Around about this time last year I was lucky to get a call from TED – as in TED Talks. It was somewhat unexpected and flattering as I enjoy watching TED Talks. The topic I was proposed to speak on was the impending end of globalization and a sense of what might possibly come after it.
Little did I know at the time that globalization would be dealt a fatal blow by the coronavirus. Not only has it begun to produce severe self-limiting side effects such as indebtedness and climate damage, but trade, travel and the flow of ideas have been decisively changed in the last year. Furthermore, what is worrying is that in past international crises – most of them economic or geopolitical, there has usually, ultimately been a sense of a committee to save the world – that leaders and leading nations would come together. This time, uniquely, there has been little collaboration.
In the end, the chaos and tragedy wrought by the coronavirus meant that my Talk changed several times, but in the end the thesis that globalization is dead and is giving away to a multipolar world is still clear, in my view.
One element of the debate on the new world order, and what happens after COVID-19 that worries me is that we spend far too much time talking about the US, Europe and China – especially when there is a huge amount of exciting things going on in fast growing emerging economies – Nigeria, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil for example. Economically and socially they are also stressed by what has happened through 2020, and in most cases do not have large, powerful central banks to cushion the financial blow.
With 2021 in mind, the question for them in the new world order is what model do they follow and what alliances do they build?Most of these countries – during the age of globalization – were used to being told what to do, by the likes of the IMF – but the age of condescension is over now.
Age of condesension is over
The tangible opportunity in a less uniform, more values driven world is that countries have a greater choice in the path to follow. Arguably, they also face greater pressure to get it right.
So, should Belarus and Lebanon follow Ireland’s model, that of Dubai? Does Nigeria still feel it has some shared values with the Commonwealth or is it better allying its large, growing population to China and its model…and think of one of the few female leaders in Africa Sahle-Work Zewde, President of Ethiopia, how she might inspired by Jacinda Arden and Nicola Sturgeon of Scotland’s approach and how tangibly, she might implement their approach in Ethiopia.
It may also be that in the post globalized world, countries like Kenya, Indonesia and Egypt decide to go their own way, and build out their own value systems and economic infrastructure.
In this way, the arrangements, institutions of the future won’t be crafted in Washington or Beijing, but rather by countries like Tunisia, Cambodia and Brazil swapping notes on how to curb corruption, build healthcare and education systems for exploding demographics and ensure that their voices are represented on the world stage.
As globalization ends, and chaos seems to reign, these countries and their young populations, the scope they have to grow and shape their societies, are the future and the promise of the next world order. That’s the great challenge for 2021 and beyond!