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Dr Jakkie Cilliers

Futurist Profile


Dr Jakkie Cilliers

Chairman of the Board and Head of African Futures & Innovation at Institute for Security Studies

Dr Jacobus Kamfer (Jakkie) Cilliers is the Executive Director of the Institute for Security Studies. He has a B. Mil (B.A.) from the University of Stellenbosch and a Hons. B.A., M.A. (cum laude) and DLitt et Phil from the University of South Africa (UNISA).

He co-founded the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in 1990 and played an important role in the transformation of the South African armed forces and the institution of civilian control over the military in the period 1990 to 1996. At present most of Dr Cilliers` interests relate to the emerging security architecture in Africa as reflected in the developments under the banner of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union as well as issues around African futures.

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


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?

Major transitions are currently reshaping the African continent. Through the African Futures Project- a collaborarion between the Insitute for Security Studies and the Pardee Centre for International Futures- we have embarked on a long-term forecasting analysis project, with the aim of examining global trends, with specific focus on Africa. Trends that we analysis relate mainly to human development and economic issues, such as population growth, infratstructure, agriculture and governance, amongst a few. Using the International Futures model and our extensive knowledge and understanding of the continent, we are able to examine Africa’s current trajectory and create alternative scenarios.

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

Five years

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

Lectured extensively across Africa, Europe and North America.

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


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

Modelling the future provides a useful tool for studying current trends in order to provide substantive information for long-term thinking. As Africans we all share common goals, we seek extensive and sustainable human development. We strive for conflict reduction and widespread acceptance of and even support for diversity. We wish to see human rights respected everywhere. As we pursue our goals in the context of rapid change and great uncertainity, we need greater understanding of where developments might be taking us, as well as the leverage that our choices provides us.

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

While there are limits to forecasting, it is still a necessary human activity. Thinking systematically about the future, creates a platform for people to plan their future effectively. When forecasts are explicit and transparent they help leaders think about the trade-off among choices in the face of uncertainity. The purpose of this project is not to push forward specific policy intiatives, but provide a context within which those who pursue sustainable human development can consider policies.

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

Use of scenario’s during the South African transition – which was hugely helpful at the time.

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

Political science

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

Others describe me as… committed

I describe myself as… hardworking



What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

Africa is now where China and India were 20 to 30 years ago. Demography is destiny.

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

Emerging after a long hiatus.

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

Lack of solid data down to sub-national level upon which to base solid research.

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?

First understand the past, then the present and only then look towards the future.

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

African Futures Project at www.issafrica.org/futures

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

UN Population Division
Frederick S Pardee Centre for International Futures
World Bank
African Development Bank
World Health Organisation


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