2023 will be a year in which the world, improbably, becomes volatile, unsafe and less prosperous. Its major economies will stagger and slump into recession; indeed while plagued by energy crisis, government deficits and slim corporate profits they will manage to only stay afloat. The growth rate in Asia, where a quarter of humanity lives, will grow at a fair clip – between 1.5% to 2%.
The year’s headlines will, inevitably, be dominated by war, just as in 2022, the war in Ukraine will rage on. Recession will be another monster that will hug many economies. Look behind them and you will see a world that is teetering. The year will be characterized by issues such as housing and food crises, anti-government protests, social strife, climate change, terrorism, racism, poverty and population growth among others.
2023 will be another major year for elections.
Millions in Africa will go to the polls to elect leaders at local, regional, subnational and national levels.
According to Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, countries like Nigeria, Gabon, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Somaliland, Sudan, and Zimbabwe will be conducting their presidential elections.
Other countries include the Central African Republic, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Togo and Swaziland for regional, district and local elections.
Transfers of power through the ballot box were once a rarity in Africa. From the 1960s to the 80s, new leaders often emerge through either coups or sudden deaths of predecessors. In those days one-party rule was common across the continent. Even after 1990, when one African country after another embraced multi-party elections, voters rarely threw out incumbents. More often it was because those already in power used the state apparatus to rig elections and intimidate voters.
It has been observed that around half of sub-Saharan Africans living in democracies are not satisfied with that form of government. Yet one promising shift is that opposition parties are increasingly competitive. From 2011 to 2022, 42 new African leaders took office after an election. Of these, 17 were successors from an incumbent party. The other 25 were opposition politicians, a higher number than in any of the three preceding decades.
With presidential elections holding in Nigeria next month, Africa’s most populous country will be the cynosure of all eyes. Democracy is on the ballot. Heading into the February 23 polls, the dynamics seem familiar to those who follow Nigerian politics. It is still deeply entwined with the country’s religious/sectional divide.
After completing his eight-year tenure as president, Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, will not be eligible to contest in the forthcoming election which opens up the debate around whether power should shift to the south. This time around there will be no incumbent presidential candidate, only the second time since the transition to civilian rule in 1999.
The presidential race with each of the three major ethnic groups in Nigeria producing a serious contender makes it very dicey and difficult to predict. Candidate of the ruling party is Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a Yoruba and former governor of Lagos State. The two main opposition parties have Peter Obi also a former governor of Igbo extraction and former vice president Atiku Abubakar of Hausa-Fulani descent. Second-guessing how people will vote can be very daunting.
But having no incumbent seeking re-election may increase the chances of opposition party victory. While this might not seem like a straight jacket – it has clearly increased the risk of no clear winner from the first round of balloting under the constitution’s formula that requires both a plurality of votes and a geographical distribution of support. A runoff has never before taken place, and the electoral commission (INEC) would have only a week to organize it.
Either way, the 2023 election is unlikely to be the answer to Nigeria’s woes. Whoever is in charge after will need to solve the nation’s multidimensional problems.
Elsewhere, people in Turkiye will have another opportunity to elect a new president come June 18. The Turks tend to call every presidential election historic – but this year’s election will truly be consequential. It will determine whether the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will continue to dominate the country’s politics or not.
In Zimbabwe there will be the second presidential election after the downfall of the country’s former leader Robert Mugabe. The presidential election is expected to hold in July.
The country’s last election, in 2018, occurred a year after a military coup ended Robert Mugabe’s 37-year-long dictatorship.
Whether Zimbabwe can finally stage an election that is universally accepted as credible is one of the key issues in 2023. A credible election in itself will not bring about consequential political, economic and social reforms.
Down across the Atlantic to the southernmost part of Western Hemisphere, many Argentinians will, after basking in the euphoria of their World Cup triumph in Qatar, be faced with a stark choice in October when presidential election beckons. The country ’s economy has been on the skids for a long time and it has one of the highest per capita debts in Latin America. On top of this there are sky-high inflation, low wages and poor growth – all worsened by the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the rest of the world, especially the developed world, it will be a year politically, and most unusually, free of elections. No political leadership in any of the big nations, the G-7 members, would need change: what you see now is what you will have for the next year.
In America, there will be, as a sideshow, the unedifying, but undoubtedly entertaining political circus as both former President Donald Trump and incumbent Joe Biden have demonstrated interest of contesting in the 2024 election.
Britain will be the most troubled economy in Western Europe. Today, the economy in the United Kingdom is lagging behind France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Britain prime minister Rishi Sunak has his work cut out for 2023: Britain’s productivity during the 2010s was dismal. The country’s growth in output per hour was the second fastest among G-7 countries between 1997 and 2007. But between 2009 and 2019 it slumped to second slowest. By 2019 British workers produced 18% less per hour than French ones. That contributed to feeble wage growth: adjusted for ination, pay (including bonuses) in 2019 was up by just 1% from 2009.
To deal with this, one obvious priority is perking up Britain’s sluggish investment performance. The dierence in GDP per hour worked between British and French workers is almost entirely explained by differences in capital. Among members of the OECD, a club of mostly rich countries, gross xed capital formation was, on average, 22% of GDP in 2019. In Britain, many expect a breakdown of social order.
Global oil demand, according to experts, may rise sharply in 2023 if the world scraps the Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns. The demand for crude could surge by an estimated 4 million barrels, or 4%, this year. A full China reopening portends oil demand growth. If demand came back to trend in 2023, it would mean a demand growth of 4.6 million barrels a day compared to last year.
Russia’s war in Ukraine, which led to unprecedented Western sanctions on Moscow, could further impact global demand by up to 300,000 barrels a day.
In 2022 an energy shock caused chaos in Europe and much of the world, fuelling inflation and making a recession more likely this year. In 2023, the world will still be grappling with the crunch caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The war will continue to wage as long as NATO deem it necessary to support Ukraine with military hardware. There will be more deaths and destruction on both sides. It’s very hard to predict how this war will end.
Meanwhile, 2023 will likely see the next iteration of a great global struggle between China and United States over Taiwan. The roots of this conflict go back decades, to the end of World War II when the defeat of Japan in 1945 saw America emerge as global superpower and policeman of the region. It subsequently shaped events in Asia by creating, in Japan, a democratic outpost of the West. Today, the novelty is that a second superpower, communist China, is vying for supremacy in Asia.