-Watch out for environmental challenges, misinformation, and disinformation
Global business leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos In January 2024 identified extreme weather conditions as the top global threat for the next two years. They worried that countries are not ready or equipped to tackle the challenges.
The World Economic Forum surveyed 1,490 leaders during the Davos, Switzerland meeting for its Global Risks Report 2024. It then identified ten top risks in the immediate two years and top risks over ten years.
The top risks in two years are misinformation and disinformation, extreme weather events, societal polarisation, cyber insecurity, and interstate armed conflicts. Others are lack of economic opportunity, inflation, involuntary migration, and pollution.
Over ten years, extreme weather events climbed from number two to the dominant concern. In second place is “critical change to Earth systems”, still related to climate change and the environment. Others are biodiversity loss, ecosystem collapse, natural resource shortages, misinformation and disinformation, adverse outcomes of AI technologies, involuntary migration, cyber insecurity, societal polarisation, and pollution.
According to the World Economic Forum, “The Global Risks Report explores some of the most severe risks we may face over the next decade against a backdrop of rapid technological change, economic uncertainty, a warming planet, and conflict. As cooperation comes under pressure, weakened economies and societies may only require the smallest shock to edge past the tipping point of resilience”.
The top risks in two years are misinformation and disinformation, extreme weather events, societal polarisation, cyber insecurity, and interstate armed conflicts.
Nigeria should pick valuable insights from that report. It has significant learnings and potential actions to address present and future challenges.
Extreme weather events, biodiversity loss, and climate action failure top the list of global concerns. Nigeria is vulnerable to droughts, floods, and land degradation and should prioritise climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.
Disinformation poses a significant threat. Global leaders identified misinformation and polarising narratives as significant global risks, potentially fuelling social unrest and hindering effective crisis response. The experts linked it to the potential downsides of AI and its growing utilisation. Fake news is already a real threat in most developing countries like Nigeria, fuelled by such platforms as WhatsApp, Telegram, X and YouTube. Investment in digital literacy and fact-checking programs is imperative, while the National Orientation Agency should mount sensitisation against fake news given our fragility.
Geopolitical tensions are rising. The report underlines the growing risk of interstate conflict and resource scarcity. Nigeria must strengthen its regional diplomacy and foster international cooperation to maintain peace and stability. We must improve our role in ECOWAS and heal the breaches arising from the recent events in the Niger Republic.
Economic uncertainty persists. The global economic outlook remains fragile, with the potential for debt crises and market downturns. The prognosis should concern all Nigerian leaders and citizens as our debts keep growing. The Federal and State governments must intensify efforts to diversify the economy, promote sustainable development and build resilience to external shocks.
The mention in the Global Risks Report 2024 of “lack of economic opportunity, inflation, and involuntary migration” is akin to the proverb about the reaction of old people to the mention of dry bones in a joke. Involuntary migration is the elevated word for the Japa phenomenon currently occupying the youth of Nigeria who seek assistance from escaping outside the country.
We note the global concern with AI with the opportunities and challenges of technological advancements. Implementing digital literacy programmes now should enable Nigeria to prepare well to manage the inevitable. Nigeria should develop responsible AI regulations and invest in skills development to harness the benefits of the technology.
We recommend strengthening governance and institutions through effective leadership, transparency, and adherence to the rule of law to tackle the risks ahead. The country must invest in disaster preparedness and climate resilience through deploying early warning systems, developing infrastructure and community-based adaptation strategies.
Nigeria should also foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue. Building bridges between communities can break down social divisions and reduce the risk of conflict. Nigeria can promote national unity through inclusive policies and interfaith initiatives.
Critical thinking skills should be part of the curriculum. We should equip citizens to discern fact from fiction to combat misinformation. Nigeria can integrate media literacy into school curricula and support independent journalism.