Welcome to Foresight For Development

Dr Odomaro Mubangizi

Futurist Profile

 

Dr Odomaro Mubangizi

Lecturer and Researcher

Lecturer, Dean of Philosophy Department, Editor of Justice, Peace and Environment Bulletin: Capuchin Franciscan Institute of Philosophy and Theology

 

 

 

Education:
Dip. Philosophy and Religious studies, BA - cum Laude Philosophy Urbaniana University
BA Theology (CUEA), MA social and political philosophy - University of Zimbabwe
MA Social Ethics and International Relations - Boston College, USA
PhD Social Ethics and international relations - Boston College USA

Dr Mubangizi answered a few questions about his perspective and on being a futures thinker.

ABOUT YOU AS A FUTURES THINKER / PRACTITIONER

You identify yourself as an African futures thinker or practitioner. How would you describe to the woman or man on the street what it is that you do in this regard?

First, I regularly publish articles on African issues with a focus on future progress in economic, social and political matters.

Second, I teach focussing on topics and themes that have a bearing on improving Africa's situation in the long term.

Third, I help in setting up civil society organisations that work for social development of the marginalized groups in society, with special focus on education that empowers.

Fourth, I try to provide a platform for reflection and analysis by helping in setting up journals, reviews that deal with matters of progress, social justice and peace.

Fifth, I motivate and mentor young talented Africans to take up leadership roles in society and in their respective countries. And finally, I take part in international conferences that carry the agenda of issues described above.

How many years have you worked as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

Twenty eight years.

In which countries or places have you had working experience as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Zimbabwe, USA, Mozambique, Indonesia, Italy, South Africa, Canada and Ethiopia.

In what languages have you undertaken futures / foresight related work or research?

English and Rukiga/Runyankore

What is it that motivates you to work or participate in the foresight / future studies / related field

I am motivated by a deep desire to see positive change that will impact future generations. I have noted that most policy errors are a result of poor foresight and lack of ability to predict the complex future. Most people focus on the past and look to the future with pessimism--such an attitude is self defeating, and I try to challenge it positing an optimistic future. I am also convinced that if we do not deliberately work for the bright future, it will never get better.

What goal/s would you most like to reach with your work as an African futures thinker / practitioner?

1. I would like to consolidate the initiatives I have been working for 28 years. The best test of the value of what I have been doing is if it continues to have a positive impact on society and people. I want to see the publications I helped start continue to attract writers who address issues that make a difference in Africa. Institutions that I have worked with or helped to found need to be consolidated.
2. I would like to see a wide network of African futures thinkers and practitioners working together to set up specialized institutions for African futures studies including a University.
3. I would like to see most African governments and private institutions integrating foresight and futures thinking in their programs and projects.

Who or what most influenced your thinking as a futures thinker / practitioner, and how?

My dad Mzee Tadeo Nyebirweki by his insistence on focusing on the future by investing in education, tree planting, and his own life-long career as a designer and tailor.

 

Next influence came from my diverse disciplines and personal reading. I liked integrating science and humanities right from my high school days. Literature (books such as Julius Caesar, Animal Farm, Things Fall Apart, Wuthering Heights and King Lear), fired up my imagination. The study of geography, biology, and physics helped me to appreciate how natural laws produce their own systems that can be easily predicted. The greatest influence however came from philosophy and theology that equipped me with speculative reasoning and logic, while ethics helped me to envision the good and the normative in human affairs.

 

And finally, my passion for political and economic issues of Africa and the rest of the world. Among the individual thinkers that have influenced my thinking the following stand out: Prof Mahmood Mamdani, Prof Dan Nabudere, Prof Mwesiga Baregu, Prof Ali Mazrui, Prof David Hollenbach, Prof Thomas Massaro, Prof Mary Jo Bane, Prof Devra Moehler, Hope Chigudu, Prof Simon Mawondo, Francis Fukuyama, Prof.Samuel Huntington and Goran Hyden. I have been deeply impressed by the analytical skills of these celebrated scholars, both in their writings and public lectures. In my studies some of them taught me, while I also relied on their writings in constructing my ideas.

What is your main disciplinary background? (i.e. your primary training / qualification)

Political and Social Philosophy and social ethics. But I have always taken an interdisciplinary approach in my studies.

How do other people describe you and how do you describe yourself?

Others describe me as an… scholar and strategist

I describe myself as… curious and innovative

 

YOUR PERSPECTIVE

What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

“The future is a product of the past and present with some surprises” - Mine (Dr Odomaro Mubangizi)


“If you forget history you are condemned to repeat its mistakes.” - George Santayana


"A people will not look forward to posterity who do not look backwards to their ancestry." - Edmund Burke

How would you describe the state of African futures thinking right now?

It is still emerging but with not much institutional support from governments and educational institutions. But of late there is a great interest in African futures studies due to an increased market for strategic management. Many MBA courses across Africa have brought students to the awareness of the need for strategic thinking. Also there are several consultancy firms that help organizations to formulate vision, and strategic plans. But still there is little political will to develop a well designed futures studies. But as Africa competes with very advanced economies such as China, India and Brazil, futures thinking will gain currency and people will realise the need for this much neglected crucial discipline.

What is, in your opinion, the main barrier to uptake of futures knowledge by African institutions and organisations?

The main barrier is ignorance and lack of time to engage in speculative thinking. Also many people have a negative attitude to abstract thinking mistaking it for day dreaming. A key example is the neglect of philosophy which is the main discipline that helps in sharpening logical and speculating thinking, yet most students would rather go for engineering, medicine, law and economics, only to meet theoretical and philosophical issues at a doctorate level and struggle to deal with complex conceptual frameworks. In short, there is more focus on the pragmatic and what will put food on the table.

If you were to give advice to someone who wants a career in African foresight / future studies, what would you say to him or her?

I would say, be broad minded in your reading. All disciplines have a bearing on futures thinking: history, law, economics, politics, philosophy, theology, etc. Also I would stress knowledge of current affairs through journalism. Only by knowing current affairs can one test what predictions were accurate. Finally, I would encourage that person to develop great imagination and critical thinking.

What are your recommended readings for every African futures thinker / practitioner?

  • The Knowable Future: A Prophetic psychology of forecasting and Prophecy by David Loye
  • The Book of Revelation and of Daniel in the Bible. Also prophetic books of the Old Testament
  • Any books on strategy
  • Goran Hyden's African Politics in comparative politics is excellent.
  • World Bank's Can Africa Claim the 21st Century?

What are your recommendations for other favourite futures resources: websites, newsfeeds, mailing lists, associations, etc.?

The following journals are good:

 

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