The scenarios

East and Southern Africa (ESA) comprises ten coastal countries bordering the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) – Comoros, France, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania.

Watch the 15-minute video below in English, or read the 16-page booklet, summary pages and detailed narratives at right.




In 2017, the ten countries had a total population of 220 million people, 69 million of whom live in the coastal zone, and benefit from over US$20.8 billion in economic benefits from the ocean each year. This is 4th in size compared to national economies. But this value is under threat from rapid development, multiplying uses and impacts of climate change, seen in declining fish stocks, degraded ecosystems and lower productivity.

Both the African Union, through its Agenda 2063, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), have identified the sustainable blue economy – economic activity and growth that depend on a healthy ocean – as a cornerstone for countries to transform into middle-income and emerging economies in the 21st century. The United Nations Agenda 2030 further enshrines the central role of the ocean for sustainable development through Goal 14 (SDG14), to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources “, to lift millions of people out of poverty.

The challenge for Western Indian Ocean countries is “how to achieve successful economic growth, build social welfare and equity AND maintain the health of ocean ecosystems”


Implementing the SDGs in the WIO

Countries of the WIO, through the Nairobi Convention, have undertaken 3 decades of joint programming and planning for the protection of the marine environment. This has generated joint visions documented in two Strategic Action Programmes which are now being implemented by the convention, member states and partners. Further support is provided by partnership initiatives, such as in the Northern Mozambique Channel, founded on socially, environmentally and economically sustainable uses and stewardship of living resources.

The 2017 United Nations Oceans Conference  provided a platform to focus countries’ and other stakeholders’ attention on commitments to achieving SDG14 at national and regional levels.

The approach

Three workshops (May and November 2017, March 2018) were held, involving  8 countries of the region, regional partners and almost 100 participants. Participants came from government, major NGOs and civil society, and from multiple sectors including fishries, environment, tourism, planning and maritime transport. The workshops focused on two outputs – developing and  then enriching Voluntary  Commitments on SDG14  at national and regional levels, and the scenarios development process.

Participants identified two key uncertainties, they felt would determine future outcomes in the region:

  • level of governance (good vs. poor, integration vs. fragmentation)

  • wealth and degree of investment in a country (high vs. low, from international and domestic sources).

After these, a range of additional drivers were identified and woven into the narratives, including climate change, health, education, migration, insecurity and other factors.

Scenario Outputs

A website – https://www. (temporary site).

  • A summary booklet for policymakers – the link will be provided here.

  • Animated videos of each scenario (3 minutes each)- the link will be provided here

  • A technical report, with details descriptions of the scenarios and guidance for further elaboration- the link will be provided here.

  • A powerpoint presentation, for presenting and using the scenarios in workshop contexts.

  • Illustrations and materials, to support elaboration of the scenarios in new contexts- the link will be provided here.

Using the scenarios

In the Northern Mozambique Channel, the scenarios will guide the implementation of multi-stakeholder platforms that will be important for Marine Spatial Planning in coming years.

More broadly in the WIO/ESA, such as in the Nairobi Convention and other regional institutions (e.g. Indian Ocean Commission, Southern Africa Development Community), as well as in bilateral discussions between countries, the scenarios can contribute to planning and dialogues on delivering on the WIOSAP goal of a prosperous and sustainable future for the region.

One value of scenarios is the involvement of individuals and institutions in their development and elaboration. This builds systemic understanding, relationships and trust amongst stakeholders, to support and guide decision-making. Particularly where there are competing sectors and interests, scenarios can be a valuable tool to provide decision-makers, business-leaders and civil society with a common language and understanding about the potential consequences of their choices and actions. This helps to build the relationships and trust needed to tackle complex issues and trade-offs, and commit to long term solutions.

Next steps will also include (semi)quantitatiave elaboration of the scenarios using relevant SDG and other indicators, exploring in greater depth the consequences of each scenario in varied sectors and contexts, and using the scenarios in planning interventions to identify ‘seeds’ of desirable future outcomes, to nurture them through the often-difficult early stages of development.

Background and justification

Scenarios describe what MAY happen, not what WILL happen.

This work builds on prior scenarios developed by the Nairobi Convention and partner projects (fig. below), focused on two ‘opposite’ futures – “Conventional Wold/Business as Usual” and “Sustainable World/Blue Economy”.

These new scenarios explore nuances in greater detail, expanding consideration to 4 plausible futures, generating richer narratives about potential futures and decision-making opportunities. They are focused on the shared history of East and Southern African countries in terms of indigenous and foreign contacts from several centuries ago until the present, and project forward from now until 2035.

For clarity they focus on dominant drivers within the Northern Mozambique Channel, but are relevant more broadly at national levels in the same countries, to other countries in the WIO/ESA region, as well as beyond the marine and coastal domain.

The method - Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP)

Transformative Scenario Planning (TSP) is an approach that brings concerned stakeholders from different, often competing, perspectives together around pressing sets of problems to build narratives that illustrate a range of potential futures. The method is based on bringing influential and thought-leaders together through multiple facilitated discussions. Participants identify the key forces around which to construct 3 to 4 plausible stories about the future.

TSP places significant importance on convening as diverse a group as possible, and pays attention to the different normative views influencing the scenarios. Emphasis is placed on scenarios as conversation starters toward deeper understanding and more collaborative action for change. In this way, scenarios are not the only outcome: more ambitious and longer-term outcomes are stronger collaboration and shared understanding between influential actors who have historically worked in parallel or at cross-purposes.

Examples of transformative scenario processes:

Transformative scenarios

Videos by chapter/individual scenario

The individual scenarios (approx. 3 minutes) and introduction/conclusion can be watched in separate videos below:


1-Slow but sure

2-Riding the wave

3-Pirate ship

4-All pain no gain