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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds The purpose of this learning unit is to share with you a selection of really big, important, mega-trends that have emerged and will probably emerge in the next few years, having a bearing on all walks of life. Now, everyone has their own personal choice of these mega-trends. My choice is based on a bit of a gimmick revolving around the word foresight. As you know, foresight in this science, has a very special meaning. But in this context, the nine letters of the word foresight give us nine global trends. I’m going to go through each one of these as quickly as possible. And I just want you to get some sense of how these might be shaping the world.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 seconds So the letter F in the word foresight stands very simply for a world in which things are changing and changing rapidly. In other words, it stands for a fast, integrated, and universal world. This embraces things such as globalisation. It also embraces things such as the very rapid increase and the speed of increase in things such as communication. So, for instance, we know that the growth in cell phones on this planet has gone from virtually zero 25 years ago to almost 7 billion users. In Africa, there are now more cell phone users, far more than in the USA, for instance, and more than in Europe.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds Along with that, cell phones have enabled millions of people in Africa to gain access to a bank account. Another interpretation of fast, integrated, and universal is, of course, the rapid increase in international trade between countries. A mere 30 years ago, barely 25% of the world economy was traded between countries. That ratio is now approaching 50%. The letter O in the word foresight stands for oriental. Now, I want you to see there’s been a proxy for the shift in economic power from the developed to the developing world. And in particular, I’ll give you one example of that. Estimates indicate that right now, globally, there are about 1.9 billion middle income consumers. By 2030, there could be as many as 4.9 billion.

Skip to 2 minutes and 35 seconds That’s a 3 billion increase within less than 20 years, and most of that increase coming from the developing world. In fact, in the developed world, we’re going to see a stagnated middle income population. In fact, they’re going to be so many more middle income consumers, places like China, and India, and Brazil, and Argentina, and Mexico, and South Africa, and Nigeria, is indicative of a very clear economic power shift from the West to the rest. The letter R in the word foresight is slightly different. This deals with the fact that in many parts the world, traditional isms are being redefined. Now what’s an ism– no such word. It comes from words such as capitalism, communism, socialism.

Skip to 3 minutes and 28 seconds And traditional capitalist nations are starting to wonder whether capitalism is the right system. Traditional communist nations are starting to wonder whether capitalism is not the best kind of system. That world’s getting a little bit confused there. We find, for instance, in China, a very interesting form, called state capitalism, a weird interesting blend of communism, but interspersed with capitalism.

Skip to 3 minutes and 56 seconds The letter E in the word foresight stands for the fact that more and more people on this planet are becoming empowered, especially younger people. Thanks to more and better education, thanks to social media, we find a generation, often known as Generation Y, which is far more empowered, far more clued up, and far more concerned about the future than their predecessors. And this will hopefully mean that the world might be rescued from the ravages and the exuberant over-reliance on economic growth that many of us have become used to. The letter S does recognise the fact that population growth and economic growth might outstrip growth in available resources. The letter S stands for the word saturated.

Skip to 4 minutes and 56 seconds This is a well-known argument about sustainability, with an ironic twist. And that is as more and more people escape poverty, which is happening, as more and more people reach middle income, which is happening, ironically they also demand more goods. And these goods require more natural resources. And it’s a very interesting challenge we face in the next few decades– the challenge of surviving all this prosperity. The letter I reminds us that despite all the improvements in poverty, the world remains inequitable and divided. So what’s happening is that whilst more and more people are escaping poverty, the gap between their income levels and that of the more affluent members of society continues widen. South Africa is unfortunately a good example of this.

Skip to 5 minutes and 50 seconds We have arguably the most divided society on this planet, the highest income gap on the planet Earth. The letter G stands for a greying and urbanising population. It was mentioned in week number one as an example of change– that the world’s population is ageing. That’s the developed world. In the developing world, we still have a fairly young population. Moreover, in the developing world, millions upon millions of people are moving from rural to urban areas. They are urbanising. The letter H is again more of a proxy. It indicates climate change, something we’ve all become aware of. Not always climate or global warming, but certainly climate change.

Skip to 6 minutes and 42 seconds And the well-known stories here are that, on avearage, global temperatures are rising and they are expected to continue to rise. Unfortunately, the one continent that is most vulnerable to climate change is probably that of Africa. Probably least responsible for climate change, but most vulnerable. And the final letter in this acronym is the letter T, which stands for more tepid, more irregular economic growth in the years that lie ahead. We are still dealing with, wrestling with, the aftermath of the great recession.

Skip to 7 minutes and 22 seconds More of this kind of irregularity probably lies ahead, whether that be continued turbulence in Europe, the back of the Greek story, or it could be, as mentioned earlier in the course, the slowdown in economic growth in China, whatever the next big story might be. We are probably facing a world of economic growth which is less reliable, more erratic and at times, perhaps, disappointing. These nine represent an attempt, one of many attempts, to give us an idea of the really big important trends.

Skip to 7 minutes and 58 seconds And if you think about it, these nine trends, or at least this interpretation, sketch for us a world in 10-20 years’ time that’s going to be different than the world of today and different compared to the world of yesterday. We can’t say with exact preciseness how different, what’s going to be different. We can say, however, that the world I’ve just described for you is not the world that we grew up in, not the world of 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, or even 30 years ago. The challenge, of course, is for any organisation, big or small, to take on board the meaning of these changes and to adjust accordingly. Forewarned is forearmed.

Global and African trends

Mega trends have emerged and will continue to do so over the next few years.

After watching this video, identify possible trends that are emerging in the world today and discuss how they could impact the future.

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This video is from the free online course:

Futurism and Business: Dealing with Complexity

University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development