By the middle of this century, global population will reach nearly 10 billion people, consuming ever more resources and leading increasingly complex lives. What will our cities be like? What will we eat and drink? Will global warming trigger truly dire straits or will we have a solution to the climate crisis? The world in 2050 will be dramatically different than in 2015, acknowledges business futurist and global strategy expert Russell Walker, but he believes there is plenty of room for optimism – if we smartly leverage the data and insights at our fingertips today.
There are several certainties, predicts Walker, a Kellogg School of Management professor and authority on risk management and business analytics: the U.S. and Europe are aging quickly; China’s growth will slow considerably, while India’s and Africa’s population will surge in unbounded ways. In fact, according to a recently released United Nations report, Africa is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth between 2015 and 2050.
These are significant shifts underway with profound implications for life and business, now and well into the future. Unique opportunities exist now, says Walker, for companies to alter business models and growth strategies in order to respond to – and get ahead of – projected global changes.
“The areas of the world that will experience the most growth don’t have the right resources. Dramatic changes in global trade and investment are coming,” explains Walker, who helps companies develop strategies to manage risk and harness value through analytics and big data. “The challenges faced along the way will be solved in ways we’ve never seen before.”
For example, rising population in the warm climates of India, southern China and sub-Saharan Africa will not only lead to a boost in food demand; just as importantly, these countries will require innovation in refrigeration and communications technology, to name a few.
From manufacturers to servicers, NGOs to state departments, mining to banking, every business in every sector must understand the role of globalization and its imminent changes, and start preparing for the world in 2050. Where should you be? Who is your customer? What products should you be offering? These are complex questions that require deep, data-informed analysis and global perspective, says Walker. And they must be answered now.