A Welcome Reversal of Fortunes

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The year ahead promises much, with hope reviving in long suffering nations and among their people, who have yearned for relief over decades, if not centuries.

Nowhere is this air of optimism felt more intensely than in Asia and Africa.

From Indonesia to Sri Lanka to Nepal, democratic elections across Asia have brought to power leaders with clean reputations and liberal values.

The continent’s two giants – China and India – are undergoing their own reform and cleansing of politics, even as governance is being reshaped to better meet the demands of the common people.

It is no wonder that the two countries are developing their economic relationship on the very Silk Routes where they once prospered and influenced the world.

One bridge between the continents is BRICS, which groups together Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. The organisation’s decision to set up a bank to fund infrastructure projects and establish a reserve fund to tackle financial crisis in emerging economies is clearly a challenge to the established financial world order dominated by the International Monetary Fund ((IMF) and the World Bank.

Here too, marginalised nations suffering from the dictates of the few powers controlling the IMF and the World Bank may get some relief in a less discriminatory regime for the dispensation of funds.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no change in the functioning of the UN, whose largely ineffectual role in a variety of crises, from the Ebola outbreak to violence in the Middle East, has once again focused attention on its exclusive, isolated club – the Security Council and its five permanent members.

Its reform – meaning its abolishment or expansion to include the new powers representing Africa, Asia and South America could go a long way towards reversing its undemocratic excesses of the recent past.

The UN’s failures are most glaring in Africa.

Ironically, it is this continent that reflects the most dramatic reversal of fortunes.

After centuries of rapacious colonial rule, and the more recent plunder of its rich natural resources by the world’s dominant nations, Africa is finally standing up for itself, demanding fair play on the global arena.

Shrugging aside the debilitating effect of deadly disease and endemic internecine conflict, Africa is building for itself strong economies that are insulated from the mood swings of international markets, especially in commodities, a major income earner for the continent.

The reversal of fortune for the continent can be best illustrated by Angola offering aid to its former colonial ruler, Portugal. It is prosperous Angola, enriched by its oil reserves, that is now in a position to bail out the same Portugal that once appropriated for itself the wealth of a poorer nation in the past.

It is the same oil that has brought about the biggest reversal of fortunes.

Where shooting oil prices could once derail the economies of emerging nations, the sharp fall in the energy resource’s costs have at last evened the scores; for once allowing poorer nations to benefit at the cost of their rich counterparts, who produce or own its global reserves.

The trends therefore portend a year rich in irony, with the weaker nations emerging stronger and with greater assertiveness on the world stage.

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