Intrigue’s 2024 Geopolitical Bingo Card

Before we get back into the swing of things next week, allow us to present the Intrigue 2024 Geopolitical Bingo Card. Basically, we’ve put together 24 predictions for the coming year – some serious, others not.

Now, when something genuinely surprising happens, you’ll be able to say, “I didn’t have it on my bingo card”, and really mean it.

🗳️ ~47% of the world will be eligible to vote this year

1. The ruling Conservative Party will lose the UK general election by a wide margin. But unlike when Tony Blair’s New Labour roared to power in 1997, if Keir Starmer wins, it’ll be because he’s the only ice skater still skating at the finish line.

2. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will fall short of a majority but will remain in power by bringing smaller parties into a coalition. Other major countries in Africa will also face electoral change, with Ghana switching to the National Democratic Congress in response to declining socioeconomic indicators.

3. Peter Kenilorea Jr will become prime minister of Solomon Islands after elections in April, opening the possibility of the Pacific Island nation switching recognition back to Taiwan. Kenilorea – the son of the country’s first prime minister – returned home in 2017 after a UN career abroad and will finally figure out how to convert his popularity into power.

4. Global youth voter turnout will remain below 50% in 2024. Despite a growing number of young eligible voters from the Gen Z and Millennial age groups, voter turnout from this cohort will fall further from its current level of 47.7%. Leading the way will be India, where only ~40% of 18-29-year-olds have registered to vote.

5. Speaking of the Indian election, Modi will win it, but by far less than expected. He’ll react to this surprising result by doubling down on his brand of populist nationalism.

🧘 The US & China take time to work on themselves

6. An AI scandal will rock the US presidential election.A video will emerge of one of the candidates doing something disqualifying (though what that would be these days, we’ve no idea). The video will be proved to be fake within 24 hours, but the damage will already be done on the front page of every newspaper in the world.

7. There will be a push to ban TikTok in the US, but politicians will delay, scared of the effects a ban would have on crucial Gen-Z voters. Desperate, some politicians will embrace ‘Reels’ only to realise it’s filled with recycled content from TikTok that’s three months late for an audience of politically-numb Millennials more interested in ‘hot-men-cooking’ and ‘heartwarming-dog-rescue’ videos than the future of civilisation.

8. A US-Canada border wall will become a ‘serious’ election issue.One presidential candidate has already proposed it, citing a wave of fentanyl flowing across America’s ~ 9,000km northern border.

9. In China, Xi Jinping will face an internal threat to his position as general secretary. China has some real economic problems and there’s a nagging sense the country has bitten off more than it can chew on the world stage. The wider world will be unaware of just how precarious Xi’s position has become, but the dramatic defection of a senior communist party official to the US will give us a hint.

10. TSMC will be rocked by a serious intelligence failure. Continuing the theme of defections, the world’s largest semiconductor manufacturer will see several of its Taiwan-based engineers flee to the mainland (or the UAE). Global media will highlight this as proof China’s SMIC is catching up to TSMC, but it’ll still be unable to build the truly leading-edge chips it needs to be competitive in AI.

💪 Africa flexes its economic potential…

11. Africa will produce two new tech unicorns as investors build on the success of an earlier wave of startups now helping bank the unbanked (360 million folks on the continent don’t have access to a bank account). Africa’s next wave of tech founders will tackle other core challenges across education, energy, and beyond. (Check out our friend Caleb Maru’s excellent coverage of the tech scene in Africa)

12. Sub-Saharan African governments will embrace cryptocurrency.With soaring inflation, limited access to traditional banking, and increasing youth and internet access, more Sub-Saharan African folks will diversify away from fiat currency. Will it work? If El Salvador’s experiment with Bitcoin is anything to go by, no.

13. The African Union will establish its own credit ratings agency.Sick of having their debts labelled as risky by the London/New York finance set, African governments will pledge to make it easier for African businesses to attract investors – and the first step will be to get friendlier credit ratings. The move will accelerate the record amounts of cash flowing into Africa’s energy transition sectors like hydroelectricity and critical minerals.

📉 … while LATAM does the opposite

14. President Javier Milei’s devaluation of Argentina’s currency will initially drive inflation higherover the first half of 2024 until his ‘shock therapy’ spending cuts help inflation peak at around 250% by mid-2024. That number will then drop, but not before Milei’s approval ratings do, as local living standards realistically get worse before they get better.

15. Bolivia and Tunisia will default on their sovereign debt, worsening the already precarious political situation in both countries. Yes, we know Tunisia isn’t in Latin America, but both Bolivia and Tunisia have a history of political violence stemming from economic instability.

16. Nicolás Maduro’s crisis-riddled reign in Venezuela will finally come to an end as the opposition coalesces around Maria Corina Machado, a long-time government foe. We can’t believe we’re predicting a Maduro-less Venezuela either, but polls say Machado is on track to win the late-2024 elections. Maduro’s only hope is to delay or subvert them, and that’s getting harder in the face of pressure at home and abroad.

🤷 The Middle East in 2024 is anyone’s guess

17. Iran will enrich uranium past the 90% weapons-grade threshold. They came close last year, enriching all the way to 83.7% purity. But with international opinion turning against Israeli military action in the region and the US distracted by an election, Ayatollah Khamenei will see 2024 as the perfect opportunity to push some more boundaries.

18. Turkish troops will withdraw from Syria. The Syrian and Turkish foreign ministers met last year for the first time since 2011. Now, with ISIS at bay and Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s comeback tour kicking off, Turkey will feel pressure to withdraw from regions in Northern Syria, which its forces have occupied since 2016. There are no guarantees, though, that Turkey will stop its air force attacks on the US-backed Kurdish militants there.

19. Bibi will be forced out as Israel’s prime minister.Sooner or later, a majority of Israelis will formally lay the blame for the biggest security failure in decades at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s door. He won’t go through an election, though – the coalition he’s assembled has too much to lose. Instead, members of his Likud Party (which polls say would lose nearly half their seats if elections were held today) will find a new leader to try to salvage their party’s reputation.

20. Saudi Aramco will try to buy a US shale producer. Faced with disunity in OPEC+, persistently low oil prices, and consolidation among US crude producers, the Saudis will launch an ambitious bid to control a share of US shale production. US regulators will scrutinise the deal on the grounds that it could be a threat to national security.

🔥 Supply chains and climate change will continue to take up front page space

21. The South China Sea will see its first ‘hot’ military confrontation,adding to the supply chain chaos caused by the Houthi attacks in the Red Sea. At the tail end of 2023, China fired water cannons at Philippines vessels, causing real damage. A similar incident will go too far and live rounds will be exchanged between militaries.

22. Indian pharmaceutical exports will surge after extreme weather events in the Malacca Straits cause even more havoc for global shipping. India already supplies ~40% of generic drug demand in the US, ~50% in Africa, and ~25% of all medicine in the UK. Indian Prime Minister Modi will seize the opportunity to drive those figures even higher.

23. A small island Pacific state will tap the new COP28 ‘Loss and Damage Fund’ after a weather event damages major infrastructure. Lacking internet and phone connection after the catastrophe severs their communication cables, the country’s citizens will come up with another creative way to draw the world’s attention, channelling Tuvalu minister Simon Kofe when he delivered his COP26 speech standing in water.

24. St Valentine’s Day chocolates will become a luxury after the global supply of cocoa faces a near collapse due to the spread of a fungus called black pod. Cocoa trading prices are already at a 46-year high after bad weather conditions in cocoa-producing countries decreased crop yields. So the Swiss will give up their long-fabled neutrality… to help producers declare war on fungi.

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