skip to content

Department of Social Anthropology


 A-R Kauppinen)

In Accra, a buzzing West African business hub, it is possible to spot branches of banks, insurance companies and credit unions in compounds of indigenous Charismatic Pentecostal Christian churches. Rumours circulate of connections between pastors and finance executives who may share private offices, fellowship at the same church, exchange spiritual and management advice, and participate in each other’s family lives. Oftentimes, these rumours transform into critical moral debates in the public sphere – as in, during Ghana’s recent 2018-2019 financial crisis that exposed close connections between a collapsed Ghanaian bank (subsequently absorbed by a state bank) and a Charismatic church: ‘Can a pastor own shares in a bank?’, as one journalist asked when the story unfolded. 

This project explores the distinctive financial eco-system that the past 30 years of growth of Charismatic Pentecostal Christianity is generating in West Africa. In Ghana, Charismatic churches have become conceptualized as important ‘clients’ for financial institutions due to the consistent amount of liquid cash they amass on a weekly basis, which makes them attractive depositors. Thanks to churches’ success in mobilizing revenue for large-scale infrastructural projects, including building roads and hospitals, Ghanaian state agents regard them as models for building fiscal institutions. Some churches and pastors have become shareholders and corporate board members in banks and other financial institutions. Studying how the economic influence of Charismatic Pentecostalism is experienced, debated, and framed as an object of knowledge in Ghanaian banks, state agencies, churches, and the broader public sphere, this project considers Charismatic churches as key agents of capitalist transformation, unravelling the alignments, convergences and ethical tensions that emerge when Christian institution-building meets financialization.

Max Planck Cambridge Centre for Ethics, Economy and Social Change (2018-ongoing). Dr Anna-Riikka Kauppinen.