African Futures: Using Data to Explore and Visualize the Future

The launch of the Pardee Centre for African Futures provides African Leadership Academy with instant access to credible global research data enhancing the endless possibilities for further learning and research – and is already being implemented into the curriculum.

‘Authenticity as a scientist is crucial – and with this kind of data, you can’t go wrong – it’s reliable and up to date; it updates constantly – and it will help facilitate research in various fields.’

The University of Denver’s Pardee International Futures (IFs) Center, founded in 2007, is considered the bastion of global trend analysis and longterm forecasting, used by leading institutions and policy makers – and the Academy has already made inroads into Africanising this international platform, as Geography and African Studies teacher Ernest Assante explains.

“In African studies we have different course models within the curriculum; one of which have recently been designed specifically for around use of the IFs model.. Prior to designing this course, I was teaching Development Studies, which explored the challenges to Africa’s development, such as the resources we have on continent, and tries to explore the reasons why development is slow in most countries. With this International Futures database, I have moved on and we are now looking at projections, trajectories and possibilities. We get a bigger picture of where countries are heading if interventions are not put in place to either speed up the positives or slow down the negatives.”

Students then have to do comparative studies with South East Asian countries to ascertain how and why they have met goals, and also use the data to find reasons why goals are not or cannot be achieved, adds Ernest.

‘The system applies to so many fields: whether your interest lies in the arts, geography … as long as someone envisions impact, it can help you understand the current situation in data form.’

As a biology, chemistry and mathematics major, Ntandoyakhe Tshuma has not had the opportunity to work with the IF system in his classes – but that hasn’t stopped him from exploring its possibilities for his own research interests.

Ntandoyakhe, who hails from Zimbabwe, had initially wanted to be a doctor – but an internship at a Bulawayo hospital made him rethink this when he realised just how bad health services actually were. This desire to better understand medical systems in Africa sparked his interest in the African Futures Centre, and led to him joining the steering committee. Once introduced to the system, he hasn’t stopped exploring.

“It’s a great resource,” enthuses Ntandoyakhe. “My usage is limited to Zimbabwe, though the system applies to so many fields: whether your interest lies in the arts, geography … as long as someone envisions impact, it can help you understand the current situation using historical and projected data from dependable sources.”

The idea behind the Africa Futures Centre is to Explore, Understand and Shape, explains Ntandoyakhe. “You explore the trends, compare with others to try to understand what they reveal and once you have all the data, start to understand it in context. We live in an interconnected world; you can’t separate one set of figures from another – and change in one sphere will spark change in another. And this system helps you to break it all down and understand those interconnections.”

For Ntandoyeka, the biggest advantage to the Centre’s system is that the data is available even when the system is offline; it just updates when connected online, which makes it really convenient in terms of accessibility.”

The location, too is an added bonus, says this intrepid scientist: The space is convenient for team research, as you can easily demonstrate your findings to your group,” he notes, adding that the best way students can leverage this powerful resource is to exploit it as much as possible.

Read all about the creation, design and launch of this vital resource platform here and WATCH as a students share their thoughts on how they will benefit from the Pardee Centre for African Futures.