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Prof John Ohiorhenuan

Futurist Profile


Prof John Ohiorhenuan

Independent Researcher and Lecturer


Previously UN Resident Coordinator in South Africa; and Deputy Assistant Administrator of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention & Recovery at UNDP (New York). Now retired and part-time teaches Development Economics at Columbia & New Schools Universities in New York


BSc (Hons) in Economic - University of Ibadan, Nigeria
MA Economics - McMaster University, Canada
Ph. D Economics - McMaster University, Canada

Prof Ohiorhenuan 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?

I think about what kind of Africa my grandchildren would live in; I work to make that future a good one.

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

Forty Years

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

Nigeria, UK, Guyana, South Africa, USA and Canada

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


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

My strong belief that Africa must work to claim the future. The future will not fall in our laps.

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

I would most like to make a significant contribution to diffusing the idea through African policy and intellectual circles that the future is NOT destiny but a destination to work towards actively.

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

I moved into futures gradually soon after my graduate studies a few decades ago. I started my academic career teaching development planning. But it soon became clear to me that getting from an existing state to a desired state was not a simple problem of arithmetic or calculus. It is as much a matter of both mathematics and poetry; of science and philosophy. That understanding has accompanied me through various phases of my career in academia, public policy and international development.

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 an… Professorial

I describe myself as… An iconoclastic thinker



What is the one thing you wish someone had told you about being an African futurist before you actually become one?

The future is an exciting place to be.

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

I think there is still too much wishful thinking about Africa’s future and, despite good progress in the last two decades, there’s still not enough rigorous intellectual work and advocacy for the great continent that we all so earnestly desire.

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

It’s not easy to see how one can make a living working on foresight, and most Africans are way too poor to pursue this (or any other activity) as a hobby.

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?

That the future is in our hands.

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

If we had to visit your place of work, what and/ or who are we likely to see there?

You will find me in my study surrounded by music, philosophy and a large but eclectic collection of works by African writers.

Where or in what place do you do your best thinking?

In a place where I can listen to the sound of water.


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