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”
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.”
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”. A summary of the project can be seen below:
In 1992-93, a group of influential young South Africans from all political persuasions and different sectors of society met over a series of workshops to explore the future of South Africa, and from those meetings the famous Mont Fleur Scenarios emerged. The logic of these powerful scenarios allegedly influenced the strategic thinking of the ANC as it waited to be elected to govern the country, as well as the National Party, the official ruling party at the time. Some well-known political, academic and business leaders were in that group – Trevor Manuel, Tito Mboweni, Saki Makozima, Professor Brian O’Connell and others.
In 2004, ten years after full democracy in South Africa, the far-sighted Resident Representative of the UNDP in South Africa, Dr. John Ohiorheneuan, invited the African Leadership Institute (AFLI) to facilitate and manage a similar scenario process, with administrative support from the University of Western Cape. South Africa’s renaissance was not proceeding as everyone had hoped back in 1994. The tasks were to take stock of developments to-date at the time, as well as to explore how would the young leaders then see the future of South Africa, and what actions did they believe should be taken if a preferred scenario was to emerge by 2020?
Over a series of six workshops held again at the inimitable Mont Fleur Conference Centre, a group of 30 emerging leaders explored the future of South Africa. As with the previous 1992 scenario exercise, the group was composed of 30 emerging leaders from different sectors and political persuasions - including six from other parts of Africa - to contribute a broader perspective to the debates and to share experiences from the continent. The full set of participants is listed further down.
By 2004, the euphoria of the Mandela years was fading, despite the enormous strides that were made during the first few years after 1994 in achieving macroeconomic stability and starting to create a more just society and to eradicate apartheid backlogs in access to housing, water and sanitation, electricity, health, education and communications. But there were still big backlogs to overcome, and poverty, inequality and unemployment remained serious issues, whilst secondary sectors of the economy were underdeveloped, and entrepreneurship was not taking off as needed. Thabo Mbeki entered his second term as President of South Africa in 2004 as the HIV/AIDS pandemic was raging, and rumours of the infamous arms deal began to filter through to the public.
The team met over a period of time and crafted a set of four 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.
The Building Blocks of the Vision
The team believed there were some fundamental building blocks to achieving their vision for South Africa in 2020, and without all these building blocks being in place, the Vision would collapse. In only one of the four scenarios are all the building blocks in place, so the outcomes of the other three scenarios are sub-optimal at best, and disastrous for the people at worst.
The essential building blocks to achieving the vision 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.
When they spoke of leadership, it did not only mean political leadership at the highest level, but leadership throughout the political spectrum, as well as in the various channels of government, in state-owned enterprises, in business and in civil society. For rapid and sustainable transformation, engagement and commitment of all to a societal-wide agenda for change is key. Development and transformation cannot be outsourced whether to donors, the government or the private sector alone. All with the ‘power to act’ including the civils society and the citizenry must do the right things.
Sadly, it was in this vital building block that the nation’s leaders let the people down, and instead of South Africa progressing triumphantly to “All Aboard the Dual Carriageway”, in 2020 the nation languishes somewhere between a “Dead End” and a “Slow Puncture”.
Realizing the Vision
All Aboard the Dual Carriageway, the optimistic scenario which examines how South Africa as a country challenges its approach to growth and development and chose a bold path to enable all to climb aboard the dual carriageway to a better life, remains the pathway forward.
As a nation that was highly stratified and divided on so many levels and with high levels of inequalities across race and class, the All Aboard the Dual Carriageway scenario calls for transformation and building an inclusive society. Making this a reality will require significant emphasis on and advances in the five building blocks identified by the SA2020 team and listed above.
Critical steps must be undertaken to enhance the capacity and capabilities of those historically left behind to actively participate in the economy through human capital formation (education, skills training, health, etc.), building an inclusive economy and society, as well as investing in building a robust infrastructure and the ecosystem for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
The good news is that despite the challenging realities which COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed, South Africa today has the ingredients to realize the vision outlined in the All Aboard the Dual Carriageway scenario. What South Africa needs are bold actions as well as the commitment and engagement of all the stakeholders with the power to act. Everyone must be engaged to bring about the desired future.
The South Africa 2020 outputs:
Please follow the links below to download the following publications about the SA 2020 outputs:
- Summary publication (updated in 2021)
- Original Summary publication
- Full Report
- Powerpoint Presentation
- Short video summary of the SA 2020 Scenarios on YouTube (embedded above.)
- Full, hour-long video of the SA 2020 Scenarios on YouTube.
List of Participants and titles as of 2004
- Ms.Bonita Case – Marketing Manager
- Mr.Brett Dawson – Engineer/ Futurist/ Strategic Planner
- Mr.Carel Boshoff – Member of Provincial Legislature - Orania
- Mr.Desmond Lesejane – Minister of Religion
- Mr.Donovan Williams – Political Analyst/ SANCO NEC
- Ms.Fébé Potgieter – Activist & Researcher
- Ms.Felleng Sekha – Lawyer
- Ms.Frouwien du Toit – Political & Economic Analyst
- Dr.Isaac Machi – Senior Lecturer (Physics)
- Ms.Isobel Frye – Lawyer/Social Policy Researcher
- Dr.Karl Le Roux – Medical Doctor
- Mr.Langa Zita – Member of Parliament - ANC member of Communist Party
- Dr.Lisa Klein – Strategic Consultant
- Mr.Michael Cerfontyne – Business & Leadership Consultant
- Mr.Na'eem Jeenah – Academic / Muslim Activist
- Ms.Nkuli Mabandla – Lawyer
- Mr.Oupa Bodibe – Trade Unionist
- Mr.Patrick Kulati – Environmentalist
- Ms.Raenette Taljaard – Member of Parliament – DA
- Mr.Ronnie Ntuli – Banker / Lawyer
- Mr.Ronny Mkhwanazi – Attorney
- Mr.Sakhumzi Zamxaka – Economist
- Ms.Shaamela Cassiem – Policy Analyst/Human Rights Activist
- Mr.Aidan Eyakuze – Economist/Banker (Tanzania)
- Ms.Barbara Barungi – Economist (Uganda)
- Ms.Betty Maina – Economist/Policy Analyst (Kenya)
- Mrs.Bola Atta – Magazine Editor (Nigeria)
- Mr. Emmanuel Dei-Tumi – Business Executive (Ghana)
- Ms.Janah Ncube – Womens' Rights Activist (Zimbabwe)
Review by the AFLI Facilitators of the SA 2020 Scenario Process:
The paper was drafted by the facilitators below:
- Dr. Olubenga Adesida
- Mr. Peter Wilson
Click on the button to watch the extended hour-long video on AFLI's YouTube channel.