As the US-China trade war rages, and fears of a new conflict in the Gulf loom, world leaders meet in Osaka (June 28-29) at the G20 Summit. Beyond today's crises, the Summit will be a litmus test for the G20 countries’ ability to tackle key global challenges: from financial stability to climate change, from trade protectionism to aging populations and the future of work in the digital age. Will the sense of urgency prevail over growing divisions?
As the world’s premier forum on international economic governance, the G20 plays an important role in global rule-making. Born out of crisis, the G20 has morphed into the inner sanctum of world governance. Given that Africa has been a rule-taker since its decolonisation, its limited participation in this grouping (only South Africa is a full member) runs the risk of perpetuating this situation.
Major technological transformations such as artificial intelligence, big data, FinTech, the Internet of Things and Industry 4.0 are putting the global economy on a new track. These innovations will bring immense economic opportunities as well as dramatic changes in industries, employment and required skills that will create major challenges for individuals, businesses and governments.
During the Think 20 (T20) hosted by Japan in 2019 to prepare analyses and policy proposals for the G20, a specific working group of think tank experts (Task Force n.2: TF2) devoted its discussions and proposals to the issue of the adequacy of the International Financial Architecture. This has always been a traditional and central theme of the G20. The guiding idea of this Task Force has been to concentrate its analyses and advice on the most urgent and novel aspects and problems that mark the evolution of global financial markets and institutions.
After turning 10 in the Southern Cone and celebrating anniversary in Buenos Aires, G20 started its second decade of life in Osaka. The G20 was born to deal with the economic crisis and succeeded in the challenge. It was successful in handling the global financial crisis of 2008–2009 and containing its aftershocks. However, despite the importance of today’s global challenges, the world does not seem to perceive them with the same sense of urgency.
International trade is facing many risks, according to the WTO trade forecast of September 2018. Among these are rising trade tensions and global protectionism, as well as increased financial volatility as developed economies tighten their monetary policy. Consequently, the WTO downgraded world merchandise trade growth to 3.9% (2018) and 3.7% (2019) respectively.
At the end of their G20 Osaka Summit on June 29, 2019, the most powerful leaders of the world’s most powerful countries will release a communiqué containing many commitments to respond to the biggest challenges of today’s complex world. But their citizens, increasingly skeptical of the work of such governing elites, will doubt that these commitments will make any difference to their daily lives.
In their efforts to prepare for a post-petroleum era, Gulf monarchies are scrambling to update their strategies of citizen and nation-building. The challenge is significant. In the past, such strategies emphasized the distribution of resource wealth. Rulers built cradle-to-grave welfare states, often in previously impoverished societies, for which citizens were generally very grateful.
The 2019 elections coincide with an important milestone in South Africa’s history: it is also the 25th anniversary of the country’s first ever democratically-held elections. The country is approaching these elections in the wake of some shocking reports of state corruption and graft reaching to the highest offices of leadership. Continuing high levels of poverty and unemployment, skewed development, lack of progress on transformation and stagnant growth have all dampened enthusiasm for the upcoming polls.
The economy is a central issue in South Africa’s 2019 elections. This reflects not only the generally disappointing rate of economic growth since 1994 but also the fact that the economy has grown (slowly) down a growth path that has not been pro-poor.