The central question that this research report attempts to answer is how southern African countries can leapfrog from agrarian to knowledge-based economies. There is no single answer to this question, but rather a complex solution. This can best be answered using scenario planning; hence the title ‘Scenario planning 2020 for southern African economic empowerment''. Scenario planning is not the only way of answering the central question, but is the one preferred by the author. The scenario-building process helps to identify a number of key forces or factors that impact on the region. Culture and openness were top of the list with regard to importance and uncertainty in answering the central question. Using culture and openness, the author was able to develop a matrix with four quadrants. With these quadrants the author developed four plausible futures for the region, using the other forces identified and listed as characters, guided by the technique developed by experts in the field of scenario planning. The author believes that unless Southern Africa and Africa, for that matter, builds capacity in strategic thinking, it will always lag behind other regions.