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What do you think the world will be like by 2050? Will we have flying cars? Will we have solved world hunger? Will we have colonised Mars? Did we finally make our shoes smell good after spending the day in 30-degree temperatures? Our imagination has gotten the best of us over the years, but can our fantasies ever come true? Time will tell.
Indeed, a lot can happen over time. It’s hard to predict what will occur next Thursday, never mind how our existence will be shaped in a few decades. Still, the smartest people in business, finance and policymaking think they have an idea of what the most powerful countries in the world will be by 2050.
Emerging markets could outpace developed economies. France and Italy could be overtaken by Turkey and Vietnam. Indonesia could be an economic powerhouse in the next 30 years and turn into one of the best places to work.
Has your interest been piqued yet? Here’s a list of the 10 countries that will dominate the world’s economy in 2050 according to PwC’s ‘The World in 2050’ report.
10. United Kingdom
GDP in PPP terms by 2050: $5.4 trillion
Annual average growth rate by 2050: 2%
Total population by 2050: 75.4 million
The United Kingdom would slip from 9th place to the 10th spot as the nation is overtaken by Germany. At the same time, the UK will remove France from the top 10 list, making it one of the few developed economies of today to stand the test of time.
GDP in PPP terms by 2050: $6.1 trillion
Annual average growth rate by 2050: 1.4%
Total population by 2050: 74.5 million
Germany will perform slightly better than its British counterpart over the next 30 years. According to PwC analysts, it’s not so much the economic fundamentals that will impact Germany. Instead, it’s the performance relative to certain emerging markets that will place an important role in Germany making the top 10.
GDP in PPP terms by 2050: $6.8 trillion
Annual average growth rate by 2050: 1%
Total population by 2050: 107.4 million
Japan is in a comparable position to Germany in the sense that it’s not so much that the strength of its economy will diminish but, rather, other nations, such as Brazil and Mexico, are expected to accelerate by 2050. Overall, Japan, which is today’s third-largest economy, is forecast to fall out of the top 5 by 2050 and slide to the 8th position.
GDP in PPP terms by 2050: $6.9 trillion
Annual average growth rate by 2050: 6.9%
Total population by 2050: 163.8 million
Over the next 30 years, Mexico could overtake the UK and France. According to the study authors, one of the areas in Mexico that could see vast improvement is the control of corruption, something that the current government has failed to rein in after all these years. The other strength Mexico could have in the years to come is a stronger peso, especially when compared to other Latin American currencies, such as the Colombian peso or the Brazilian real.
GDP in PPP terms by 2050: $7.1 trillion
Annual average growth rate by 2050: 1.8%
Total population by 2050: 128.6 million
With the world transitioning to natural gas, experts believe that Moscow has positioned itself well when compared to other economies. Plus, as evident in recent years, Russia has been gradually diversifying its economy to ensure that it refrains from depending solely on natural resources for growth.
‘All of these points mean that diversification away from natural resources is a key requirement for sustained long-term growth in many of the economies we consider in this study, notably Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Brazil and South Africa,’ the report stated.
GDP in PPP terms by 2050: $7.5 trillion
Annual average growth rate by 2050: 2.5%
Total population by 2050: 238.3 million
Brazil was listed as a market that has ‘overcome challenges and ultimately been successful in combining their global best practices with flexible adaptation to local business and consumer environments.’ It identified Walmart in Brazil as an example of this. The setback for Rio de Janeiro could be the failure to defeat political scandals and rampant corruption. Still, a diversified economy and increasing foreign investment could allow Brazil to overtake some of the world’s largest economies of today.
GDP in PPP terms by 2050: $10.5 trillion
Annual average growth rate by 2050: 3.2%
Total population by 2050: 322.2 million
Could Indonesia become one of the biggest markets in the world? Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit China, many companies were exiting Beijing and searching for greener pastures in neighbouring economies. With Indonesia attracting offshoring jobs from China, the results have already caught the eye of financial analysts worldwide. This has expanded real income growth, raised domestic demand, and improved its competitive advantage.
3. United States
GDP in PPP terms by 2050: $34.1 trillion
Annual average growth rate by 2050: 1.9%
Total population by 2050: 388.9 million
PwC researchers contend that mass education could be a considerable factor in America’s fall as the richest country on the planet. Despite the US near the top of OECD nations when it comes to public education spending, the results have been abysmal. Should the US and other states enhance the state of education by embracing technological change, new employment opportunities could be born. Still, it may not be enough to defeat the world’s two richest economies: India and China.
GDP in PPP terms by 2050: $44.1 trillion
Annual average growth rate by 2050: 3.9%
Total population by 2050: 1.705 billion
It’s a sign of the times when Kellogg’s has positioned itself as one of the biggest foreign brands in India. Although projections show that it will surpass every economy in the world (minus China), figures estimate that average incomes would be smaller than in other countries.
‘India’s GDP per capita trajectory over the next 34 years is markedly different to its overall GDP progression, illustrating that while strong population growth can be a key driver of GDP growth, it can also make it more challenging to boost average income levels,’ the report explained.
That said, while the global economy is anticipated to slow down over time, India and Nigeria will be the exceptions to this expectation, with growth remaining higher for longer.
GDP in PPP terms by 2050: $58.5 trillion
Annual average growth rate by 2050: 2.1%
Total population by 2050: 1.348 billion
And, to one’s surprise, China will be the most powerful economy in the world in 2050. But this did not take PwC to come up with this conclusion. A whole host of organisations, financial institutions and governments have been predicting this for quite some time, from the World Bank to the United Nations and Goldman Sachs to the European Union.
China will not grow by being as insulated as it has been for years. Instead, Beijing will grow by opening its markets to foreign companies, such as General Motors and Tesla Motors. President Xi Jinping has embraced market-oriented reforms since engaging in a trade war with the US in 2017, allowing for greater foreign direct investment.
In the end, in spite of geopolitical strife and trade disputes, the study authors are confident that China will remain supreme in 30 years.
From 5G (6G?) global adoption and prevalence to flying taxis and space tourism, there’s a lot that can happen in the next 30 years. Think back to what has transpired in the last 30 years to fathom how much the world and the global economy have evolved. China has transformed into the world’s second-largest economy, we can instantly communicate with someone halfway around the world, and political revolutions can occur with 140 characters and a click of a button.
While teleportation and visiting another galaxy are unlikely in our short- or medium-term future, we can foresee the kings and queens of today toppled by the kings and queens of tomorrow. A new era of economic prosperity will emerge for some, and economic stagnation will be the norm for others.
Join the conversation! How do you think the world order will change by 2050? Let us know in the comments section below!
This article is an update of an earlier version published in June 2015.