On November 30th, All Africa participated in a global media webinar with Marian Salzman, Senior Vice-President of Global Communications at Philip Morris International (PMI). Considered as one of the world's top trendspotters, well known for her annual trends forecasts, she presented an exclusive report on upcoming trends in this unprecedented time and what lies ahead in 2021.
In the face of uncertainty, populations have gone through persisting confusion and fear. But contrary to what could be understandably expected for 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic and its direct and indirect consequences could lead to a deeper, slower, and more human oriented world according to the thought leader:
"Amid all this collective suffering I see reasons to offer something better in the post covid-19 world. Social unrest in many countries, crisis and economic meltdown have changed us. They have altered our expectations and our vision of the world and our vision for what we want in the future and I hope that this pause that we've experienced will spark a great reset, a chance to change the direction which society and our communities and countries are headed. Because let's face it: there is a whole lot that needs fixing in the world".
Significant change and adjustment: an opportunity for localism
There are many thoughts about what the post Covid-19 pandemic world will look like. Everywhere and everybody, from companies, institutions, to regular people… has its point of view on how the world will change, or not. But one thing is certain according to the global trends specialist: the way we consume will be different in 2021:
"Our hyper consumerist economic model has led many of us to be deeply unsatisfied with how we live. We have a lot to stop. This year has allowed us to think about whether we want to maintain the current direction or change it. And the big trend we see into 2021 is really about zooming in on localism. We have slowed down enough to consider more deeply what we want in our lives and in our world. We are zooming in to connect with people and businesses around us. We are zooming in to examine how we can change direction and lead more fulfilling lives. We are zooming in to create homes that work better. It's living the vida hyperlocal"
For the global futurist, the awareness is so deep that it has also allowed us to "zoom out to get a better sense of the broader world and how we can positively impact it. And then we'll zoom back into our safe space. This will include being more aware of the people around us including all the people that we call central workers who we once regarded as below or outside our radar. We see them now. Zooming is as much about a mindset as it is a set of behaviors. It's about taking the time to think more carefully about our lives choices and patterns and change the things that haven't worked for us. And don't be surprised if you see friends and relatives make radical change in 2021. Switching to more meaningful pursuits you see a great deal of career change right now. Moving into a tinier home, in a more temperate climate, going back to school for a dance degree".
How about Africa?
The pandemic hasn't had the same sort of devastating impact in Africa as it has elsewhere and many helpful and efficient strategies have been implemented to stop the spreading of Covid-19 around the continent.
Also, studies show that Africa has never been as digitally connected as we are now since the advent of Covid-19 and that digital connection has saved a number of lives through video medical consultation, for example. Digital transformation is a reality. This pandemic has jettisoned digital audience and consumer behavior and social media are the new epicenter of human interactions.
The young generation of African people is really connected and digitally aware. However, the new digital era globally cheered around the world is not yet a reality in Africa when two-thirds of the population lacks access to the Internet.
When asked the question about the validity of these changes in Africa, and whether the continent could be part of the global transformation, Marian Salzman's words were unequivocal:
"Yes (Africa can be part of the transformation). If you go back to when the digital economy hit the US, less than 20% of Americans were online but the people who were going to drive economic changes have gotten there. Young people in Africa have the same kind of energy and enthusiasm and they will bring the others along. They will have to do it by creating low cost or free access to broadband. They will have to do it by creating businesses that actually allow people to get the things they need at an affordable cost. I think we are going to see African entrepreneurs and business leaders begin to transform and recognize that they need to put the technology in the hands of the people and the people that will drive the revolution are going to be the economic beneficiaries. There is no question in my mind that it will happen."
Following Marian Salzman's predictions, many voices assert that since resilience and adaptation are already part of the way African societies and populations interact, 2021 may see an acceleration of the continent's transformation on various levels.