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The Economist: 15 Trends for the World and Africa in 2024

The Economist: 15 Trends for the World and Africa in 2024

In its annual “The World Ahead 2024” issue, The Economist magazine has selected the trends that will mark the world in 2024. The themes are diverse and range from democracy, geopolitics, the economy, energy transition, ecology, security, technology and sport. At the same time, in the special edition dedicated to Africa, the organisation has made a specific preview. Here are the most important trends.

The ten global trends for 2024 are…

  1. Half the world will vote

The global state of democracy will be scrutinised this year, as around 70 elections will take place in countries that are home to 4.2 billion people, or more than half the world’s population. This is the case, for example, in South Africa, the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Mexico. The Economist’s analysts believe, however, that the fact that there are more votes and more voters does not mean that there is also more and better democracy, because a substantial proportion of these elections are neither free nor fair.

  1. United or disunited states?

This will be the year in which Donald Trump will be tried, among other charges, for attempting to annul his defeat in the 2020 presidential elections. Paradoxically, it seems that he will also be the Republicans’ choice for the race to the White House and, if so, estimates suggest that he has a one-third chance of emerging victorious. Basically, it will only be a few million voters, from the so-called swing states, who will decide the next President of the United States. But the consequences of that vote will have global implications, from climate policy to the wars in Ukraine and Israel.

  1. Europe: leaders needed

When Frenchman Jacques Delors, the key figure in European integration, passed away at the end of last year, many accused the European Union (EU) of currently not having leaders who were up to the task at hand. Issues such as the increase in the military budget, aid to Ukraine, emigration, enlargement to include new member states, energy policy, the fight against global warming, the growth of populist parties, etc. need strong and determined leaders. Especially if the American President is Trump.

  1. Middle East in flames

The return of war to the Middle East has resulted in thousands of deaths and an epic humanitarian disaster. In 2024 it will become clearer whether this tragedy has only just begun and will spread to more countries in the region. Or whether, on the contrary, it will be the starting point for a solution (often discussed but never implemented) of two states (Israel and Palestine).

  1. A dangerous and bipolar planet

The wars in Ukraine and the Middle East have not diminished (but rather accentuated) the rivalry between the United States and China. Russia has moved further away from Europe and is seeking new alignments in Asia and Africa, as evidenced by the recent enlargement of the BRICS to include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia and Iran. Worst of all: many local military conflicts, previously frozen, have broken out again (for example, in the Sahel region, which includes countries such as Sudan, Niger, Guinea, Chad, Mali and Burkina Faso).

  1. The second “cold war”

The growth of the Chinese economy has slowed down; tensions with Taiwan have increased; the United States is limiting China’s access to advanced technologies; Europe wants to reduce its dependence on Chinese (and Russian energy) supply chains; relocation and foreign investment between the two economic blocs has stagnated, while the global struggle for natural resources has intensified. The signs of the “second cold war” are evident.

  1. The new energy geography

The ongoing transition to so-called “clean energies” has changed the geography of the world economy. Whereas before the battle was mainly for oil and gas, today it is minerals such as lithium, copper and nickel that are attracting the attention of the superpowers. Competition for “green resources” is dominating geopolitics and trade at the same time as consumer pressure for measures to combat climate change and carbon emissions from governments and multinationals is growing, especially in Western countries.

  1. Uncertainty dominates the economy

The economies of most developed countries have grown better than expected, but inflation remains high (except in China, which is at risk of deflation), interest rates have fallen little and the spectre of a new recession remains. Uncertainty seems to be here to stay.

  1. Artificial intelligence is real

Despite the growing debate between the risks and the need for regulation, the truth is that so-called generative artificial intelligence has become an inescapable reality and fears are growing about its effects on employment and even its possible influence on electoral results.

  1. Games of goodwill

The year 2024 will be marked by major world events that tend to bring people together and cool down rivalries, starting with the Summer Olympics in Paris, the Euro and Copa America football tournaments and even the Cricket World Cup. It will also be a year (of the Dragon) full of new space odysseys that make us dream of a better and more prosperous world.

The five trends for the African continent are…

  1. Economic dynamism

Africa will be the continent with the second fastest growth (after Asia) on a global scale (The Economist predicts that the average GDP will grow by 3.2% this year). Proof of this is the fact that the African continent will be home to 12 of the 20 most dynamic economies in the world in 2024, with the Eastern region (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and the DRC) standing out. On the downside, Sudan and Equatorial Guinea will remain in economic recession. Analysts also predict that Mozambique will be the 17th most dynamic economy in the world and the 10th best performing in Africa (after Senegal, Mauritania, Libya, Rwanda, Ivory Coast, DRC, Benin, Uganda and Ethiopia).

  1. Political and security risks

In 2024, elections of uncertain outcome will take place in many African countries (such as South Africa, Algeria, Botswana, Ghana, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda and Tunisia), which will generate increased political risks. In the case of powerful South Africa, the ANC, led by President Cyril Ramaphosa, is expected to win by a small margin, but it is unlikely to do so with a 50 per cent majority. In terms of security risks, the Sahel region, marked by recent armed conflicts (it includes countries such as Sudan, Niger, Guinea, Chad, Mali and Burkina Faso, the last three of which are due to hold presidential elections in 2024) is the most worrying.

  1. Excessive indebtedness

Many countries will face serious liquidity constraints stemming from interest payments on external debts scheduled for 2024. Kenya, for example, is one of the most exposed to a potential default, as it will have to pay, among other commitments, 2 billion dollars in Eurobonds in June. Zambia, too, has only just finalised a long (since the 2020 default) and intricate debt restructuring agreement with its creditors, particularly the Chinese. Other countries such as Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe may need to make agreements to restructure their sovereign debt over the next year.

  1. Inflationary pressure

After the record levels of inflation that occurred in some African countries last year (Angola, Seychelles, Sudan and Tanzania are the most obvious), inflationary pressure seems to be easing worldwide and also in Africa. However, by 2024, there will still be a significant number of countries with double-digit inflation rates, such as Angola, whose inflation could double to 22.3 per cent, and Nigeria with 23 per cent. But also the DRC, Ethiopia, Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan and Zimbabwe (the latter with galloping inflation of 222 per cent) will have severe inflationary pressures, largely as a result of energy prices.

See Also

  1. Currency depreciation

The pressure to devalue local currencies against the dollar will continue in 2024, especially in the countries with the highest inflation rates. In 2023, the currencies of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana lost the most value against the dollar, but the most serious case this year will be Zimbabwe, a country highly dependent on the dollar and where there is even talk of the full adoption of so-called “digital gold” (gold-backed digital tokens), which would further devalue the local currency. Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Angola and Nigeria could also see more than double-digit depreciations this year.

Sources: Adapted version of the trends identified in The Economist’s World Ahead 2024 magazine and the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Africa Outlook 2024 report.

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