Scenarios are a creative way of shining a light on the critical factors that will drive countries in one direction or the other. They don’t make predictions, nor even explore which future is most likely, but rather help decision makers think through how to better manage uncertainty and complexity, the only constants in today’s world.
The four scenarios in this study were developed in this tradition. They include Fire On The Mountain, One Chance, Which Way Nigeria and African Giant Awake. The scenarios explore the future of Nigeria up to 2050 under varying conditions, with a special focus on technology and governance. What happens when the world is characterised by a technology regime that is “open” (inclusive, trusted, distributed) or “closed” (monopolies, splinternet) in conjunction with governance that is “us” (inclusive, negotiated) or “me” (insular, atomistic)?
Fire On The Mountain:
This scenario explores a “me-first” governance approach in a closed technology environment. It is named after the Nigerian expression ‘Fire on the mountain, but no one is running’ which denotes an extreme emergency with no apparent attempt to prevent or contain it.
The scenario begins in 2025 with Nigeria facing a plethora of problems which include: poor COVID-19 response, widespread anti-COVID-19 vaccine sentiment, tough economic conditions for citizens and so on. At the same time oil facilities across Nigeria are being attacked by saboteurs leaving state governments with no choice than to go into a deal with them. China’s digital giants, (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent) see an opportunity to exploit Nigerians’ data which they take by offering Nigeria US$1 billion in exchange for free access to citizens’ data. By 2035 a new regime of oil barons is in place due to the deal between state governors and oil saboteurs. China’s giants are also raking in billions from the trade in data, and a new crop of foreign investors in partnership with local entrepreneurs are preying on unemployed youths by working them in sweatshops.
2045 introduces a new dynamic to the narrative. Due to changing global trends oil is no longer an economic cash cow, climate change has increased flooding and droughts leading to increased migration to the middle belt, conflict and economic divides intensify, leading to rebellion backed by the diaspora.
Which Way, Nigeria?
In this scenario the government responds well to the challenge of technology but neglects the governance issue. “Which way?” is a commonly used rhetorical question in Nigeria. It expresses a sense of exasperation at the state of affairs bearing in mind extant dilemmas and risks for the future.
2025 finds Nigeria in a quagmire of insecurity, dwindling oil revenues, agitations for self-determination, and so on. In the wake of this, a new government is elected which promised to solve the security challenges. The government makes good on its promise and deploys a surveillance system which improves the security situation and as an added advantage increases revenue generation. Data became the new oil. By 2035 70% of the country is under surveillance no thanks to the government’s 5G partnership with China. Crime and security threats are at an all-time low, and the government has succeeded in enrolling all economically-active people to an e-commerce platform. A segregation of citizens into productive and non-productive also happens, with the non-productive labelled as the “Left Behind Class”. Wanting to avoid surveillance, rebel groups are beginning to form Do-It-Yourself tech villages. Similar to this, religious groups also refuse surveillance and become hermits.
A global open data, open science, open innovation paradigm is the prevailing atmosphere in 2045. In Nigeria, a combination of climate change and efficient infrastructure have led to growth in cities. This however did not translate to better governance and a movement of tech liberators emerged proclaiming revolution and determined to provide universal basic income for all. In response the government recruited outlaws to help in fighting the rebels and the cyber war reaches a global dimension.
In this scenario, Nigeria chooses the easy options and is seduced and hijacked by tech giants. Therefore, the name “One Chance”, a Nigerian expression that refers to the practice of being hoodwinked or tricked. Warnings are usually given to Nigerians not to enter “One Chance” when on a journey or in a business relationship.
A deal between the government and the FAANG group of tech giants (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) in 2025 lies at the root of Nigeria’s problem in this scenario. It started out as a mutually beneficial relationship where the FAANGs provide jobs, infrastructure and a yearly concession fee to Nigeria in exchange for exclusive rights to citizens’ data and freedom to mine it as they wished. This was in spite of the opposition party classifying the deal as a Trojan Horse. Immediate returns from the deal were numerous including efficient infrastructure, mass employment, revolutionised agriculture and manufacturing sectors, and increased revenue from tax. Things were really looking up or so it seemed. With 2035 came climate change-related extreme weather which resulted in destruction of infrastructure built by the FAANGs, flooding, disease and death. At the same time resistance emerged in the form of the Takeback Party opposed to the FAANGs’ deal and a group of climate change-dispersed Nigerians who began destroying infrastructure built by the FAANGs.
Things come to a head in 2045 when the takeback party and other Nigerians demand the FAANGs pay back what they truly owe for profiting off their data and the FAANGs threaten to pull out of Nigeria asking the government to refund what they have invested in infrastructure.
African Giant Awake
Nigeria is often referred to as the “Giant of Africa” owing to its size. But it has been a “sleeping giant” with latent, untapped, strengths and opportunities. African Giant Awake! is a scenario of a renewed Nigeria that gets governance and leadership right while diversifying its economy.
Following the 2023 elections that brought them into power, the government of Nigeria in 2025 was more concerned about improving revenue collection. This it did by investing in tech platforms which punished tax evaders and allowed for a more transparent governance. The increased revenue from tax was channelled into funding the police force. This yields immediate results with an improvement in security services seen nationwide. The government was able to ride on this success to win a re-election and the reforms continued. This included partnering with the private sector, making massive investments in local R&D and start-ups, with the result being revolutionised traditional sectors and creation of new sectors. Gradually, a new Nigeria was emerging, with improved economic performance attracting investors and skilled experts, boosting confidence, and raising domestic savings and investment.
By 2039 growth began to decrease leading to unrests and protests. This culminated in a youth-led party winning the elections. This new government prioritised the green and blue economies and introduced a new set of reforms that saw Nigeria become respected globally for leading the African continent and pushing for better global governance to address the emerging challenges of the second half of the 21st century.