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Prof Amira Osman

Futurist Profile


Prof Amira Osman

Professor of Architecture: Tshwane University of Technology

BSC 1988 University of Khartoum
Post-graduate Diploma Institute for Housing Studies, Rotterdam
MSC 1996 University of Khartoum
PHD 2004 University of Pretoria

Amira 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?

I am concerned about cities and how people live in cities. Through my work, I aim to help people envision alternative ways of living in cities that are more sustainable while also creating more beautiful neighbourhoods and places and allowing easier access to work and opportunities. I believe that the measures of success in our cities and neighbourhoods are whether people are happier, safer, healthier and better educated. How and where we build has an influence on these measures.

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

The very first research paper I wrote was on the role of African architects in Africa, written for a conference in Nairobi when I was only 24 years old in 1991! I never called myself an African futures thinker, but i guess I have been so for many years!

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

I worked in Khartoum, Sudan, in Maseru, Lesotho and in Pretoria and Johannesburg, South Africa

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

English - my mother tongue is Arabic so I also have access to information in that language.

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

I believe as designers, we could have a major contribution to thinking on the future of African cities. I believe that African cities can be re-imagined as liveable and lovable places.

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

More awareness that we can design differently and in more inclusive ways.

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

John Habraken and his work on "supports" and alternatives to mass housing first published in English in 1972. This philosophy came to be known and Open Building (a verb!) and it has become the lens through which I interpret the world and the built environment.

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


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

Others describe me as... Calm

I describe myself as... Focussed



What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

Successful urban places are places the work for the rich and the poor. This concept underpins much of David Dewar's work and writing.

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

Some interesting ideas, but I would like to see us move into experimentation and implementation.

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

Fear of the unknown and conservative attitudes in the built environment professions.

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?

The future of Africa needs many disciplines to participate - so there are opportunities to come into this field through many avenues. Africa needs thinkers, technical competencies, designers, economists etc.

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

African thinkers and writers - I personally have been very influenced by Ali Mazrui and his theory of triple heritage in Africa.

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



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