In his book ‘The Future Of The Global Order’ (2021), Vincent Petit, a strategist and thinker, discusses the world’s secular trends and their implications for 2050 as part of a scenario planning exercise (see ‘What If?’, May 2020). Inspired by his work, I have developed my own.
In this scenario, Europe makes its comeback and retakes center stage in global affairs over the upcoming decades. Economically, it benefits from its proximity to a booming Africa. The forgotten continent sees its population grow by 1.3 billion by 2050 despite bouts of global COVID attacks, making French one of the most, if not the most spoken language in the world.
After a series of weather events shock the public opinion, the Old Continent turns from flexitarianism to veganism and positions itself as an activist driving the global agenda across environmental, social, and governance matters. The newly-found purpose creates a path to greater political integration. An M&A tsunami ensues, allowing for much-needed European consolidation in the financial sector and beyond.
Following industrial policy missteps, investments in plant-based foods, energy storage, carbon capture, micronuclear reactors, and hydrogen bear fruit. A long-standing leadership in electrification and automation (incl. robotics) contributes to a regional competitive advantage.
After a political transition, Russia emerges as an unexpected ally with a shared history and (re)converging values. The Eurasian partnership represents a resources-rich power with strong military forces. Relying on its long history as the largest commercial partner to the world, Europe leverages its cultural diversity and pivotal role in trade between Asia and Africa to export its ESG philosophy: to sell to the European Union, rising environmental and social standards have to be met.
A couple of European investment banks establish themselves as global industry leaders after pioneering sustainable finance. With an expanded Eurozone sitting at the nexus of global trade, the Euro becomes the world’s reserve currency.
The United States of America get out of an extended soul-searching mode after concluding, with some relief, that its exceptionalism has become a liability. The great nation finds unity around a self-sufficiency mantra, milking its vast natural resources and retaining its leadership in tech. Eventually, cultural integration with Latin America is followed by full economic integration, with Canada, the UK, and Australia as close partners.
Meanwhile, China, still an enigma to the world, struggles to move beyond its past due to recurring, trust-shattering government interventions.
More than ever, migration is a burning topic. The traditional South-North flow, already augmented by a fast-growing African population, is amplified by climate change (weather, food, water). The North is socially destabilized. An aging population and immigration fuel conservatism, reversing progressive initiatives launched in the 20s.
To fend off a social implosion and remedy the climate crisis, developed economies run massive structural budget deficits (5% of GDP per annum). Germany, the last bastion of fiscal rectitude, falls on the back of the 2021 elections and opens the floodgates. Government debt levels are only kept in check thanks to negative real rates. Financial repression becomes a permanent, hidden, and exceptionally effective wealth tax worldwide.
And Billy Joel’s fast-paced history summary in ‘We Didn’t Start The Fire’ (1989) plays loud in the background: ‘We didn’t start the fire/It was always burning/Since the world’s been turning.’