Imagining African governance futures in 2063

The African Governance Report on Africa’s Governance Futures for the Africa We Want was recently launched in Cape Town. The African Union (AU) African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and African Governance Architecture Platform (AGA) developed the report in partnership with the Institute for Futures Research (IFR) at the Stellenbosch University Business School, alongside other academic and research centre partners.

The report imagines possible futures of African governance in 2063 using the AU Agenda 2063 Aspirations as a yardstick. Four developed scenarios are presented focusing on the best, worst, surprise and baseline case of African governance future possibilities in the next four decades. 

The various futures described in the 2063 African governance scenarios are possibilities that may result as an outcome of today’s policy decisions and implementation of strategic actions. The scenarios are intended to enrich the debate and to broaden engagement on the best governance approaches and models fit for purpose to achieve the African future we want.

In developing the African governance scenarios, the futures research process engaged diverse stakeholders across the continent in creative scenario-building exercises. Scenario planning is an established foresight method and futures thinking approach that assists in creatively considering a range of possible alternatives for a given issue or situation, as well as contributing towards generating appropriate decisions for the short to long term. 

Scenarios tell stories of what could happen and why, in terms of main trends and critical impact factors as well as uncertainties. They also detail the events and steps leading to the outcomes described in each scenario. The purpose is to facilitate agile, adaptable and responsive decision-making and strategic actions, by boosting preparedness for multiple possibilities and readiness to respond to implications of different eventualities.

Contributions to the scenarios were drawn from countries in each of the five African regions –  north, central, west, south and east – and from civil society, private and public sectors, as well as academia. Gender rights advocates, youth and persons with disabilities were part of the consultative discussions on African governance futures that may emerge and that may be shaped over the next 40 years. Intergenerational perspectives from a broad spectrum of governance experts were shared. Pertinent issues featured in the scenario stories include equity and democratic representation, conflict and security, technological advancement, natural resources management and international relations. The role of African youth and women, holistic and science-based education along with African-based knowledge systems are underscored.

There is a tension between “Afri-can” and ”Afri-can’t” that is captured in the scenarios. The narratives paint a picture of Africa’s potential to achieve above and beyond the Agenda 2063 Aspirations. At the same time, multiple challenges and pitfalls are faced that could derail continental efforts to achieve democracy, good governance, peace and prosperity in the future.

While gains can be achieved in socio-political and economic development and there is potential for vast improvements, there is also the spectre of visible deterioration in issues such as insecurity, rule of law, democratic participation and inclusion as well as the protection and promotion of human rights. Additional risks that need to be countered are unmitigated and unmanaged natural disasters, pressure from global trade and financial systems as well as widespread civil unrest, conflict and war.

On the one hand, there is palpable optimism about the possibilities of attaining Africa’s development goals. On the other hand, there is also a strong sense of pessimism and a lack of confidence in the capacity of the continent and the AU’s various member states to achieve or surpass the development goals of Agenda 2063. Abuses of executive power, mismanagement of public resources, low skills development and unemployment are among the issues of concern. 

The report’s recommendations acknowledge that to realise best-case African governance futures, citizen needs, participation, and universal rights must be prioritised and centred, as well as that the rule of law is enforced and underpinned by principles of good governance such as transparency, accountability and ethical, responsible leadership. 

In developing the African governance futures scenarios 2063, the APRM, AGA and AU member states are realising the value of imagining and preparing for multiple possible futures, thereby anticipating both potential risks to avoid and opportunities to seize. 

The report is a laudable step towards foresight-centric and anticipatory governance. Adopted by AU member states at the 35th ordinary session of the assembly of heads of state and government, it signals an interest from Africa’s leadership to align towards agile, adaptive, and responsive governance that addresses trends of rapid change we are witnessing today. By creatively considering multiple possibilities, governments can better prepare for uncertain futures and drive transformation to meet the demands of emerging trends.

From the concerns painted vividly in the views shared by participants in the scenario building processes –  views that are supported by current research and data on these topics – committed actions are required if Africans are to realise futures of governance that we want, defined by peace and security, prosperity and sustainability.

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Njeri Mwagira 1
Dr Njeri Mwagira is a senior futurist of Africa at the Institute for Futures Research at the Stellenbosch Business School.

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