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Siseko H. Kumalo

Futurist Profile



Siseko H. Kumalo


Editor-in-Chief (Journal of Decolonising Disciplines): University of Pretoria

PhD (in pursuit) – Political Philosophy (University of Pretoria)
MA (2019) – Political Philosophy (Cum Laude – University of Pretoria)
BSocSci Honours (2017) – Philosophy and Political and International Studies (Rhodes University)
BSocSci (2016) – Anthropology, Political and International Studies and Art Theory -minor- (Rhodes University)

Siseko 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?

Through the development of theory, both in the spheres of politics and education, I try to make the world a better place by conceptually framing what it can become. This is to say that with the knowledge of what is, and what was, mine lies in articulating what will be, through the development of ideas.

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

Since I was 15 working in Environmental Education as an activist which culminated in a contribution at the COP 17 Durban Discussions back in 2011. So it’s nearly been 10 years now.

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

Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa and Germany.

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

IsiZulu, isiXhosa, Sesotho, Shona and English.

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

Creating a world that is better for the generations to come. Like Hannah Arendt, I believe in the notion of assuming joint responsibility for the world we have inherited as there are no spaces of absolute innocence on either side of the historical divide. What is needed is a caring world, that – through education – allows children to become fully human as they interact with and encounter this world. This can only be done, once we recognise the uses of collaboratively thinking together about the world we want to create. This is what motivates my work in future studies.

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

Influencing policy, in making sure that both policy and the lived realities of the majority in this country align – this is my objective. This comes as I have observed a disjuncture between these two domains. My dream is to bridge the gaps and the fissures that exist between our political ideal and social reality.

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

The writing of historical Indigenous intellectuals, specifically William Welling Gqoba and SEK Mqhayi. They were born into a world that was harshly unjust and brutal. Their writings, thinking and modes of being in the world agitated for a world that was kinder, more tender and just. These two men inspire me, which is to say that if they could aspire to making a difference in this world, so can we, as the contemporary generation. This comes as we are more equipped, socially, politically, economically and culturally – we have the resources to effect change in this world.

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

Political Philosophy.

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

Others describe me as... Relentless

I describe myself as... Ambitious



What is one of your favourite quotes about the future?

“Whoever neglects the arts when he is young has lost the past and is dead to the future”— Sophocles.

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

Innovative and cutting-edge but not yet in the mainstream. The main idea would be to mainstream it.

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

The lack of a vision and foresight by the current political, social and institutional leadership – across sectors. I would suggest that there is an anti-intellectual culture that has arrested the contemporary global leadership. We are too fixed on solution/pragmatic ways of thinking that we have lost the beauty of ideation which is the realm of thinking that I would classify futures thinking under. Ideation gives us an opportunity to see not only the importance of futures thinking but also to actively pursue new ideas, reassuming an intellectual drive with respect to social interventions; i.e. policy, Civil Society Support, legal frameworks etc.

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?

Understand the history of the continent and appreciate it, in all its complexity and nuance. Use said history to inform whatever futures modelling you are working with/on. African foresight must be undergirded by a retrospective gaze that is prospective in its solutions orientation framework.

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

Plato’s Republic;
Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man;
Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit;
Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil;
JM Coetzee’s White Writing: On the Culture of Letters in South Africa;
Ali A. Mazrui’s Political Values and the Educated Class in Africa and finally
V-Y Mudimbe’s The Invention of Africa: Gnosis, Philosophy and the Order of Knowledge.


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