Soundtracks for the future

Music is a powerful medium that transcends cultures and language. Listen to these four popular songs from east and southern Africa that give a feel for the scenarios – 4 cases representing high and low levels of governance on the one hand, and investment on the other.

1) Slow but sure

Miriam Makeba, Jikele Maweni (retreat song)

This is a story about a tight-knit, self-sufficient country that must transform and open up to face modern challenges, and meet the needs of its modernising, more connected and more educated people. It is a difficult story of good governance and intentions, due to a strong cultural/national identity, but continuous struggles. The older generation is increasingly out of touch, and a well-educated and intentioned youth start to take over. This creates tensions with the establishment, but each time good emerges. Can the country modernize and finally attract better investment to support growth and a more outward focus?

2) Riding the wave

Brenda Fassie, Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu (I am, because you are/thank you my Africa)

This story is about a country endowed with natural resources and wise leaders, and a population that values its diversity and image of security and well-being. The country has everything going for it, tested by major suffering due to climate impacts, but good governance and financial means, broad based civil society engagement and attraction of long term investors committed to balanced benefits enable positive outcomes. However growth and population are strong tests, as are corrupt business interests that must be kept at bay, and pressures are mounting.

4) All pain no gain

Eric Wainaina, Nchi ya kitu kidogo (Country of small things)

This country has few natural resources, is struggling to advance. Petty individualized conflicts dominate, and populist leaders with no governance vision are voted in – small people, small dreams. With few assets to capitalize and little technical ability to make the most of even the rich marine/coastal habitats, the country only attracts low-end investors with no real infrastructure to support nation-building. An example of the failed state syndrome being played out, where small leaders fail to provide a direction for their society, falling farther behind in the 21st century.

3) Pirate ship

Hugh Masekela, Stimela (the (coal) train)

This country has riches that have attracted outsiders for centuries, and built a wealthy class, but with little investment in social institutions and governance. With new extreme wealth from natural gas, the spiral intensifies towards political and economic elitism, winner-takes-all economics and gated communities separating the wealthy from the masses. Slums and poverty grow, as the environment and social capital decline. The riches provide a veneer of national pride and many symbols of wealth, but these are inaccessible to most. The country is on an accelerating train to nowhere good.


To play all four themes in a loop go to the bottom of the page.


About the scenarios

These narratives describe a country bordering the Northern Mozambique Channel – part of the region identified as ‘east and southern Africa’, part of sub-Saharan Africa, from the continental side, or the ‘western Indian Ocean’, from the marine side. These are stories that might be of different countries sharing the region, or alternative futures of one country. Just as future scenarios describe different options starting from the present moment into the future, they may also describe different pathways leading to the present.

Some story elements are common to the narratives, in addition to the region they are in. They also experience the same climate – and the same climate change impacts anchor the stories, including in 2019-2020 three major cyclones, a drought and floods; and in 2032-34 a long drought followed by super-cyclone Hasira (meaning ‘angry’ in Swahili) and a 1-in 100 year (or centennial) rainy season that magnifies the floods from the cyclone. They share different versions of colonial and post-independence history, experience of recent investment and global dominance by Western countries and financial institutions, and a future that includes China’s One Belt One Road initiative and what it offers, and demands of, them.

They differ in the quality of their governance institutions, described in the context of elections, corruption and policies affecting their development trajectories; in their attractiveness to foreign investment in terms of both the quantity and the quality of that investment; and in many common threads around agriculture, fisheries, social services, education, technology, gender equality and more.

There is clearly a country with a ‘best’ future – where both governance and investment are both good, and a ‘worst’ future – where governance and investment are both low … but there are nuances across the four stories, and elements that you might recognize from your country, or a neighbouring one today, or in the recent past, or imaginable in the near future. Which elements are desirable, and which can we influence by choices made today, to achieve in the future?

Background on the project

The scenarios are under final preparation 14-16 March 2018 in a workshop in Zanzibar, Tanzania. They will be released shortly after on this page. This piece of work is being undertaken by WWF and CORDIO in the context of the Northern Mozambique Channel initiative, with professional facilitation by Reos Partners. Some 40-50 participants from NMC countries – Comoros, Madagascar, Mozambique, Seychelles, Tanzania and France, have participated in three workshops in 2017-2018.

NMC theme music playlist – continuous play