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What Next for Global Politics in 2023

29 Dec 2022


What to expect in African infrastructure in 2023?

The African Development Bank states that over half of recent economic growth in Africa is linked to infrastructure investment. Nevertheless, the continent is still far from having unlocked its huge potential, but things are changing: 2023 will be characterised by a multiplication in massive infrastructure projects. While plenty of African countries will begin or continue working on colossal enterprises throughout 2023, some stand out for the sheer scale of their projects.

These include Egypt, which plans to begin the construction of its new capital east of Cairo, expected to host millions, as well as an expansion of the lucrative Suez Canal, and a high-speed rail network connecting 60 cities across the country. Nigeria is expanding its capital Lagos through a multi-million dollar program – which will be connected to the city of Kano through the upcoming Kenya Standard Gauge Railway – and is attempting to increase the city’s connectedness to global trade through the Lekki Deep Sea Port project – the deepest in sub-Saharan Africa – as well as building the world’s biggest single-train oil refinery. Finally, while espousing its own Standard Gauge Railway project – the largest infrastructure project since independence – Kenya also plans to build a tech hub: Konza Technological City.

A new African Infrastructure Investment Fund plans to raise millions to support such projects throughout the upcoming year, and Zambia will host the latest International Federation of Consulting Engineers Africa Infrastructure Conference in May, attracting hundreds of investment professionals from all over the Continent and beyond. This predicted growth in investment will be coordinated by the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa –comprising 409 projects in total as of December 19 2022 – in order to ensure the effective use of resources towards sustainable and fair growth opportunities.

What is in it for you?

Readers living in Africa, or with family or friends on the continent, might note that many projects are focused on cities as opposed to rural areas, in an effort to increase Africa’s dynamic centres’ connectedness to global trade. The multiplicity of railway projects will increase inter-African trade, while growth in high-tech areas is planned through investments such as Kenya’s tech hub. This is particularly in light of the AfCFTA- African Continental Free Trade Area, a free trade area currently being established that encompasses the majority of the continent

If these projects are successful, they could spur a virtuous cycle that can gradually transform Africa into an attractive investment destination, pushing more international companies – especially western ones which are already active in a variety of projects across the continent, but also others such as India, Turkey and Saudi Arabia – to see Africa’s potential, which has so far been limited by uncertainty and insecurity.

For readers following the Chinese Belt and Road Intiative (BRI), it is important to be aware that many projects are currently or will be financed by China through the Chinese Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China. Furthermore, Chinese companies including the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (Nigeria Standard Gauge Railway), Chinese telecom giant Huawei (to develop Konza Technological City’s data centre), or the China International Water & Electric Corporation (Guinea’s 450-megawatt Souapiti Dam) will oversee the development of many of these programs. If successful, China’s attractivity as a business partner on the continent may grow, exemplified by ongoing considerations about extending the anticipated reach of the Kenya Standard Gauge Railway by connecting it to Ethiopia, Uganda and South Sudan.


What to expect regarding Russia's internal security pressures in 2023?

As Russia continues to wage its war in Ukraine, an oft-overlooked aspect of media coverage has been its internal security affairs. Numerous groups have emerged in opposition to Putin's government, using the popular social media app Telegram to recruit and to disseminate evidence of their actions. Our readers who have been following Russian media will likely have seen and continue to see widespread reports of arson and sabotage of rail and gas infrastructure, aimed at hindering the war effort, which some groups have tacitly or outright claimed responsibility for.

Prominent movements include the Freedom of Russia Legion, comprised of anti-Putinist Russian volunteers and defectors fighting alongside the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and the Combat Organisation of Anarcho-Communists (BOAK), whom the Insider have named 'the most active subversive force' inside Russia since the invasion began.

The 'Freedom Squads' are another prominent Telegram-based group, who have used the platform to instruct their followers on topics such as how to make Molotov cocktails or sabotage gas pipelines, and who promise their followers 'donations' in exchange for evidence of acts of sabotage featuring their logo. Separatist sentiments have also begun to spread in many of the federal subjects that comprise the Russian Federation - chiefly in the turbulent Caucasus region in territories such as Dagestan and Ingushetia; but also further East in Bashkortostan and neighbouring Tatarstan.

What's in it for you? 

For readers in Russia, each of these territories mentioned in the previous paragraph are occupied primarily by ethnic minority groups, and community leaders have claimed that the Federal Government has been disproportionately conscripting ethnic minorities - likely in an effort to preserve a sense of normality in urban Western Russia. As the war in Ukraine progresses and Russian victory seems no nearer, and as mobilisation continues, it is possible that these separatist and opposition groups will continue to grow in popularity and audacity - potentially causing a security crisis for the government.

The eventual end of the conflict in Ukraine will have far-reaching consequences on the international political stage; the stability of Russia - a vast nation possessing nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons - will be crucial. For readers in areas with Russian impact, such as Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Northern Africa, the emergence of armed separatist and revolutionary groups vying for control may pose a serious threat to international security and would doubtlessly fuel the illegal arms trade which is already prominent in Eastern Europe. The end of the war would not automatically ensure the end of conflict and violence in Europe, and our readers interested in Ukraine would be well-advised to keep their ears to the ground for rumblings of internal conflict in Russia. 

What to expect with lobbying at EU level following Qatargate?

Amid the ongoing Belgian-led cross-border investigations over a vast corruption case within the European Parliament, rules governing lobbying at European level will change dramatically in 2023. Following the arrests of one of the EP Vice-Presidents, Greek Eva Kaili, as well as Italian parliamentary assistants and a former MEP belonging to the left-wing S&D Group, accused of having received bribes amounting to at least 1.5 million euros from Qatari agents to pass favourable legislation, the European Parliament is set to change its policies regulating lobbying activities.

To date, thanks to the confession of one of the assistants involved, it has been ascertained the existence of a cell within the European Parliament that was favouring Qatar (however the investigation might soon expand to include Morocco) in exchange of money, channelled through an NGO created ad hoc by former MEP Antonio Panzeri.

The investigation, despite being at its early stages, already amounts to the largest corruption scandal that has ever hit the European Union since its inception in 1957. This, in turn, is going to have severe consequences on the reputation of the Parliament – its only elected institution – resulting in a significant loss of confidence from its electorate. For this reason, the Parliament is already taking steps to strengthen its transparency criteria.

What is in it for you?

Despite the bad fame that accompanies lobbyists in many countries worldwide, lobbying is a fundamental component of policymaking. In fact, lobbyists are key when it comes to making policymakers aware of the implications the legislation they are passing will have on the categories they represent. They advocate for companies, NGOs, trade unions, minority groups, and any other category that is interested in defending its rights vis-a-vis legislative bodies. Their contribution is fundamental in ensuring the sustainability of the measures passed by parliaments, be it in terms of environmental effects, labour market impact, or religious minorities’ rights.

Nevertheless, this activity needs to be carefully regulated, as the boundary between defending interests and ensuring unnecessary privileges is often blurred. Transparency Registers are needed to ensure that legislators are carrying out their mandate within the limits set by the law. In this regard, the European Parliament – which is essentially a self-governing body – has always had lower standards of transparency compared to EU national parliaments, allowing MEPs a great degree of freedom in terms of their relationships with lobbyists.

This is set to change dramatically in 2023 – to the benefit of all EU citizens: a stronger regulation of lobbying activities prevents the emergence of undue favouritisms, unfair competition as well as over penalising legislation – cross-sectoral phenomena that have immense repercussions on economies, living standards and respect of human rights. According to internal reports, the Parliament is working on a package of ten measures, which could come into force from January, to tighten the rules on lobbying activities and its degeneration into episodes of outright corruption.

The plan includes stricter rules to protect whistleblowers, to regulate lobbying activities carried out by or on behalf of foreign governments (whose representatives do not have, to date, to be listed in the EU Transparency Register), and to monitor gifts received by MEPs and Parliament officials. Another intervention should then concern former MEPs who continue their careers in Brussels as lobbyists (as in the case of Antonio Panzeri, the Italian politician under arrest), to ensure that they are registered as such – and not simply as former Members – when they enter the Parliament building after the end of their mandate.

Asia Pacific

What to expect as China moves away from its Zero Covid-19 policy?

Following weeks of nationwide anti-Covid-19 restrictions protests late this year, the Chinese government has abruptly dropped its three-year-long Zero-Covid policy and is attempting to shift the narrative from depicting the pandemic as fatal to almost unharmful to the population. The new policy signals Beijing’s new intent to coexist with the virus to resume social and commerce activities that were restrained due to pandemic-related bans.

Based on estimations from the US-based Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, around one to two million will die from Covid-19 in the country in 2023 with the measures lifted. Possible mass infections and casualties could overload and even lead to the collapse of China’s healthcare system if not handled with caution, thus plunging the country into another crisis.

In this environment, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is likely to refocus on economic growth for the upcoming year, albeit it will be implausible that it will enjoy the 7%+ GDP growth it enjoyed across the last thirty years (up to 2016). The country faces several challenges, including disrupted supply chains, aging demographics, a Western recession, and an inability to develop and acquire value-added technologies, particularly semiconductors (used in electronic goods). It looks as though the CCP will continue to fuel tensions over Taiwan, albeit (slightly paradoxically) both Washington and Beijing are committed to maintaining close diplomatic communications. 

What is in it for you? 

If individuals would like to travel to China, as the Chinese government moves away from the Zero-Covid-19 doctrine, travel restrictions to China are being eased. The lifting of travel restrictions to allow foreigners to enter China could result in an influx of foreign investment and the resumption of trade.

If readers buy any goods produced in China such as whitegoods or electronics, ecovery of consumption and trade volumes could bolster the country’s manufacturing and service sectors, hence, producing more goods to be exported. With the world’s largest exporter looking to reconnect with the global economy by providing manufactured goods such as electronic components and clothing to the rest of the world through trade, it could help to ease the global cost of living crisis and disruption of the supply chain amid the pandemic and the Ukrainian War. With this said, readers should consider this in light of the barriers to the semiconductor industry in China currently.

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