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Isaac Nkama

Futurist Profile


Isaac Nkama

Foresight Strategist, Professional Futurist & Business Executive

Founder/Director: Foresight Africa Consulting

Education: Isaac Nkama is a Foresight Strategist/Professional Futurist who holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Futures Studies and an MPhil in Futures Studies.

A global citizen with a world view on issues, he is both passionate and knowledgeable about African affairs. Born in Zambia – Isaac attended primary school at the International School of Bonn, West Germany; secondary at the International School of Lusaka, Zambia; and completed his high school at the International School of Lesotho.

He is an expert in analysing how various components of the future might unfold, and uses these possible outcomes to empower organisations and leaders with valuable local and global insights. He combines Strategic Foresight/Futures Studies with his other qualifications and business experience in order to contextualise issues from a broad perspective.

Postgraduate Diploma – Futures Studies; MPhil – Futures Studies; MBA; MSc – Leadership (Corporate Governance major); MSc Real Estate – Retail Property; Chartered Marketer – CM (SA).

Isaac answered a few questions about his 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?

Futures thinking primarily involves detailed analysis of what could possibly happen, why, what the implications are and what we need to do today in order to remain relevant in tomorrow's world. It involves not just thinking about the obvious - but with a strong emphasis on those dynamics that are not so obvious.

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

Over a decade, and concurrently with other activities.

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

Sub-Saharan Africa, both in the private and public sector; for corporations, regional bodies, multilateral organisations and governments.

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

English - although I have worked in many non English speaking countries

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

To be at the forefront of planning, the ability to share what many people outside of this field would not have thought about, and in the process - making a positive difference and contribution to Africa's development.

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

For the field of Futures Studies to become known by a lot more people, and for it to be taught at a few universities in Africa. At the moment - only one university offers it as degreed programmes in the whole of Africa.

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

The very interesting interactions and structure of both the Post Graduate Diploma in Futures Studies and MPhil in Futures Studies. Gaining the technical skills of futures was greatly motivating, as were some of the great Futurists that lecture on the programmes. In particular - Prof Andre Roux, who is Head of the Futures Programme, was greatly inspiring.

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

There are actually four of them - as I have 4 Masters degrees in different disciplines. I have always been challenged by the breadth of knowledge, and it is that ability to straddle across disciplines with competence that also greatly assists my Futures/Foresight work.

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

Others describe me as… broadly knowledgeable
I describe myself as… permanently learning



What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

"Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both legs" (proverb from the Mbuti people of the rainy forest in DRC).

I like it because it teaches us that in order to still exist tomorrow, we must exercise caution at all times. We need to think about tomorrow as a permanent feature of our lives.

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

It is beginning to receive more recognition as it becomes more known, but is nowhere near where it should be. Because of where Africa is in terms of development, it needs futures thinking more than any other parts of the world - and so should be using it more than anyone else does.

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

Firstly, it is generally not known. Secondly, very few even know that it is actually a discipline that is taught at university - and that you can obtain degrees in it. Thirdly - the fact that it is both a science and an art, and uses techniques and methodologies is very rarely known.

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?

It is very important that we have more people who formally study the field. Understanding and being able to use the techniques, technical skills and methodologies will greatly contribute to the development of the discipline in Africa - and is good for its long term planning capabilities.

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

I always say try to read as broadly as possible - from economics to politics, science and technology, sociology and life trends. A Futurist must be able to connect the dots of many things, as they are more interconnected than the average person thinks. You will do yourself an injustice if you confine your reading disciplines, and in the process - will become a less effective Futurist.

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

United Nations and all the multilateral organisations (World Bank, IMF, IFC, AU, SADC,etc)

Influential publications like The Economist and many others.

Read broadly and widely - and look for sites that express views and opinions that you generally do not agree with.


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