TRENDING: ‘The future arrived early’

by Louise Burgers. How will our post-pandemic society move forward in a world so changed?

by Louise Burgers. How do we reimagine our world when COVID-19 will probably be with us until 2022-23? This is the question asked by futurist and strategist John Sanei and leading economist, Dr Iraj Abedian, in their book FutureNEXT, which launches next month.

Dr Iraj Abedian, economist.

Their book, written under pandemic lockdown, explores the responsibilities of business leaders, employers, employees, consumers, individuals and entrepreneurs in moving our society forward to create a “more harmonious, systemically fair and sustainable” world. They don’t have all the answers, of course, but want to provoke conversation around the critical change that needs to take place. In doing so, they also attempt to provide answers to the defining questions of our time:

  • How will our post-pandemic society move forward?
  • Will we ever return to the world we once knew?
  • Are we witnessing the development of a new socio-economic system?
  • How long will this last?
  • How do we prepare for a world so changed?

They believe we will not be returning to the way things were or any kind of ‘new normal’; and ask why would we want to when the past was not an equitable system, with all the power and wealth residing in the hands of a few; and the planet in peril? ‘The future has arrived early’ is the tagline on the back of the book, as Abedian and Sanei surmise that all the pandemic has done is accelerate change that was already happening. Speaking to Retailing Africa, Sanei references how the Arab Spring toppled seven Governments; and how the #Blacklivesmatter and #MeToo movements have changed the discourse on inequality; and how the climate change movement has mobilised under Generation Z led by Greta Thunberg.

For those who are having difficulty in accepting that this pandemic and all the regulations to keep us safe will be with us for years still; and that we have to adapt to a changed world and live differently; Sanei points out that South Africa was still under Apartheid rule 27 years ago; that women didn’t have the vote 100 years ago; and that slavery was only outlawed 155 years ago. The fact is, change is extremely painful when we are going through it, but we need to move from the ‘Why’ victimhood mentality, says Abedian, to asking ‘How’ do we change things? “One of the positive outcomes of this crisis is of a psycho-social nature: we need to move to a sphere of asking ‘How’. We know how we ended up here, we know ‘Why’, and it is uncomfortable. But how do we change things? We need to move from a ‘To Do’ list to a ‘To Be’ list. We need to ask, ‘What do I want to be, feel, do? ‘And then ask how we get there. Answering those ‘How’s’ will unlock our imagination and our creativity.”

Over 90% of the world population have been affected in some way by the pandemic and we must move from a negative perspective to a more creative, activist solution to take us from where we are uncomfortable, to where we want to be. Sanei is more blunt: he believes we needed a seismic global event in order to create meaningful change to save the planet and build a more empathic society.

This is no longer a health crisis

In an interview with Retailing Africa, Abedian emphasises that we are no longer in a health crisis: “We began with a public health crisis phenomenon, but we are no longer dealing with a public health crisis. If we can flatten the crisis by 2022-23, we are doing well; but this crisis has mutated into a political and socio-economic crisis. At least a quarter of humanity have been impoverished by this pandemic.” Abedian believes Governments globally will not have the money to help alleviate the suffering of their most vulnerable citizens. “The structure of power has changed for good. Therefore, we need to recognise that society cannot leave the resource allocation to CEOs. All these power titles we have inherited… these systems no longer exist going forward. So how do we get out of this, so the structure of our society doesn’t continue to prejudice the most vulnerable, the poor, women, people of colour, the youth, and so on. The past was unfair, unsustainable and not humane.”

The authors admit they certainly do not have all the answers but want to get everyone thinking about creating a new, better and more equitable society. “We don’t know what will happen next. COVID-19 has shone a light in the dark corners. I am excited because now that we know how unsustainable our ‘normal’ was, we can mobilise to a different way of thinking,” says Abedian. He urges everyone to get involved to create change because the alternative is paralysis and suffering. As he concludes: “Critical mass is important. We need diversity of ideas and perspectives so we can learn. Those who are committed will lead the way and mobilise like-minded people. Those who are willing to learn will embrace change. Those who want to fight it, will fight it to the bitter end.”

Which one will you be?


*FutureNEXT will be launched on November 19, 2020, in Cape Town, in a hybrid offline and online event. Tomorrow, carries an interview with John Sanei in our #10Q section.


Louise Burgers (previously Marsland) is the Publisher and Editor and Co-Founder of She has spent over 20 years writing about the FMCG retailing, marketing, media and advertising industry in South Africa and on the African continent. She has specialised in local and Africa consumer trends and is a passionate Afro-optimist who believes it is Africa’s time to rise again and that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be a global gamechanger in the next decade.


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