SA-SOFI - 2010 - DBSA Development Report

SA-SOFI to be used for DBSA Development Report 2010

The SA Node has been commissioned by the DBSA to undertake a foresight process based on its South Africa State of the Future Index (SA-SOFI) pilot towards the compilation of the DBSA Development Report 2010. This project is planned for the period August – December 2010.


As part of its mandate to facilitate the long-term development of the Southern African region, the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA) produces an annual Development Report. This is intended to encourage and stimulate debate on key developmental challenges facing southern Africa. The 2010 development report is themed A Perspective on the Long Term Development of South Africa: 2009-2025 and it aims to provide a DBSA perspective on what needs to be done in the short, medium and long-term to meet South Africa’s key developmental objectives taking into account the regional and global context.

The report aims to discuss key themes including how South Africa can develop an inclusive sustainable growth path; ensure that the economy is resilient to emerging threats from climate change and to encourage sustainable resource use including through sustainable human settlements; build human capacities by investing in education, health and safety;  and enhance the capacity of the state and social partners. Achieving these requires addressing key developmental challenges including inequality, unemployment and economic growth.

The report explores these themes around three central questions:

  • If we stay on the current trajectory, where will South Africa be by 2025 and beyond? (What are het key drivers and levers)
  • What can be realistically achieved over the next 15 years and how do these different factors cohere to make different options possible and impossible?
  • What key decisions and trade-offs need to be made?

DBSA Objectives

The DBSA Research Unit which is charged with coordinating the development of the report desires to employ the use of foresight techniques to support the process of  exploring policy initiatives that could be considered in order to meet South Africa’s long-term developmental objectives.

Role of the SA Node of the Millennium Project

The SA Node has been perhaps the most active, public benefit advocate for foresight in the southern African region over the past half decade. Aligned with its mission, the Node recognizes the importance of foresight not only at a national and sub-national level, but also at a regional level. As such, the Node has been involved in exploring opportunities to enhance regional knowledge and capacity in the area of foresight.

Having successfully executed an exploratory research project on developing a South Africa State of the Future Index (SA-SOFI) in 2007 in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), the Node has been seeking opportunities to employ and expand the experience and use of the method to support regional analysis and development. The partnership with DBSA is seen as an opportunity to pursue this objective beginning with using the SA-SOFI experience to support the production of the 2010 Development Report, and then considering continuation of the practice of annual state of the future indexing (or other futures analysis) for the region.


The Node’s approach to supporting DBSA’s Development Report initiative is based on the adapted use of the State of the Future Index (SOFI) technique which was piloted for South Africa in 2007. The SOFI is a quantitative time series that indicates the changing state of the future and shows possible trajectories (positive or negative) for the conditions studied. The Millennium Project has produced a global SOFI for about ten years, and the method has evolved to include a “national focus SOFI” which assesses country specific variables and developments. National SOFIs have been produced for 16 countries on 4 continents – these include Turkey, South Korea, China, and Venezuela. South Africa produced its first attempt in 2007 in a collaboration between the SA Node and the HSRC.

A national SOFI is produced to help establish priorities for policy and investment decisions intended to improve a country as a whole. This could encourage countries to ask themselves what it means to say a nation is better off or worse off in 10 years—and to answer that question in more objective, quantifiable terms. It can also be used for policy purposes by demonstrating the effects of proposed policies on a nominal SOFI. The SOFI approach provides a mechanism for studying the relationships among the items in a system, and also to assess over time how policies are impacting on variables positively and / or negatively.

The application of the SA-SOFI will be customized to meet the requirements of the DBSA’s study and report, focusing mainly on the analysis of variables than the composite indicator.

Specifically, the DBSA exercise intends to comprise developing outlooks for each of 7 key sectors or domains that form the structure of the Development Report, that is:

  • Growth Path
  • Climate Change and sustainable Resource Use
  • Health
  • Education
  • Safety and Security
  • Institutional Capacity
  • Social Cohesion

For each sector, key indicators (variables), influencing developments (scenarios), and drivers (trend impacts) will need to be identified. A consolidated view would then be required (general SOFI). In essence, 6 sectoral SOFIs and a composite SOFI are required to meet the project requirements.

The proposed process will therefore involve the following main steps:

  • Customization and preparation of the SOFI, including development of variables and developments for the 6 sector SOFIs, expert consultations, data compilation, and statistical forecasts
  • Implementation of the SOFI(s) including expert reviews (using the DSS – Decision Support System – facility available at the University of Pretoria) as well as a wider expert Delphi using the Millennium Project’s Real-Time Delphi tool.
  • Computation, interpretation and reporting

It is anticipated that the DBSA Development Report, including the SA-SOFI outputs, would be published in 2011.

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