Thursday, February 15, 2018

Three New Missions to be Created in Africa in July 2018: Analysis

The Church announced on February 1st plans to organize three new missions in Sub-Saharan Africa. These missions include:
  • Cote d'Ivoire Yamoussoukro
  • Nigeria Ibadan
  • Zimbabwe Bulawayo
Once these missions are organized, there will be a total of 33 missions in Africa (17 in the Africa West Area, 16 in the Africa Southeast Area).

Cote d'Ivoire Yamoussoukro Mission
Yamoussoukro and the vast majority of central, western, and northern Cote d'Ivoire currently pertain to the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan West Mission. It is likely that the new mission will be created solely from a division of the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan West Mission, which currently has seven stakes and six districts within its boundaries, and include most areas of northern, central, and western Cote d'Ivoire. The country of Mali also pertains to the Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan West Mission and it is unclear whether this country may be assigned to the new Cote d'Ivoire Yamoussoukro Mission. The Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan West Mission was organized in 2014 from a division of the original Cote d'Ivoire Abidjan Mission, and at the time of its organization there were a total of three districts and three stakes within its boundaries. Cote d'Ivoire has experienced the most impressive growth of any country in the worldwide Church during the past five years as the number of members has increased from 18,602 to more than 40,000, the number of stakes has increased from 5 to 14, the number of districts has increased from 1 to 12, and the number of congregations (e.g. wards and branches) has increased from 53 to 211. During the 2010s, the Church has reported its most rapid national outreach expansion in the world within areas likely to be included in the Cote d'Ivoire Yamoussoukro Mission. For example, the number of cities with an LDS presence in central and western Cote d'Ivoire increased from 3 in 2011 to 23 in 2017. No North American or European missionaries have served in Cote d'Ivoire since the early 2010s due to political instability and safety concerns. However, there have been recent rumors that North American missionaries may again start to serve in Cote d'Ivoire in the near future given improvements in political stability and safety. The creation of a third mission in Cote d'Ivoire will allow for additional resources to be allocated to the country and likely ongoing expansion of the Church into previously unreached areas. The average Ivorian mission will include approximately eight million people within its boundaries. As a result, the Church in Cote d'Ivoire will be included among only five African nations with at least three missions - the other countries being Nigeria (7), Ghana (4), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (3), and South Africa (3).

Nigeria Ibadan Mission
The Nigeria Ibadan Mission will be organized from the Nigeria Lagos Mission and possibly a portion of the Nigeria Benin City Mission (e.g. Ondo State). Located in the heart of the cultural region known as Yorubaland, Ibadan is the third most populous city in Nigeria with approximately 3.4 million inhabitants. The Nigeria Ibadan Mission was originally organized in 2002, but was relocated to Lagos in 2007 and renamed the Nigeria Lagos East Mission until it was discontinued in 2009. The Church reported slow growth in Kwara, Ogun, Osun, and Oyo States when the Nigeria Ibadan Mission operated in the 2000s. This slow growth, as well as limited missionary manpower available from Sub-Saharan Africa to staff the mission as no Caucasian missionaries serve full-time missionaries in Nigeria due to security and safety concerns, likely prompted its relocation and ultimate closure. However, growth rapidly accelerated in the 2010s and as a result three of the member districts in the former mission boundaries advanced into stakes. Two of those stake were organized in 2014 (Abeokuta and Ibadan) and currently both of these stakes have a sufficient number of congregations to divide to create a second stake in each of these cities. Currently the Nigeria Lagos Mission has eight stakes and one district within its boundaries. Five of these stakes operate in the Lagos metropolitan area (home to 18.2 million people). The reestablishment of a mission in Ibadan may significantly accelerate the expansion of the Church in Kwara, Ogun, Osun, and Oyo States which have a combined population of approximately 18 million people and dozens of cities with 100,000 or more people without an official LDS ward or branch. Moreover, the new mission will allow for greater saturation of the Lagos metropolitan area with missionaries and the creation of additional congregations. Currently, the average ward or branch in Lagos includes approximately 380,000 people within its geographical boundaries.

Zimbabwe Bulawayo
The Zimbabwe Bulawayo Mission will be organized from a division of the Zimbabwe Harare Mission, and the new mission will likely include southern and western portions of Zimbabwe. The Church has reported moderate growth in Zimbabwe as a whole during the past several decades. Currently there are seven stakes and three districts in Zimbabwe. With only three stakes and zero districts in southern and western Zimbabwe, prospects appear favorable for the new mission to expand outreach into previously unreached areas surrounding Bulawayo.


Cory Ward said...

I can personally verify that American missionaries have began service in the Ivory Coast. A young man in my ward entered in the Ghana MTC at the end of December, he might already be in the Ivory Coast by now.

David Todd said...

I've been waiting for this post to happen so I can geek out about how excited these three new missions make me! It indicates to me that the church has reached a stage in Africa where their focus is now on expansion to outlying areas rather than focusing resources and efforts in the centers of strength. We have already been seeing some of this expansion in Cote D'Ivoire and Nigeria recently, but the creation of the new missions in Yamoussoukro, Ibadan, and Bulawayo instead of additional missions in cities that already have operating missions, like Abidjan, Lagos, Accra, Kinshasa, or the saturated areas of Southeastern Nigeria is significant.

We already have seen the recent formation of missions in Kumasi and Mbuji- Mayi which seem to have helped spread outreach in those areas as well. I am very excited.

Another note is that I think this might signal a slight change in the way that I have always considered mission creations similar to unit creations. I have felt that missions will split when they get large, just like stakes split when they get large. But perhaps the church is willing to let missions with lower rates of baptism keep a high number of stakes within their boundaries and focus on allocating their missionary resources to areas of growth and outreach. If this is the case, the missions that might split in the near future in Africa do not need to be already large in unit numbers. A great example would be Sierra Leone. Also, I think this means that we can expect few, if any, new missions to be made within the US, especially in areas with relatively low convert growth, even if there is migratory growth.

John Pack Lambert said...

I would hesitate to call even south-eastern Nigeria saturated. There are places within the mission administrative branch between Port Harcourt and Aba.

Even with these splits both Ibadan and Lagos missions will have far more people residing in their boundaries than missions in the US typicakly do.

David Todd said...

Saturated was a poor word choice. I couldn't think of an easy way of expressing my point in stating the fact that there is a large concentration of stakes in that area and it would make sense to create another mission down there, but instead the church chose to create a mission further away from where any were currently headquartered. And yes, the size of Lagos and Ibadan and the populations within their respective missions are massive. While the Lagos mission was seeing incredible growth already, an additional mission in that area will allow for double the resources. This means that the church can continue to build strength in leadership and spread its roots in Lagos (build a temple?) and still focus efforts on expanding in the cities that we have seen lots of recent receptivity (Abeokuta, Ibadan, Ile-Ife, maybe Akure will be in the new mission?).

Johnathan Whiting said...

Visited Tenple Square yesterday. Talked to the first first missionary I've ever met from India (and from China). The Chinese Sister said that there was 8 total sister missionaries currently serving there from Mainland China (a couple of them walked by while we were talking). The Indian Sister said there was at least one other Indian Sister serving there as well. Also met a sister from Taiwan.

DJarvis87 said...

Having served as a missionary in Ghana Accra mission during 2007-2009. I can honestly say that the biggest reason why there's been such rapid growth in countries like Nigeria and Cote D'Ivoire is that came purely down to the cultural background of the missionaries. Nigeria and Cote D'Ivoire are all African based missionaries and they predominantly come from the West African area. These African missionaries understand there culture and they understand there own people. Foreign missionaries like myself predominantly have no idea about the mission before we enter the field and depending of the maturity of the person they'd can go there whole mission having naive approach about the culture and country of where they serve. This is particularly more common with American missionaries who come from the American based view about the world. I'd be very interested to see a study done/statistics of church growth when the cultural background has been factored. Thst is why in Ghana we has a strict teaching policy of not be able to teacg pass lesson 1 unless there was a membership present. Primarily that because like any community the local members understand the community and understand whats the most effective action for fellowship. It's also interesting that with this unprecedented growth over this past 5 years is that Elder Tereance Vinsion of the Seventy who presides over the West Africa area is an Australian. Who obviously has a different outlook with how the church operates.

Eduardo Clinch said...

I see your point about West African missionaries being more effective within their own cultures. From what I understand most elders and sisters in Mexico are Latino, with a smaller minority being US English based missionaries. Parts of each country have varying dynamics of this, but I think beyond the pure "similar culture" proseltyzing approach, the countries involved are experiencing a phenominal retention and expansion that is not seen very often in any case of the LDS Church in its almost 200 year history.
Something is resonating deeply beyond the mere discussions presented or fellowhipping policies, although I admit the member missionaries must be doing a fantastic job.
I am thinking that Gospel principles themselves must be a huge part of how these peoples think and act, a beautiful process to see.
Latin America, on the other hand has seen huge numbers baptized, many fellowhipped well also, but has not seen such retention, and there are other cultural factors involved than the the ethnicity of the elders or the fact that members are present during lessons. It all helps, however, sure.
Curious: do we know what tribe of Israel most Africans are identified as? Ephraim?
Temples are coming...

Eduardo Clinch said...

DJarvis: did you know an Elder Aaron Butler from Monticello, Utah? Served in Ghana, not sure if maybe after 2010.
He heroically died in Afghanistan last August. I met his would-be wife who was converted to the faith.
Thanks for your service in Ghana.
I have at least 4 family members who have served LDS missions in Africa, plus my parents in the Peace Corps.

Rafael H. Rojas G. said...

The Los Llanos district of the Valencia Venezuela Mission was discontinued, the branches of Acarigua and Araure are part of the Barquisimeto stake and the San Carlos branch reports directly to the Valencia mission.

Unknown said...

Eduardo Clinch says "Temple are coming ..."

OOOH!!! Man, that's exciting! Can't wait until President Bednar is throwing up temples all over West Africa! So cool!

Eduardo Clinch said...


Keith Watsin said...

"No North American or European missionaries have served in Cote d'Ivoire since the early 2010s due to political instability and safety concerns. However, there have been recent rumors that North American missionaries may again start to serve in Cote d'Ivoire in the near future given improvements in political stability and safety"

WHO are you getting your information from?? American missionaries started returning to the Cote d'Ivoire almost a YEAR ago (2017). Currently, there are almost a dozen Americans in each of the 2 missions (Abidjan & Abidjan West) with more called every few months. My son currently serves in Toit Rouge (in West Abidjan).

There is an ABSOLUTE positive reason why American missionaries are serving in black Africa. Your portrayal that it's a negative is NOT accurate. If it were so, why wouldn't the church simply keep missionaries out? The native elders that go through the Ghana MTC are VERY new to the church - having been a member for only 2 1/2 years (on avg). Many are also escaping unsettled situations or poor economic conditions at home. Some "save" $ while on their mission, so they have something to take home. More effective in their own cultures? It's hard to argue that, but I can assure you - the American missionaries (many believe & would argue) are their to show the native missionaries that exact obedience to mission (and church) rules does bring blessings. The dedication/obedience level of the Americans vs Natives (on the whole) isn't even close. The American infusion (hopefully) is meant to influence that.

OBTW - A week ago, the first (EVER) "Elder" missionaries were sent to Senegal (6 natives). Prior to that, a pair of Sr. missionaries were serving in the Dakar Branch. Which mission gets to claim Senegal in July (when the split happens), remains to be seen. It will be interesting to see how long before Americans are serving in Senegal.

martinml said...


Thank you very much for this information. Although I have heard some readers report that they know people from North America who have been called to missions in Cote d'Ivoire I have not been able to verify anything from another source. Do you have any more information about the church in Cote d'Ivoire currently? I do have a few contacts in the country but they have not mentioned anything to me about North America missionaries serving in the country again. I would be especially interested to hear about whether there are any plans for there to be any new wards or branches to be created in the area where your son serves because in the last year or so congregational growth in the city has slowed after a couple years of phenomenal growth. I would also appreciate some information on insights regarding leadership development, member activity and convert retention.

I also appreciate you providing that information regarding the first missionaries to serve in Senegal. I'm going to make a post about this development in the next day or so. Is there anything else that you'd like to share?

Keith Watson said...

I will ask my son on Monday (When I hear from him again)- maybe he could get some answers for you. Yes, the church is careful with releasing information on mission calls (privacy concerns), as some have tried to find out calls to the Ghana MTC - for the reason of organizing donations to native missionaries entering there. MANY of the natives show up with nothing but the clothes on their back. RS Organizations have organized drives and the church has paid the additional airfare cost for taking extra (donated) suitcases full of donated necessities. It's an awesome thing.

My son has said the more rural areas are where the phenomenal growth still lies. Your best source of info - probably would lie with the Mission Presidents. Since the former Abidjan West M.P. was called to serve as an Area 70, he would be a good source as well.

Note: He has said that 75% of the native missionaries in Cote d'Ivoire come from DR Congo (because French is their native language, of course). The first American back in the West mission, Elder Dawson, while in Yamoussoukro, just finished training a native missionary from The Central Republic of Africa (where there's only 1 branch in the entire country).

Matt said...

That would be great if you would not mind asking your son about some of these questions I have. If you'd like to communicate in a more private manner about this as opposed to exchanging comments on my blog you could email me at

Ginger Crawford said...

Our son left the Ghana MTC February 20th for the Abidjan west mission and is currently serving in Yamoussoukro. He told us he is the 12th American missionary in the abidjan west mission. He was the only American in the mtc going to this mission. What great experiences he has ahead of him.