• May 29, 2024
Global economic outlook 2024 challenges and opportunities

As we set sail into 2024, the global economic landscape is both promising and challenging. In this comprehensive guide, we look into the specifics of the current economic scenario, exploring key elements that define the global outlook, as reported by the United Nations.

Resilience Amidst Turmoil: The Surprising Strength of Global Growth in 2023

The year 2023 proved to be a test of resilience for the world economy, facing challenges such as sharp monetary tightening, geopolitical conflicts, and economic uncertainty. Contrary to expectations, numerous developed and developing nations showcased robust economic growth, with strong labour markets bolstering consumer spending. However, beneath this resilient exterior lie short-term risks and structural vulnerabilities, including elevated price pressures and the ever-looming threat of geopolitical tensions. The world braces for the aftermath of significant interest rate hikes, creating headwinds for an economy burdened with high debt levels and a pressing need for increased investment in sustainable development.

Global economic concerns in 2024 include increased interest rates
Global economic concerns in 2024 include increased interest rates

Economic Growth in 2024: A Tale of Developed and Least Developed Countries

Developed Economies Navigating Choppy Waters

In 2023, the United States defied projections with a robust growth rate of 2.5%, driven by continued job growth and rising real wages. However, the Federal Reserve’s past rate hikes are expected to temper growth to 1.4% in 2024. Europe and Japan face subdued growth prospects, with the European Union’s GDP projected to expand by 1.2% in 2024, and Japan’s growth slowing to 1.2%. The interconnectedness of economies becomes apparent as softening growth in China and the United States impacts net exports.

Developing Economies: A Tapestry of Divergent Prospects

China’s annual growth of 5.2% in 2023 is expected to moderate to 4.7% in 2024 due to weaknesses in the property sector and soft external demand. In East Asia, average growth is projected to decline from 4.9% to 4.6%, while South Asia maintains solid growth, with India leading at 6.2% in 2024. However, several challenges, including tight financial conditions and external imbalances, cast shadows over the outlook for South Asian economies.

Challenging Terrains: Africa, Western Asia, and Latin America

Africa’s growth is projected to edge up from 3.3% in 2023 to 3.5% in 2024, facing challenges from a global economic slowdown and tightening monetary conditions. Western Asia anticipates accelerated growth at 2.9%, driven by recovery in Saudi Arabia. In Latin America, GDP growth is expected to slow from 2.2% in 2023 to 1.6% in 2024, influenced by tight financial conditions and reduced growth in major trading partners.

Uneven Global Labour Market: Navigating the Waves of Recovery

The rebound in the global labour market since the pandemic has been swift, surpassing recovery rates seen after the 2008/2009 financial crisis. However, the journey has been uneven, with developed economies experiencing robust improvements while developing economies grapple with divergent trends. Unemployment rates in Brazil, China, and Türkiye decreased, but many countries in Western Asia and Africa continue to face high unemployment and low levels of formal employment. The lagged effect of monetary tightening in 2024 is expected to impact employment globally, contributing to a potentially weakened labour market.

Global Inflation and Food Insecurity: Navigating Economic Challenges

Declining Inflation, Lingering Pressures

In 2023, global inflation, after surging for two years, saw an eventual decline but remained well above the 2010–2019 average. From the peak of 8.1% in 2022, it is estimated to have eased to 5.7% in 2023, with a further drop to 3.9% projected for 2024. Developed economies experienced a sharp fall in headline inflation, but core inflation persisted due to rising service sector prices and tight labour markets. However, almost a quarter of developing countries, home to about 300 million people in extreme poverty, were expected to face annual inflation exceeding 10% in 2023, impacting household purchasing power and hindering poverty reduction efforts.

Inflation is easing, but developing countries are still taking the hit
Inflation is easing, but developing countries are still taking the hit

Food Insecurity Challenges Persist

While global inflation eases, the spectre of food insecurity continues to haunt regions like Africa, South Asia, and Western Asia. Local food prices, driven by limited pass-through from international to local prices, weak domestic currencies, and climate-related shocks, remain high. This has disproportionately affected the poorest households, who spend a larger share of their income on food. In 2023, approximately 238 million people experienced acute food insecurity, an increase of 21.6 million from the previous year, with women and children particularly vulnerable. Without significant progress, projections indicate that nearly one in four women and girls may be moderately or severely food insecure by 2030.

Investments and International Trade: Navigating a Subdued Landscape

Subdued Investment Growth

In 2023, global investment growth faced headwinds, with gross fixed capital formation growing by an estimated 1.9%, down from 3.3% in 2022 and significantly below the pre-pandemic average of 4.0%. High borrowing costs and political and economic uncertainties worsened the slowdown witnessed by both developed and developing economies. Regions like Africa, Western Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean grappled with challenges hindering investment, marking a struggle to foster economic growth.

Fading Momentum in International Trade

Global trade, a historical driver of growth, faced weakness in 2023. International trade in goods and services only increased by a mere 0.6%, a sharp decline from the 5.7% growth recorded in 2022. While recovery is anticipated in 2024, with an estimated growth of 2.4%, it remains significantly below the pre-pandemic trend of 3.2%. The slowdown is attributed to a slump in merchandise trade, monetary tightening, a strong dollar, and geopolitical tensions. Trade in services, particularly tourism and transport, showed signs of recovery, but overall, international trade’s dynamism has waned since the global financial crisis of 2008.

Global trade growth slowed down in 2023, but is anticipated for recovery in 2024
Global trade growth slowed down in 2023, but is anticipated for recovery in 2024

SDGs Attainment: Charting a Course Amid Challenges

Industrial Policy for Sustainable Development

Industrial policy has emerged as a crucial tool for fostering structural changes and supporting a green transition. Major economies such as China, the United States, and the European Union have invested heavily in high-tech and green energy sectors to enhance domestic resilience. However, many developing economies face challenges in funding industrial and innovation policies due to fiscal constraints and structural difficulties. Bridging the technological divide is crucial for strengthening productive capacities and moving closer to realising the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Multilateralism for Progress

As the world approaches the midpoint of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, strong global cooperation becomes imperative. The macroeconomic front necessitates reinvigorating the multilateral trading system, reforming development finance and the global financial architecture, and addressing the debt sustainability challenges faced by low- and middle-income countries. Urgent efforts are required to scale up climate financing and combat the climate crisis. Multilateral initiatives must provide clarity, adhere to principles, and foster cooperation to achieve SDGs, ensuring no one is left behind.

SDGs as part of global trade opportunities
SDGs as part of global trade opportunities

Summary: Navigating Challenges in 2024

In summary, as the global economy sails through the unpredictable waters of 2024, challenges loom large. While inflation may be easing globally, the persisting issue of food insecurity demands attention. Investment growth faces headwinds, and international trade is losing its historical momentum. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals requires a concerted effort towards robust industrial policies and enhanced multilateralism. The global economic front in 2024 is marked by uncertainties, urging nations to collaborate, innovate, and navigate these challenges with resilience and foresight.

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