Lead Author: Washington Ochola
Contributing Authors: Munyaradzi Chenje, Ahmed Abdelrehim, Phoabe Josia Ayugi, Bola Ayeni, Joe Asamoah, Elizabeth Gowa, John Roberts

“Africans declare that we will no longer allow ourselves to be conditioned by circumstance. We will determine our own destiny and call on the rest of the world to complement our efforts.”

NEPAD 2001


Scenario analysis offers a way to consider long-range futures in light of uncertainties and to examine the requirements for a transition to sustainability. Scenarios are possible sets of future events which, unlike projections of trends in human affairs, may be legitimate over the short term, but not as time horizons expand over months and years to decades and generations (Gallopin and others 1997). They are stories about the future with a logical plot and narrative governing the manner in which events unfold (Schwartz 1991, Cole 1981, Miles 1981) and they illuminate long-range problems and possibilities.

Scenarios are indispensable tools for environmental management that focus on large-scale, long-term interactions between development and environment (Toth and others 1989). Scenarios have two particularly advantageous qualities:

  • First, they provide a coherent framework for analysis of how various issues or sectors impinge on one another and interact; and
  • Second, they serve as tools to foster creativity, stimulate discussion, and focus attention on specific points of interest for policy on environment and development, and for opening up a constructive analysis of future problems.

The integration of scientific knowledge helps scenario development, as a tool for “peeping” into the future, to look more closely into what types of development and environmental strategies are risky and how they can be avoided, as well as into which ones are plausible and need to be reinforced. A scenario approach can be valuable for stimulating analysis and sorting out urgent policy issues, and as a means of communication between scientists and policymakers. However, it should be strongly emphasized that scenarios are simulations: they make an effort to introduce analysis of different “what if?” developments and should therefore be distinguished from projections.

This chapter provides qualitative and quantitative documentation of the scenarios developed during the Africa Environment Outlook 2 (AEO-2) process. It analyses four development scenarios adopted in the AEO-1 process (UNEP 2002a): Market Forces, Policy Reform, Fortress World and Great Transitions. Although different in nomenclature, these are similar to those used in the ongoing Global Environment Outlook (GEO) processes: Market First, Policy First, Security First and Sustainability First (UNEP 2002b). Both AEO and GEO highlight the environmental implications over the period 2005-25. The underlying assumptions of both sets of scenarios are also similar.


Box 1: PoleStar and T21

PoleStar is a software tool for mounting economic, resource and environmental information, and for examining alternative development scenarios. It is an adaptable model-building framework designed to assist the analyst engaged in sustainability studies – not a rigid model reflecting one particular approach to environment and development interactions (SEI 1999).

T21, an integrated computer development model, is a quantitative tool for integrated, comprehensive development and policy planning. The model is transparent, collaborative, interconnected, valid and customizable. It supports the larger process of planning by facilitating information collection and organization, and analysis of development strategies. It can provide insight into the potential impact of development policies and strategies relative to desired goals and objectives (MI 2002). The existing T21-Malawi Model was customized to enhance its environmental modelling capability for the production of the case study. Malawi was chosen since it allowed the model to be easily customizable to address environment issues given the existing datasets.

Sources: Raskin and others 1999, MI 2002

Comprehensive information on the future state of environmental elements is required to assess the social, economic and environmental consequences of policy and other development actions. Scenarios of environment and development issues have been developed to help assess possible effects of different biophysical, social and economic processes on the future state of the environment in selected themes and issues. The aim of this chapter is to provide guidance to the regional, sub-regional and national policy community for converting the threats to and opportunities for environment and development into practical policies and actions. They can be an important tool for defining strategies to achieve the aspirations of Africa’s leaders and people:

“We are convinced that an historic opportunity presents itself to end the scourge of underdevelopment that afflicts Africa. The resources, including capital, technology and human skills, that are required to launch a global war on poverty and underdevelopment exist in abundance and are within our reach. What is required to mobilize these resources and to use them properly, is bold and imaginative leadership that is genuinely committed to a sustained human development effort and the eradication of poverty, as well as a new global partnership based on shared responsibility and mutual interest” (NEPAD 2001).

The scenarios described in this chapter are based on qualitative narratives and quantitative back-ups that have been developed using the Stockholm Environment Institute’s (SEI) PoleStar® system and the Millennium Institute’s (MI) Threshold 21 (T21).