INTERVIEW: Professor Alioune Sall, President of the Foresight Group of Africities 7

“Local authorities can influence the future if they develop strategies to enhance the value of their resources”

Professor Alioune Sall, President of the foresight group that was established for the preparation of the Africities 7 summit, talks in this interview about the vision of Agenda 2063 of the African Union (AU) and the role of local authorities for achieving this Agenda. The Professor Sall is also Executive Director of the African Future Institute (Institute specialized in Foresight).

 

Vision 2063 Agenda of the African Union

“Agenda 2063 belongs to a stance towards the future.It offers a courageous analysis of the situation in Africa.This is not a simple thing because Africa is a contradictory set in which there are positive elements of trends that are changing under the influence of change germs, but a set in which we also see the persistence of a negative trend.Agenda 2063 is clear on both these negative trends and on these seeds of change that have a positive potential.Agenda 2063 is also a certain stance that is well assumed;this attitude towards the future consists in working to make what is desirable come true and in adopting a proactive attitude instead of after-the-fact attitudes that were simply aimed at helping Africa adjust to an external reality.Here we are dealing with a winning attitude of a possible future.The third positive element in Agenda 2063 is that beyond an analysis of what Africa is, the Agenda is characterized by concerns of an operational nature.

This document is an instrument to improve the planning and management of development in Africa and this is why the long-term vision with the 2063 horizon as a time horizon is going to be broken down into shorter horizons.The first section covering 10 years, this is where the commission of the African Union is standing in terms of operationalization of this vision.

There are three other elements that I deem important to consider when you want to understand the ambition of Agenda 2063.

First of all, this agenda was first developed by Africans and this feature, in my opinion, is part of a desire to reconquer intellectual sovereignty that had been somewhat lost for almost two decades.Economic policies for example have been dominated by a paradigm that was an outside one, the Structural adjustments one.

Another major feature is that there has been an effort to listen to Africans.An effort to listen both to those on the continent and those in the diaspora to understand what are their aspirations, what are their fears, and what could their contribution be.Thus the Agenda is built around seven major aspirations, the participatory nature being one of the conditions for it to have real ownership.

The 3rd feature is that this Agenda is built largely around the citizens.It is therefore an Afro-centric agenda. ”

 

Role of local authorities

“Local authorities may participate in the implementation of Agenda 2063 in many ways.First reflecting on their own evolution and evolutionary scenarios possible in the future.2063 is tomorrow, 2063 of the seeds are already in the current reality.Among those who will be there in 2063, some are already born.We must ask the question of how they can evolve in life.Embedding foresight in local government management approach is an important way to participate in building the future.The authorities should not simply wait until tomorrow comes.They could now make diagnoses that are more accurate and much richer than those established previously.The second contribution could be to make this diagnosis with the citizens themselves.Instead of having technocratic exercises made by the departments or decentralized local authorities or by consulting firms, one could imagine diagnoses made by the citizens themselves.This could be done in the languages spoken in the country, so that the information could be disseminated and better reach groups that are not reached so far by information.Many people do not speak foreign languages such as French and English.You should know that there is no good foresight without a good stock-taking exercise.The prospective analysis is conducted sometimes by some local communities but it is made on ad hoc basis.This foresight should become institutional so that it becomes something that is part of culture.This is a large-scale project that is open to local governments.Local authorities can influence the future if they develop strategies to enhance the value of their resources.”

 

African Future Institute

“We work in four directions.  First of all, we do a lot of advocacy for Africans to explain that foresight is not a luxury reserved for researchers who would get rid from the contingencies of everyday management.But it is a decision support tool. It is an instrument of power to the extent that it allows people to look the bigger picture.It is a means to ensure that decision-makers should not be victims of the tyranny of emergencies to be solved all the time.

Secondly, many African countries have launched studies on long-term prospects. All countries that have engaged in these studies are not equipped in the same way to conduct such an exercise.We help countries that wish so to develop their capacities to master the tools, methods, processes and philosophy of prospective studies.The third direction in which we are present are the publications.We have published a number of books on the future competitiveness of African economies.We published a book on alternative scenarios for Africa in 2025;we published a methodological guide on building the capacity of African professionals in the field of foresight.The fourth direction concerns the research on issues of strategic interest such as money problems and the issues of peace and security.Obviously there will be no development if instability reigns and if some parts of our territories are inaccessible.”