Welcome to Foresight For Development

Dr Olugbenga Adesida

Futurist Profile

 

Dr Olugbenga Adesida

Partner: Ihaba
Associate Director: African Leadership Institute

Olugbenga received his BA and MA in economics from the City College of New York and PhD from an interdisciplinary program at the London School of Economics and Political Science with a thesis on the role of intermediary institutions in the diffusion of complex technological innovations.

Dr Adesida answered a few questions about his perspective and on being a futures thinker.

ABOUT YOU AS A FUTURES THINKER / PRACTITIONER

You identify yourself as an African futures thinker or practitioner. How would you describe to the woman or man on the street what it is that you do in this regard?

In the simplest terms, my role as a futures practitioner is to help institutions, organizations and societies think about the future in order to be able to better manage complexity and make better decisions today.

How many years have you worked as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

I got into futures in 1992 as a member of a team recruited by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to help develop and implement a project to support African countries to undertake long term perspective planning exercises.

In which countries or places have you had working experience as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

I have been engaged in and supported futures work in close to 20 countries mostly in Africa. Examples of African countries where I have undertaken or supported foresight activities include Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Malawi, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe. I have also participated in several international futures/scenarios programs, including World Water Scenarios, Humanity 3000 and Millennium Project.

In what languages have you undertaken futures / foresight related work or research?

I work mostly in English but have also worked occasionally in Francophone and Lusophone Africa.

What is it that motivates you to work or participate in the foresight / future studies / related field

My motivation is the desire to contribute to change in Africa and conviction that Africa must stop tinkering at edges of development /engaging in development ceremonies. We must focus on socioeconomic transformation.

What goal/s would you most like to reach with your work as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

I would like to get African governments, private sector and civil society organizations to systematically integrate foresight into their decision making processes. Africa needs to domesticate and popularize foresight as a way of life and a crucial tool in planning and decision making in all areas and sectors. This will require introducing foresight as part of the educational system not only as a standalone discipline but integrated into all disciplines.

Who or what most influenced your thinking as a futures thinker / practitioner, and how?

African scholars such as the Burkinabe historian Joseph Ki-Zerbo, scenarios experts and futurists such as Peter Schwartz, Jim Dator, Wendell Bell, Jerome Glenn and several development thinkers like Amartya Sen and Bade Onimode.

What is your main disciplinary background? (i.e. your primary training / qualification)

Economics

How do other people describe you and how do you describe yourself?

Others describe me as… a thinker/strategist

I describe myself as… a student

 

YOUR PERSPECTIVE

What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

“He who foretells the future lies even if he happens to be right.” - An Arab saying

“If a man does not know what port he is steering for, no wind is favorable to him.” - Talleyrand

How would you describe the state of African futures thinking right now?

There has been progress from the early days in the late seventies to the early eighties when the initial efforts where undertaken to explore the future of Africa under the then OAU (now Africa Union). Today, there is an emerging foresight community in Africa. However, it is far from where it should or could be.

What is, in your opinion, the main barrier to uptake of futures knowledge by African institutions and organisations?

Part of the challenge is the overwhelming nature of the present. Many simply do not see a need for exploring the future given the day to day problems. One can also say the lack of resources and infrastructure to train futurists and foresight practitioners.

If you were to give advice to someone who wants a career in African foresight / future studies, what would you say to him or her?

Get a disciplinary grounding, i.e. become an expert in a field of your interest first, open your mind to all disciplines, and must be ready to be a student for life. Additionally, learn how to be a story teller.

What are your recommended readings for every African futures thinker / practitioner?

  • Wendell Bell - Foundations of Futures Studies (Volumes 1 and 2)
  • Peter Schwartz - The Art of the Long View
  • UNDP - Reclaiming the Future: A manual on Futures Studies for African Planners
  • YehezKel Dror - Policy Making Under Adversity
  • Michel Godet - From Anticipation to Action: A handbook for strategic prospective
  • Clem Sunter - The Mind of a Fox: Scenarios Planning in Action

What are your recommendations for other favourite futures resources: websites, newsfeeds, mailing lists, associations, etc.?

Journals:

Associations:

Websites:

 

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