never would have been in the position to attend such a meeting without the help he got from the PC(USA). The scholarship allowed him to attend the London School of Accountancy, where he completed a four-year professional accountancy program. He later became a charted accountant, equivalent to a certified public accountant in the United States.

“The opportunity afforded me gave me the chance to serve my Church, country Ghana, Africa and the world, to serve my children and give them better education they could not have had,” Mawudor wrote in a personal essay about the scholarship.

As the deputy general secretary of the AACC, Mawudor supports the general secretary to build the capacity of African churches to be civil activists. He works to bring a faith-based perspective to social and human rights issues. Mawudor also uses his financial background to coach churches and non-governmental organizations in ways to better manage resources.  

Using aid effectively and efficiently was the focus of his recent meeting in the States, which discussed why Africa still faces extreme challenges even after receiving millions of dollars in aid.

One reason is that those who give money often do so without subscribing to any sort of timeline or plan, making the options shortsighted, Mawudor said.

“They give the aid and don’t have a long-term view,” he said, adding that establishing an exit strategy is also very important.

Instead of simply donating money, aid agencies must keep in mind that problems will continue unless their root causes are addressed. Giving food to people who are hungry is important, but it’s also essential to provide them with the tools and skills to develop their own food sources, Mawudor said.

Another huge obstacle is distance and lack of understanding. When aid agencies from across the world give money, they sometimes do not have an accurate idea of what conditions are like in the countries they aim to help. In Africa, much aid money gets tied up in bureaucracy and never reaches the people, Mawudor said. By working with African groups, especially faith-based organizations, agencies can avoid wasting their money.

“They must involve the churches because we’re on the ground,” Mawudor said. “We’re in touch with the people.”

Coordinating with national and local groups also adds to the efficiency of aid and helps avoid duplicate programs.

In addition to donating money, people can also help by becoming advocates for change. The United States has the power to influence other governments and can play a more active role in helping African voices be heard, Mawudor said.

“The United States should continue to use all the diplomatic skills at its disposal. The Presbyterian Church can also bring its pressure,” he said. “Partnership is not only about money, but pressure.”

In the midst of the problems facing Africa — disease, poverty, hunger, corruption and violence, for example — Mawudor remains hopeful.  

“Once you have the hope, you have the will, the power, to do something,” he said. “Hope and faith in God is what will help you conquer your fears in the future.”

And Mawudor also feels the need to repay the opportunities given to him years ago. He had the chance to improve his life, he said, and that’s a blessing he wants to pass on.

“I’m grateful to the churches in the USA,” he said. “Today, I am here serving the entire continent of Africa.”