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NaNakula Evelyn Birabwa Mayanja

Futurist Profile


NaNakula Evelyn Birabwa Mayanja

Student, educator and researcher: University of Manitoba


Diploma of science in education
BA of science in education (1st class honors –Suma cumlaude) - St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, USA
MA in Applied Linguistics - Griffith University, Australia
Ph.D student in Peace and Justice - University of Manitoba, Canada 

NaNakula answered a few questions about her perspective and on being a futures thinker.


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 organize and facilitate workshops on civic education, development and peace for political leaders, university students, professional and families in Africa. It is because of the incessant wars, poverty, underdevelopment and the change I envisage for the political leadership and systems in Africa that I decided to pursue a Ph.D in peace and justice. I believe that, with strengthened leadership and governance Africa can develop and guarantee human security for all.

Second, I teach and focus on topics that I envisage to improve the human conditions of the vulnerable African people.

Third, I write journal articles, book chapters and in the newspapers on issues that will gradually foster Africa’s economic, political, and social progress.

Fourth, my research interests are on leadership and governance in Africa at the top of society and at the grass roots; women empowerment; employment for the youth; natural resource; sexual violence; peace and reconciliation in post–conflict/genocidal societies; education systems that empower learners to be knowledge generators, critical thinkers and enable them to co-exist peacefully; the complex and problematic challenge of ethnic identity; religious fundamentalism; environment protection and sustainable development; Conflict and HIV/AIDS. I believe that a better future for Africa lies in improving these areas, without which Africa will continue to be underdeveloped, rely on foreign aid and experience incessant wars. In addition, I reflect on the development of ICT and improvement on electricity accessibility in Africa, without which the continent development will remain at a low level.

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

Twenty years

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

Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Italy, Australia, India and Canada

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

Luganda, Kiswahili and English

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

First, the potentiality of Africa’s human and resource capital motivates me to works towards change and transformation. I am convinced that a better future lies on the policies and decision that are made today.

Second, the questions I ask myself regarding Africa’s present and future:
Why has the political and economic growth performance of Sub-Saharan Africa been disappointing, and different from the vision of independence? What is wrong with Africa’s political leadership that instead of fostering the common good and peoples’ well-being, often, focus is on personal interests and power? What can be done to reverse the trend, and instead sustain and improve upon the accelerated economic growth, leadership and governance that was experienced or envisioned in the early years of independence? What is needed, the possibilities, policies and institutions for Africa to achieve good governance, leadership, rapid and sustainable economic development?

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

1. I would like many young people who are the future leaders, to learn the theory and implement in practice the principles of stewardship leadership and good governance.
2. I would like to see a network of African professionals working together to better the living conditions especially of the youth and marginalized through education, employment and economic security.
3. Through education, to empower many women to participate in state decision and policy making, peace negotiations and leadership.

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

First, my mother Ms. Betty Birabwa who through her teachings and life examples inculcated in me the values of loving the vulnerable and working hard to better the living conditions of the family and community. She always said a better future depends on the decisions you make today. Be very strategic in life. She always believed and trusted that my siblings and I would become important people in life and have good lives. She is not disappointed. What seemed impossible was accomplished through courage, determination, love and sacrifice. I hold the same hope for Africa.

Second, the lives and writing of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. Their selflessness and determination to sacrifice their lives for the betterment of their nations.

Third, philosophers and educators: Frantz Fanon, Paul Freire, Aristotle, Plato and Ignatius of Loyola. They imagined a future different from the realities they faced and had the courage of speaking truth to power.

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

Education and like Mandela I believe that “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. I always take an interdisciplinary approach in my studies, thinking and teaching.

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

Others describe me as… wise or reflective
I describe myself as… prudent



What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there many more hills to climb." - Nelson Mandela

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

Emerging, vibrant and promising.

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

  • Poor internet connection, lack of accessibility to electronic data bases and continued power scarcity in many African nations.
  • Apathy and ignorance of African indigenous knowledge and philosophy. We cannot build without knowing and loving our roots.
  • The education system that fails to teach learners to think for themselves and generate knowledge.

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?

Foresight /future studies necessitate an interdisciplinary approach. While it is important to have an area of specialization, being knowledgeable in as many areas as you can is fundamental in the globalizing world. Think globally and act locally with flexibility. Be in the know of global, continental, regional and national issues. It is only by keeping abreast with issues that one can plan for the future and test the theories that work or those that need improvement. Never spend a day without reading or listening to the news. Make the social media your closest friend. Be curious to learn with a strong imagination and critical thinking.

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

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


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