The World In 2014–The Middle East and Africa


Every year at this time, besides the personal planning I do for the coming year, I relax and read the Economist’s Double Holiday Issue and look through their special report The World in 2014.    I am taking notes on the various articles during the next few days to see what The Economist predicts will be the most significant global events that will take place in the coming year.   The reason why I’m doing this is not just to gain an understanding of these events before they happen, but to preserve a record so that next year at this time, I can look back and see how well the events were (or were not) predicted.

Today I am going through their article on the Middle East and Africa.    Here are some of the predictions the Economist gives for what will occur of significance in the coming year.

NOTE:   Those countries which are at very high risk of social unrest in 2014 will have a (*) symbol placed after their name.

A.   MIDDLE EAST

1.  EGYPT (*)

After the reversion to military rule in 2013, there should be parliamentary and presidential elections in the first half of 2014.   Some Islamists will be persuaded to run in the absence of any of the Muslim Brotherhood being allowed on the voting lists.    It is possible that General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the power behind the throne, will put himself forward for the presidency.

On the economic front, there will be an attempt to reign in some of the subsidies in order to get control over the country’s finances.    However, in my opinion, an attempt to go too far too fast on structural reforms of the economy in Egypt may create more political turmoil for the government.

The biggest reason to watch what is happening in Egypt is the fact that the crowds in Cairo’s Tahrir Square have demonstrated the ability to bring down a military government and an Islamist one.    Certainly the rest of the Middle East is watching this, with the increased access the middle class now has to social media and the Internet.

2.  SYRIA (*)

Bashar Assad’s regime will not lose, but neither will it achieve an outright win.   The country will settle into three self-contained regions that will remain hostile to each other:

  • West (stretching from Damascus down the coast to the Alawite homeland near Latakia)–controlled by Assad
  • North, Center and East–controlled by rebels
  • Northeast–controlled by Syria’s Kurds

The trend to watch will be the increasing rivalry between the jihadist rebels and the less Islamic ones.    If the bloodshed in Syria intensifies, this violence could spill over into Lebanon and Jordan, and increase sectarian strife in Iraq.

3.  IRAN

Must will depend on whether the Americans are able to cut a deal with Iran over its nuclear program.   If this is successful, this will have a positive effect on the Syrian conflict as they join the efforts for regional diplomacy.  It could even have a positive effect on the chances for a deal between Israel and the Palestinians.

4.  IRAQ (*)

As mentioned in the paragraph on Syria, if the dominant Shias in Iraq feel a kinship with the Syrian Alawites, then persecution of the Sunnis could intensify and tear apart the very tentative democracy in Iraq.

5.   TUNISIA

This country, the first one to feel the effects of the Arab Spring, will have its ruling Nahda party seek to compromise with more secular groups and trade unionists to keep the country’s fragile new democracy alive.

6.   LIBYA (*)

There are a plethora of militias defying the authority of the central government.    If elections are held, this may placate them enough to allow for the country to stabilize somewhat.

7.  MOROCCO

The monarch will try to institute minimal constitutional reforms to stave off demands for more far-reaching ones.

8.  ALGERIA

As President Bouteflika’s health fails, a succession struggle may develop.

9.   YEMEN (*)

The successor to Yemen’s long-standing dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh, Abd Rabbo Mansour hadi, will struggle to forge a national consensus, in counterbalance to the regional forces such as the southern secessionists, northern rebels and al-Qaeda linked jihadists that are trying to undermine the central government.

10.  SUDAN (*)
The President Omar al-Bashir, after ruling for more than 24 years, will face growing opposition even in his own ruling party.

11.  SAUDI ARABIA

The succession crisis will continue rumbling underneath the surface, unless King Abdullah makes it clear to the younger generation of princes that they can take over after the rule of his brother Prince Salman.

Notice the number of countries in the Middle East which are listed at very high risk for social unrest.   That is why it is one of the more critical regions to watch in 2014!

B.   AFRICA
The most important trends in Africa in 2014 are the following:

  • The inflation rate will dip below the GDP growth rate of 5.5% in 2014, the first time that this has happened in living memory
  • 4 of the world’s six fastest-growing economies will be in sub-Saharan Africa
  • China will continue to be the largest trade and investment partner with Africa
  • Nigeria may overtake South Africa as the country’s largest economy
  • Rather than the production of commodities, the economies of sub-Saharan Africa will shift towards services, agriculture and manufacturing
  • Increased international attention will be paid on creating peace in the Congo

One longer-term trend to watch in Africa is the electrification of the continent, with an emphasis on renewable energy resources.    Powering Africa would have a transformative effect not just on the continent, but on the entire world!

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