In 2004, a group of young South Africans, selected for their acknowledged leadership potential, envisioned that by 2020, South Africa would be “An inclusive, prosperous and just society founded on ubuntu, equality and freedom, fostering creativity and allowing its people to realise their full potential.” This Vision formed the foundation of their preferred scenario – “All aboard the Dual Carriageway”. It was one of four scenarios, ranging from disastrous to optimal.
Their hope was that “a quarter of a century after its transition to democracy, it would be a South Africa that has significantly dealt with the legacy of underdevelopment, poverty, unemployment and inequality that it had inherited. They imagined a South Africa that will have proudly taken its place within the world community of nations, as an economic and political equal.” The group was facilitated by - and the final paper drafted by - Olubenga Adesida PhD, and myself.
They recognised that “This vision will remain a utopia, unless we act now (in 2005) to make it a reality. We know there are no easy solutions and caution against complacency and disjointed interventions. We call, instead, for bold and visionary leadership, whose primary motivation is to serve others, that accepts the need for calculated risks, including going against conventional or dominant wisdom if the underlying problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality are to be addressed.”
Instead the dreams of these talented and passionate young leaders have been shattered by the failure of one thing they identified as critical and fundamental to the successful achievement of their vision – leadership – a leadership that is bold and visionary and whose primary motivation is to serve the nation. However, bold and visionary leadership in this case is not simply in or about the political space. Leadership must come from all corners of society.
The failure of leadership - a vital building block of the Vision – has meant that instead of South Africa progressing triumphantly to “All Aboard the Dual Carriageway”, in 2020 the nation languishes somewhere between two of the least desirable scenarios - “Dead End” and a “Slow Puncture”.
The foresight of these young leaders back in 2004 was remarkable in identifying the critical drivers of success for South Africa, the issues the young Nation would face, and the different possible responses that would emerge, as the scenarios they crafted and their key elements outlined below will demonstrate. They also identified the drivers which lead us down the wrong paths to “Dead End” and “Slow Puncture”.
You can watch a short video of the scenarios below or the full version, with commentary on our YouTube Channel.
The essential building blocks to achieving the vision – the All Aboard the Dual Carriageway scenario - were seen to be:
- A Just Society – A society based on the rule of law, democratic and well governed
- Ubuntu - A society that is humane, caring & with opportunities for all to realise their full potentials
- Inclusive Economy & High Growth - An innovative, high growth & inclusive economy
- Social Delivery - Access for all to basic social services: education, health
- Enabling Environment for Creativity - A society that encourages and nurtures creativity, innovation, and learning
However, the most essential building block, which underpinned everything, was seen to be Leadership. That is, bold and visionary leadership, whose primary motivation is to serve others, that accepts the need for calculated risks, including going against conventional or dominant wisdom if the underlying problems of poverty, unemployment and inequality are to be addressed.
The team met over a period of time and crafted a set of 4 possible scenarios—Dead End, Slow Puncture, Sharp Right Turn and All Aboard the Dual Carriageway. The scenarios explore how South Africa could evolve from 2004 to the year 2020. The scenarios outline alternative futures that could emerge depending on how critical issues were tackled and which factors and values drove the destiny of the country. The scenarios are:
- Dead End which explores the possible outcome of self-serving leadership, un-curtailed corruption and rampant individualism. The scenario paints a picture of South African malaise with extreme individualism, high levels of corruption and slow pace of reforms.
- Slow Puncture explores the possible outcome of South Africa choosing to beat the same path rather than adopting a bold vision and decisive leadership to reduce inequalities. Preferring not to ‘rock the boat’, an incremental approach to development was pursued in an attempt to accommodate conflicting interests in society. This is resulted in a more divided and unstable society, with obscene and ill-gotten wealth coexisting with pervasive squalor and disease.
- Sharp Right Turn examines the implications of a South Africa focusing only on achieving high economic growth. In this scenario, fed up with incremental change, leadership takes a Sharp Right Turn with a single-minded mission to improve the growth rate without the necessary investment in the social sectors. Capital intensive growth led to increasing unemployment and rising poverty. Consequently, inequality rose as well as crime and unrest. The response was clamp down and repression.
- All Aboard the Dual Carriageway is a scenario of bold and visionary leadership across all the various segments of society. The scenario was underpinned by a grassroots movement for change, with a shared vision for transformation anchored on the values of Ubuntu: self-reliance, solidarity, participation and collaboration.
You can read about the process, the people, the scenarios and how and why the group arrived at the scenarios they envisaged on the SA2020 page.