Geci Karuri-Sebina, who is working for an organization called Cities Network, is researching how African cities work and how that will unfold in the future. Unless she sees the fast development of technology, she is convinced we will be increasingly asking a lot of questions about meaning – not only in Africa. "If you want to be somewhere going forward, what does that mean in a way that's meaningful for Africans and the people that occupy the space?", she asks, "What does it mean when you have a city where 80 percent of the population is too poor to even bother thinking about that? How do you keep the good things? There is a lot that is really amazing about African cities. There is a real joy of life. There is a real happiness. How do you improve things without losing these things?"
On the one hand the mission is clear for her: it's to improve quality of life through infrastructure and technology. "But on the other hand", she says, "it's the more consciousness-level issues, the more social issues about who we want to be. Perhaps that's the real opportunity lying ahead. The world is thinking a little bit more about the ideas of a shared or solidarity economy. We in Africa come from that and many of us are very steeped in that. We walk about sustainability and greening the future – many of us come from that. We are very routed in having a different relationship with the environment."
Geci Karuri-Sebina is asking where the African strengths are: "I think that we are fairly strong social beings. Everything is very linked on the level of family but it goes beyond family to community and to whatever sense one has of humanity. That's a very strong thing for us because it becomes very difficult to imagine an individual future or individual success or individual economic prosperity. It's always linked to something bigger. People begin to understand the interconnectedness of our common futures. You cannot really develop on your own as a community or as a country or as a species."
Geci Karuri-Sebina sees technology as an important factor for information and efficiency. "We will be asking for enhanced human contact" because a lot of the people we are in daily contact with will be now replaced by bots, little personal assistants, and other technologies. A huge change for hyper social societies like in Africa. According to Geci Karuri-Sebina, Africans should be learning from the past: "If you're going back, you can go forward", she says and emphasizes the values that are contained in the traditional Adinkra symbols of West Africa, "symbols that reflect a system of human values that are universal: family, integrity, tolerance, harmony, determination, and protection among many others. They could lead us into the future, although they are very old."
Geci Karuri-Sebina is an architect and urban planner who dedicates her work to one purpose and motto: “Africa needs to come to grips with owning her future.” Karuri-Sebina wants to see deliberate futures thinking integrated into every level of African society. She is hopeful that the right amount of planning can glean positive results for her home country of South Africa and the broader African continent. Karuri-Sebina has a sound knowledge base for her work as executive manager of programs at the South African Cities Network. Karuri-Sebina also serves as a director of the South African Node of the Millennium Project – a global-futures think tank. Geci Karuri-Sebina lives in Johannesburg.
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