Uncertainty, conflict and power struggles in 2024


The British-American historian William Woodruff already wrote a few years ago that the continuous aggressiveness of both individuals and states lies at the foundation of all history.

Most international analysts agree that 2023 was a year of growing global uncertainty and fears of more conflict. Fears of more conflict and war over the next few years are also not unfounded.

If we are realistic about the motives of leaders, the fallibility of people and the reasons for current global challenges, we can try to calculate 2024 and what may lie ahead for the world this year.

The following five things will undoubtedly have a huge impact on the global stage in 2024. The first major series of events are elections that will take place in dozens of countries around the world. For the first time ever, more than half of the world’s population will witness elections in their countries in one year. In some countries such as Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Chad, elections take place simply as a smokescreen to create the perception of democracy.

In many other countries such as the United States of America, Britain, Belgium, Austria, Taiwan, Mexico, Uruguay, India and even South Africa, this year’s elections could have significant implications for the respective countries, but also in their regions and even globally . Democracy was on the back foot in 2023 with large-scale deterioration in healthy democratic institutions in various parts of the world.

The second important issue we need to watch this year is the health of the global economy. The United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund all predict a slowdown in the global economy. This will create major challenges especially for developing countries like South Africa.

The third issue that we need to monitor this year is the extent to which current conflict situations can degenerate into larger wars. The greatest risks are certainly currently in the Middle East with Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip. Hezbollah in Lebanon has already started to step up its attacks on Israel. Iran’s nuclear program is progressing rapidly and the chances for a larger regional war continue to deepen. Likewise, tensions in Asia, especially between China and some of its neighbors, and current wars in Africa will continue to create huge challenges in 2024.

The fourth issue that will have a global impact this year is the power struggle between the West and Russia and China. Russia is on the front foot in its war in eastern Ukraine. China’s President Xi Jinping is increasingly assertive. How the West, with weakened leadership, will react to this is still uncertain.

For us in South Africa, the challenges of the African continent cannot be overlooked. During the 1990s and early 2000s, the African continent experienced strong economic growth and a movement towards more democratic, stable governments. Recently, this positive trend has come to an end. While the population of many African countries is growing sharply, Africa is currently experiencing an economic slowdown, an increase in authoritarian governments and more conflict and war. This will eventually affect the entire continent and also increase the risk of terrorism and mass emigration from Africa.

Every new year is ripe with opportunities and risks. 2024 is no exception. The best way to start the new year is to be well informed about the global variables and factor them into your plans.

This news commentary was provided by Pretoria FM. Listen daily to Clankkoerant on Pretoria FM for the latest news commentary.