African futurist Jakkie Cilliers looks beyond today’s COVID-19 crisis


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“African economies are staring at an abyss,” said Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed earlier this week in a desperate appeal to the international community for aid and debt relief to offset the ruinous effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting African countries, which often struggle to provide basic services even under normal circumstances. Moreover, the pandemic comes as African governments are already struggling with the effects of climate change, locusts, and a variety of other infectious diseases, including Lassa fever and malaria

Although the situation today looks grim, the head of the Africa Futures and Innovation Program at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, Jakkie Cilliers, contends that, COVID-19 aside, a number of key global trends are actually lining up in Africa’s favor.

In his new book, Africa First!: Igniting a Growth Revolution, Jakkie examines how trends in manufacturing, climate change, and technology will shape the continent. It’s important to note, though, that his book is not one of those feel-good “Africa Rising” narratives that’s been so popular over the past 5-10 years. Jakkie doesn’t have any simple answers to what will be, at times, a long, difficult journey for a rapidly growing continent.

He joins Eric and Cobus to discuss what he sees ahead for Africa and whether the burgeoning COVID-19 crisis challenges any of the assumptions that underlie his forecast.