Developing economies could play a significant role in assisting in the global economic recovery, director of the Institute for Future Research, at the University of Stellenbosch, Prof Andre Roux said on Monday.
Developing countries had now moved onto the list of the world's top-ten largest economies, with China taking second place, after the US, India taking fourth, Russia taking eight place, and Brazil rounding off ten.
By 2030, India would have an economy more or less the size of the US economy, while China's economy would be larger than that of the US. The larger economies would assist the first world countries in reaching their goals, and Roux added that developing countries were financing America's household and government debt.
The economic downturn has also shown that sustainability was becoming a challenge. Roux noted that the world population was currently 6,8-billion people, and was expected to rise to between eight-billion and nine-billion by 2029. The world economy, demand on resources, and global warming was expected to move in the same pattern.
"These figures are all telling us that sustainability is becoming a major problem," Roux said at this year's Rode Conference, held in Johannesburg.
To reduce the human population's industrial footprint, Roux noted that other forms of energy had to be investigated. He estimated that by 2030, the global energy demand would be up by 70% when compared with the demand in 2000, while a 50% increase in demand would come from countries such as India and China.
"Fortunately, we have realised that renewable energy could account for up to 35% of our total global energy needs," he added. Switching to more efficient lighting could further lower energy consumption by 12%.
Roux noted that Africa could have a particularly important part to play in the future, as it had a relatively young population. He stated that by 2010, the number of old people in Europe would overtake the number of children on the continent, which would cause significant social and political issues.
However, he added that if Africa were to properly educate and train its youth, the continent could host a very productive population. "Fortunately, more and more countries show support [for educating their young], and we have reached a point where we still have a very youthful population. If they are well educated and skilled, we could have a productive population."
He noted that across the world, successful economies relied on small and macro businesses as a source of economic activity and employment. Roux said that by western standards, the majority of Africans lived in poverty, however, most did own small holdings. If monetary values were attached to these properties, it would enable Africans to gain access to capital, in order to start small and micro businesses.
If this venture was successful, Roux noted that the value of these small businesses could be up to four times higher than the total amount of foreign aid that was currently being granted to Africa.
However, he added that this plan would require the buy-in of governments and local authorities in order to succeed.
A third window of opportunity that was the amount of arable land that the continent offered. Roux noted that currently, only around 22% of the continent's arable land was being cultivated. "If we could start using that arable land, not only would we be able to feed Africa, but Africa would also become a net exporter of food."
He noted that the current economic recession had also taught a lesson that good governance was good for business. "We realised that the global market is unable to manage itself, and some type of government involvement is called for."
"Very importantly, we also realised that the US and Europe could no longer set the global agenda on their own. They have to involve China, India, Brazil and even South Africa."