Afrocyberpunk: the future and science fiction in Africa

Here's an interesting, short memoir about science fiction in Africa, written by Jonathan Dotse, a science fiction writer in Accra, Ghana. Dotse describes how his early exposure to science fiction changed his outlook on life, and how he sees the field relating to the future of Africa.

Imagine a young African boy staring wide-eyed at the grainy images of an old television set tuned to a VHF channel; a child discovering for the first time the sights and sounds of a wonderfully weird world beyond city limits. This is one of my earliest memories; growing up during the mid-nineties in a tranquil compound house in Maamobi; an enclave of the Nima suburb, one of the most notorious slums in Accra. Besides the government-run Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, only two other television stations operated in the country at the time, and satellite television was way beyond my family’s means. Nevertheless, all kinds of interesting programming from around the world occasionally found its way onto those public broadcasts. This was how I first met science fiction; not from the tomes of great authors, but from distilled approximations of their grand visions.

This was at a time when cyberpunk was arguably at its peak, and concepts like robotics, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence were rife in mainstream media. Not only were these programs incredibly fun to watch, the ideas that they propagated left a lasting impression on my young mind for years to come. This early exposure to high technology sent me scavenging through piles of discarded mechanical parts in our backyard; searching for the most intriguing sculptures of steel from which I would dream up schematics for contraptions that would change the world as we knew it. With the television set for inspiration and the junkyard for experimentation, I spent my early childhood immersed in a discordant reality where dreams caked with rust and choked with weeds came alive in a not-so-distant future; my young mind well aware of the process of transformation occurring in the world around me; a world I was only just beginning to understand.

Developing World: Beyond the Frontiers of Science Fiction (Thanks, Richard!)


  1. Science fiction + (South) Africans always brings District 9 to mind.  Such a good movie, great concept and an excellent movie website.  

    1.  It’s interesting. I grew up there and was a sci-fi fan, and there was absolutely a cultural bias against sci-fi there. No sci-fi was ever really published there, and although I wrote it for my essays at school, it was frowned upon. When District 9 came out and outgrossed pretty much every preachy bit of  SA cultural output until that point, it was a rather nice  little vindication for years of “stop writing stories about spacemen.”

  2. Pashazade by John Courtenay Grimwood is worth a read. Cyberpunk detective tale set in “Future Egypt”. I’m very interested in the concept and would like to hear more. (1/4 Zimbabwean here :P)

  3. I like what this implies about the ability for sci-fi to inspire people. Seeing what might be possible can really fire the imagination for finding ways to get there, which is fundamental when it comes to fostering wealth and peace.

  4. Ian McDonald, Paolo Bacigalupi, John Courtenay Grimwood – love their work, but I’m very eager to hear the developing world speak for itself and it’s own visions of our shared future. 

Comments are closed.