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Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The World in 2014: Business As Usual

It will be showtime in 2014. Firstly, Africa will be dark and uneventful. Fighting in troubled spots will persist. Boko Haram, a militant Islamist group in Northern Nigeria, will continue to make the north east of the country ungovernable The Central African Republic CAR and Niger Republic will experience episodes of skirmishes.What both  countries have in common is that they have grown increasingly unstable after the fall of Gaddaffi. Both have been flooded with weapons.

The use of drones by the UN in Congo DR will definitely help keep the peace (the M23 rebels were recently defeated). This is because most of the fighting reoccurs due to the lack of roads and connectivity between both ends of the country. The distance from the capital Kinshasa, in the West,  to where the fighting happens in the East, around the borders with Rwanda, is as far as London to Moscow. The country has only 1226km of roads in good condition out of a meager 2250km.

All won't be all gloomy in the coming year, it will be one with sporting shows. Russia will preside over the winter Olympics in Sochi (which has set a record for cost in the Olympics). There will be an even bigger global spectacle in Brazil, the FIFA World Cup. The world cup organizers will be happy if the event passes off without the popular protests that griped a warm-up event in 2013. Dilma Rousseff, Brazil's president, will even be happier, if the Brazilian team wins the World Cup for the 6th time. 

Apart from sporting spectacles, it will be a year of political shocks and economic shifts. The shocks will arise from elections; there will be many in the coming year. In fact, national polls across across the globe will account for 40% of the world's population. India's upcoming elections could deliver a shocker if Narenda Modi, a racy nationalist, who has surprisingly new interests in development emerges as winner. Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population will also go the polls. South Africans will go to the poll and if Jacob Zuma's ANC gets re-elected, the country will nose dive into decadence. Even the usually boring European Parliament elections will get some attention, as right-wing eurosceptic parties apart from Golden Dawn of Greece will win seats. The highlight of it all will would be if Scotland surprisingly votes for independence from Great Britain in September. Separatists in Catalonia and Quebec might begin to have a rethink. 

Economically, western economies will gather momentum again and will show economic leadership. Greece is set to crawl out of a very deep and painful recession. Britain is expected to attain a 2% growth and the euro zone will experience growth for the first time in 5 years. America and Japan will also experience growth.  Africa and the emerging markets will prove to be less promising as they once were. However, reform within China will create some sort of modest and even rapid growth. Fearless investors will bet on countries like South Sudan, Mongolia and Bhutan (the home of Gross National Happiness). 

Sadly, Egypt will continue to boil and Libya will be one of the most dangerous spots on earth. Israel  will not succeed in waging war against Iran. Sanctions lifted against Iran will ease the economy and stabilize the inflation. The government of Mr Hassan Rouhani, Iran's President, will get increasingly popular and Iran will likely retain some sort of nuclear program at the dismay of Israel. National happiness will also be elusive in Syria, as the civil war is set to wage on. There however seems to be a chance for a diplomatic breakthrough. Perhaps the centenary remembrance of the first world war, which began in 1914, will serve as a grim reminder for there to be an alternative to peacemaking. 

The pace of events will cause some anxiety and excitement. Environmentalists will continue to battle on and migration patterns will continue to shift. Water scarcity and food security will continue to be a growing risk. What happens when the NSA whistle-blowers, Edward Snowden, Russian asylum expires? Will he go to Germany? or will Russia renew his right to live in the country? One thing is certain, if the World Cup in Brazil is successful-it will likely be- many other forecasts might not be so direct.