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Dr Jane Battersby

Futurist Profile


Dr Jane Battersby

Researcher: African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town

DPhil - Oxford, 2003
MA - University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1999
BSc(Hons) - King’s College, London 1998.
All in Geography

Dr Battersby is an urban social and cultural geographer with ongoing research interests through Urban Food Security as part of the CIDA funded AFSUN programme and the Formas funded 'Ways of Knowing' project, which aims to use interdisciplinary approaches to reflect on the values inherent in the management of green spaces in urban areas. She is also a member of the SANPAD-funded project, "Healthy Cities for Children" with Children's Institute at UCT. Dr Battersby answered a few questions about her 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?

I’m not sure that I would describe myself as an African futures thinker. I conduct research, I think, I try to work with policy makers, private sector players and civil society to generate future urban food systems that ensure social justice, human health, environmental sustainability and economic vitality.

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

I’ve spent the past six years working on planning for food secure urban futures.

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

Most of my work has focussed on South Africa, but the African Food Security Urban Network (AFSUN) has partners in nine southern African countries.

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

The thought that if we can make headway in realising the right to food for urban residents we can unleash massive human potential.

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

I trained as a human geographer working on social and cultural issues and slowly transitioned into urban food issues.

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

Others describe me as… food obsessed

I describe myself as… food obsessed



What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads” (Dr. Brown, Back to the Future) - Don’t let the apparent structural constraints of the present prevent us from imagining alternative futures.

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


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

Limited networking and funding opportunities outside of processes initiated outside of African institutions and organisations.

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 really solid grounding in the history and theoretical bases of the field you want to work in. Without it you will end up with swimming pool-like thinking - all the noise in the shallow end.

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

City Futures: Confronting the crisis of urban development by Edgar Pieterse


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