Exploring Alternative Futures of Development in Guinea-Bissau

April 8, 2022

Photo: UNDP, 2022

What would happen if Guinea-Bissau were to experience higher economic growth in the coming years? What would occur if girls' education levels were higher than the historical trend in the country? The International Futures model, developed by the Frederick S. Pardee Center for International Futures at the University of Denver, is a long-term forecasting platform that may hold the answers to these questions, and UNDP has partnered with the researchers who are currently driving it in 186 countries around the world to also implement it in Guinea-Bissau.

Ensuring that the national effort is evidence-based, data driven and informed by knowledge is a UNDP Guinea-Bissau key objective. The IFs model is a tool that shapes long-term development and focuses on the interaction between economic, social, and environmental systems, exploring past trends and the current path to understand how these systems interact over time. As research scientist Willem Verhagen explains, “for Guinea-Bissau it is really an opportunity to look at historical trends and see how the country has developed so far and where it is today, to be able to compare with other countries and to start thinking about what would need to be done to change the future through these long-term projections”. He and his colleague David K. Bohl, Associate Director of Modeling and Analysis in the Pardee Center, were in Bissau in March to train a large pool of participants from a diverse set of backgrounds on the scenarios conception to go deeper in those future projections. “We invited the participants to think about some major obstacles but also opportunities that the country might have related to a number of different areas, including agriculture, fisheries, eco-tourism, and green energy and electrification, all related to the green growth scenario which ideally could lead the economic and human development path in Guinea-Bissau”.

Photo: UNDP, 2022

Fátima Cabral, technical staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, was one of those participants. She shared a week of exchanges with representatives of other public institutions such as the Ministry of Fisheries, the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Integration, the State Secretariat for Tourism and the Institute for Biodiversity and Protected Areas (IBAP), and other organisations such as the BCEAO, as well as academia, the private sector and civil society. “The model can provide fresh dynamics for Guinea-Bissau to adapt to a new economic development model for the country in all areas”, she reflects, “and its implementation will depend on the goodwill of the rulers for progress to take place”. In fact, another set of scenarios that the model can produce are strategic scenarios, thought to stimulate successful policy outcomes. “In the enabling environment scenario, many of the growth projections are only possible if improvements are made in education, infrastructure, and governance. We should explore in a quantitative manner how we can make strategic decisions on economic growth and investment between sectors for long-term impacts”, Verhagen insists.

Photo: UNDP, 2022

So, all these interconnected systems and the interactions between them can be the key to shape the way public policies are formulated and implemented, based on long-term strategic planning. Not only imagining, but also measuring how the different Bissau-Guinean systems and sectors might be shifting, growing, and changing from now to 2040 could provide some answers to questions that can help exploring alternative futures of development. Data, statistical capacity, and evidence-based research for SDG mainstreaming and acceleration are fundamental to define how agriculture, demographics, economics, education, energy, environment, finance, governance, health, international politics, and technology in Guinea-Bissau are going to evolve from now on

A first major step has already been taken in the form of a recently published report on economic and human development trends up to 2040. The base level of development in Guinea-Bissau now going forwards is presented in the study, which also provides an integral overview of the national development trends and prospects. Understanding current trends will provide a background against which to assess the effectiveness of green growth and alternative development paths. Those scenarios will be updated based on all the inputs from the local stakeholders to lead to a second report which will explore policy options for green growth in Guinea-Bissau, to leverage sustainable and effective economic and human development.