This is a momentous time in Africa’s history. The narrative of famine, war, and disease that was its tag in the media for decades has given way to one of optimism, growth and return on investment. The continent’s middle class is increasing with more people projected to live in urban areas. Developed and emerging economies are courting the continent. There is increasing discovery of oil, gas and other important minerals in the continent. The continent boasts of a vast coastline-the Indian Ocean rim, which has become a strategic global trade gateway.
All these developments portend opportunities and threats with a lasting impact on the continent’s people, infrastructure, culture, diet, governance and interaction with other continents. It is therefore imperative that the continent invests substantially in futures studies to enable it identify and exploit emerging opportunities as well as navigate around threats on two levels: continentally and individual country platform.
It is encouraging to note that some institutes are pursuing this end. The African Institute for Future Studies (also known as Pan African Institute for Future Studies or INADEP, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) for example, provides institutional facilities for long term research on international, political, cultural, economic, sociological, and technical modifications to the African or world situation in the present or in the future; assesses strategies, indicates the various options available, and offers a just and balanced picture of the future; and proposes directives for a planified realisation of the objectives proposed. The African Futures Institute (a pan-African non-governmental organization registered in South Africa) on the other hand serves as an African platform for prospective thinking to facilitate the formulation by African countries of endogenous development models and approaches to achieve social justice, safeguard the dignity of their people and win the 21st century battle.
However, long-term, unified, concerted efforts with specified timelines and deliverable outcomes need to be established.