Africa: From Potential to Prosperity

Jakkie Cilliers and Wesley Timm, African Futures and Innovation Program, Pretoria office of the Institute for Security Studies

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This discussion paper presents the summary results from a multi-year project on the long-term future of Africa. The work extends the analysis presented in Africa First: Igniting a Growth Revolution (Jonathan Ball, Cape Town and Johannesburg, 2020), subsequently updated in the open-access book The Future of Africa: Challenges and Opportunities (Springer, 2021)

The paper provides an overview of conclusions, comparing the impact of 11 sectoral scenario results for 54 African countries and a combined scenario called Agenda 2063.

The project uses the International Futures (IFs) forecasting platform (University of Denver) to present Africa’s likely development pathway (the Current Path) and compare that with an ambitious scenario in each of the 11 sectors, plus an interpretation of the impact on jobs and carbon emissions. In all instances our interventions are from 2024 to 2033 and we then review impact for an additional 10 years. The intervention and forecast horizons of 2033 and 2043 reflect the end of the second and third 10-year implementation plans of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 vision.  Care has been taken to ensure that the various scenarios are comparable based on historical precedent.

The Current Path forecast and the various sectoral scenarios were presented to more than 100 issue-area experts during 14 virtual events from October 2020 to February 2021 and are benchmarked against best-of-history progress at similar levels of income.

The scenarios are modelled at country level for each of 54 African countries and aggregated upwards for presentation at regional and continental levels.

We release this paper ahead of a first virtual presentation and discussion scheduled for 18 and 19 May 2021 hosted by the Gordon Institute for Business Science (GIBS), University of Pretoria. We hope to schedule additional events leading up to a large conference on the future of Africa in November 2021 and the release of the results of each of the scenarios although some of the content is already available in the books mentioned above.

Requests for presentations/discussion should be addressed to

We invite comments and feedback, either through posting remarks in the comments section, by sending an email to the authors or to Marius Oosthuizen at GIBS (


1. Introduction

This summary paper presents Africa’s development prospects within a historical context. It combines the results of 11 sectoral scenarios[1] in an ambitious Agenda 2063 vision and compares that with the Current Path (sometimes also referred to as Base Case) forecast. It looks at the potential for aspirational yet realistic improvement through interventions in the various sectors in the context of Agenda 2063, a comprehensive 50-year blueprint for Africa’s self-empowered transformation to an integrated, prosperous and peaceful continent. With the first 10-year implementation period (2013–2023) shortly coming to an end and planning for the second (2023–2033) about to commence, the forecasts described here provide insight into how Africa’s path could unfold over the next two decades.

Analyses are supported by interactive graphs to allow readers to engage with the content meaningfully so as to facilitate rigorous, informed comment. Details for each sectoral scenario will be released in November 2021 as part of a much larger interactive website on the long-term future of Africa and regularly updated thereafter.

The forecasts and scenarios presented here are not predictions, and so-called Black Swan events (of low probability but high impact) could mean that the future unfolds quite differently. We are, however, confident that the forecasts presented in this discussion paper are well grounded in deep drivers of development, with relationships drawing on a large body of academic literature. In the associated analysis we offer only one positive scenario for each sector and compare that with the Current Path forecast, although the various sectoral scenarios can be combined in a number of ways.

The combined Agenda 2063 scenario can best be interpreted as an ambitious upper ceiling of Africa’s development prospects and we caution that simultaneous achievement would require considerable effort, dedication and inevitably some good fortune.


[1] The 11 sectors are: agriculture; demographics; education; external aid and investment; conflict and stability; governance; health; infrastructure; leapfrogging through technology (ICT and renewable energy); trade and the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area; and industrialization (together with interventions on better welfare).