Seeing through the future glass with Yacoob Abba Omar

Yacoob Abba Omar with daughters Rabia (left) and Zahra (right)

And we’re off! Think!Fest started the cogs turning this bumper-anniversary year fittingly by “looking back, looking forward” with Yacoob Abba Omar, current Director of Operations for the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA). Omar’s Seeing Through the Future Glass: Scenario Planning and the First 20 Years of Democracy in South Africa examined just that, through his extensive experience of working on strategic planning and scenarios.

“It is not about forecasts and predictions,” he stressed, but about creating an “internally consistent view of what the future may become.” Scenarios therefore serve to put the strategic plan through a “wind-tunnel”, testing their ability to adapt to possible eventualities and thus determining their strengths. He notes the importance of creating a dialogue, a conversation that provides the space to change the mind-set and way in which we look at the future.

First-time festival goers, well-seasoned patrons of the last 40 years, and Think!Fest regulars alike were all entertained by the satirically biting S’Gudi S’Nais, Skedonk, Shosholoza and Dulisanang models, as well as the 2002 Memories of the Future which predict a scarily similar scenario for 2014 to our current reality, as it has come to pass, noting corruption as a far-reaching factor.

Omar outlined the 2007/2008 Policy Co-ordination and Advisory Services (PCAS) South Africa Scenarios for 2025: The future we chose? The document remarkably and correctly (so far) identifies the key driving forces shaping South Africa towards 2025 to be: shifts in global economic power; shifts in global political power; resource constraints; South Africa’s economic growth; governance; the social fabric (prominently the position of the youth); and technology (as an enabler to democracy).

The plan presents three scenarios. The first, “Not Yet Uhuru,” unofficially yet unmistakably describes a Mbeki-like administration where no radical changes are made and policies remain mostly the same. Here the government is strongly committed to accelerating economic growth and yet struggles in the face of the deteriorating global conditions, and so forth. “Nkalakatha” is the second scenario (speaking of Kgalema Motlanthe) and describes a determination to play a more central role in the economy, seeing the government prioritize poverty reduction and skills development, and articulating a national vision. The third is humorously called the “Muvhango” scenario, playing on the popular soapie and the “drama” of the Zuma administration. This identifies the government as battling to govern well despite an initial resurgence of the economy and a positive world condition. It singles out issues of corruption as a leading factor.

Take it or leave it, but the future glass sees the ANC losing four provinces by 2019, and a total collapse of the ANC by the 2025 elections.

Now, didn’t that get you thinking up a storm already?

Yacoob Abba Omar at Think!Fest 2014
Yacoob Abba Omar at Think!Fest 2014

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