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Geci Karuri-Sebina

Futurist Profile


Geci Karuri-Sebina

Chair & Director: South African Node at The Millennium Project
Executive Manager: Programmes at SA Cities Network
Research Associate: Institute for Economic Research on Innovation (IERI)

Geci's interests are broadly in foresight and R&D spanning a range of public policy, development, and innovation issues. She is actively involved in the futures study field which she champions through her role as a founding member and director of the SA Node of the Millennium Project.

She holds an MA in Urban Planning, and a Masters in Architecture and Urban Design from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). She is currently undertaking her PhD in development planning and innovation at the University of Witwatersrand.

Geci Karuri-Sebina 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 try to find useful ways and means to enable myself, my organisation, and my community to consider the long-term future in how we decide on our strategies, plans and actions so as to achieve both own short-term objectives, but also long-run success and sustainability for all.

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

Ten years

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

South Africa, SADC Region

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?

  • Professional need: thinking long-range is key in the planning and development fields
  • My personal ideals and aspirations to feel that I am participating in something bigger: long-term change and benefit for humanity
  • Academic interest: transdisciplinarity, systems thinking, complexity, etc. interest me in general, and they are fundamental in the futures field
  • I like the people!

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

To have deliberate futures thinking – in whatever form – being commonplace in decision-making at every level of African society so that when we decide to consume, to produce, to act, to move – we are always casting an eye forward to our objectives and outcomes.

Africa needs to come to grips with owning her future. If there is no plan for the future, then it is quite likely that there is no hope for the future. It might be a chicken and egg situation, but my qualification is in the field of Planning so I have to start from the end that I understand (i.e. with a bit of determinism).

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

Being African, and being a career learner. When you’re not content with what you see looking backwards, sideways, and forwards… you have to start seeking other truths and courses of action. The futures field offers a great space and useful tools for this.

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

  • Development & Planning

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

Others describe me as… idealistic

I describe myself as… hopeful



What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

I recently saw this one which I quite like: "The future is in our hands. We are not hapless bystanders. We can influence whether we have a planet of peace, social justice, equity, and growth or a planet of unbridgeable differences between peoples, wasted resources, corruption, and terror." (James D. Wolfensohn in "A Better World Is Possible," July-Aug 2003) The Futurist Quote of the Year

It has been suggested that futurists don’t choose foresight, rather foresight chooses them. How valid is this as a summary of your own entry into the field?

My own initiation into the area of futures was work-related when I was asked to manage a futures research exercise in support of NEPAD (the New Partnership for Africa’s Development) in its early days see (SADC 2015 Scenarios, CSIR). In that sense, I was chosen - though by my organisation, not necessarily by the field.

But yes, I do think that the field “sticks” on some level if it resonates with your own inclinations and energy.

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

My chapter in Jasper Grosskurth’s book “Futures of Technology in Africa” expands on my views in this regard. Generally, I think it the field here is:

  • Externally driven – both in supply and demand
  • Thin – not enough, and not sufficiently advanced in content, quality and relevance
  • Disjointed. We don’t often build upon what has been done or thought through, partly because we don’t effectively share and manage the rich futures knowledge produced. The ForesightForDevelopment.org project tries to become a resource in this regard.
  • But also exciting and with lots of potential!

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

  • Fear of unknown or negative futures
  • Limited views, for various reasons: major short-term challenges, political expedience, sectoral perspectives, deference to “experts”, etc.
  • Lack of awareness. The futures field and its methods are not as well embedded here as elsewhere.

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?

Speak to others in the field. Consider whether you want to specialise in futures study itself, or perhaps just to apply its methods within another discipline. There are numerous paths that one can follow.

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

  • State of the Future annual report
  • Peter Schwartz, The Art of the Long View
  • Donella H. Meadows, Dennis Meadows, Jergen Randers and William Behrens, Limits to Growth

And much more, particularly a range of works by emerging and hopeful African leaders and intellectuals in the mid-20th century.

What is the one thing you wish someone had told you about being an African futurist before you actually become one?

About how important and pervasive I’d find it. I would have been a convert much earlier!


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