With the UK officially no longer part of the EU, prepare to monitor future regulatory changes and disruption as the UK negotiates new trading terms with various international partners. Assess the impact of government and economic instability as fallout from COVID and Brexit dominate.
While the full ambition of ACFTA – a continent-wide single market in goods and services – will not be achieved quickly, the direction of travel is important. In a world where the reduction of trade barriers has slowed or even reversed, Africa’s commitment to free trade will make the continent an increasingly attractive investment destination.
Following a tumultuous 2020 for the post-Soviet region in which major crises emerged in several countries, simultaneous parliamentary elections in Kazakhstan and early presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan amid a COVID-induced economic slowdown could prompt unrest and instability, setting the tone for another year of upheaval. Plan for potential protests and continued risk of political reshuffles and regulatory uncertainty.
Although President Yoweri Museveni is likely to win the presidential elections – extending his 35-year rule – growing dissatisfaction with him and his National Resistance Movement is likely to prompt unrest and has significant implications for his eventual succession.
Biden will outline his immediate policy agenda. Monitor key regulatory trends relevant to businesses, including on environmental regulation, economic stimulus and pandemic management. Understand the outlook for international relations between the US and key partners (Canada, Europe) as well as rivals (Russia, China, Iran, North Korea) and the implications on trade, sanctions and the effectiveness of international organisations.
Ten years after the revolution that led to the overthrow of Mubarak, signs of unrest are reappearing amid poor economic conditions and repression of freedom of expression. Prepare for operational disruption from potential widespread unrest, as well as increased reputational and sanctions risks in the event of a heavy-handed response by security forces, which would attract criticism from the US and Europe.
Elections in Somalia have been repeatedly delayed and once again failed to take place in December 2020 amid disputes between central and regional governments. If held in early 2021, they will mark an important step towards improving political stability. Failure to hold them would be a significant backwards step for Somalia’s prospects. Assess scenarios for Somalia’s future as a potential investment destination.
The Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) will convene its five-yearly Congress and confirm its new political leadership. Reshuffles are likely and political risk for factions that lose out will increase. The risks will affect local, state-owned and private companies, and, in some instances, their foreign partners and investors. Re-assess your political exposure and hedge where possible.
After the traumas of COVID and Kim’s health problems in 2020, Kim Jong Un’s New Year speech and a rare ruling-party congress will give indications of domestic policy (possibly including a new 5-year plan), personnel and politics. These will likely set tone for Pyongyang’s foreign policy in the Biden era after unprecedented engagement with Trump in 2018-19. Re-assess conflict scenarios and expect potential further ballistic missile tests and escalation of rhetoric.
As the only remaining nuclear weapons control pact in place between the US and Russia, the renewal of the New START Treaty is critical to prevent the unravelling of the non-proliferation regime, and a significant weakening of international security. With President Joe Biden in office in the US, the prospects for its renewal are significantly improved.
A potential victory for the opposition will elevate political and macro-economic risks. Companies should assess their exposure to such risks and seek to understand likely post-electoral changes in policy direction, depending on which candidates are elected.
The potential for increased activity by the armed opposition will raise the likelihood of additional sanctions by the US/EU. Companies should continue to monitor international diplomatic approaches to Syria to assess the likelihood of an improvement in the sanctions and security environment for international businesses.
The six-year anniversary of the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention in Yemen could trigger a renewed push by the UN to broker peace but may also bring renewed scrutiny by the US of Saudi Arabia’s participation in the conflict. Companies should reassess conflict scenarios and any potential reputational risks that could arise under the Biden administration.
These will be the fourth parliamentary elections for Israel in two years. Businesses that rely on government contracts should expect delays due to the government’s inability to pass a state budget. Businesses must assess the potential longer-term implications on post-COVID economic recovery given the prospect of further gridlocks over government formation.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will likely signal her succession plans. Broader political and policy stability remains unlikely, but businesses should start assessing the potential outcomes of various succession scenarios.
Following the November 2020 general election, the returning Aung San Suu Kyi government offers little hope of a more reformist and pro-business approach. Peace negotiations with armed ethnic and rebel groups may offer short-term positive outcomes for some restive regions, but businesses should not expect further significant progress.
Leaders will set the tone for domestic policies for the rest of the year, and the NPC will approve a new Five-Year Plan for economic and social development in the 2021-25 period. Companies should seek to understand how this direction is likely to impact their business strategy for China over the next few years in terms of political and regulatory risk.
Following an unpopular constitutional referendum and questions over President Abdelmedjid Tebboune’s health, the anniversary could spark renewed protests. Monitor social sentiment and plan for continued political and regulatory change in the next year.
The highly fragmented campaign points to further political instability. The incoming administration is likely to face a splintered congress, and populist reform proposals may pose risks to the business environment. Companies should consider alternative scenarios and assess any resultant political or regulatory risk.
This election cycle will coincide with the second anniversary of President Narendra Modi’s re-election and will serve as a mid-term referendum on his leadership. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party will likely play up Hindu nationalist themes in Assam and West Bengal. Companies should assess any potential implications for social stability, as well as for India’s relations with Bangladesh.
resident Bashar al-Assad will seek to re-legitimise his leadership. Companies should re-assess the willingness of the international community to re-engage with his government and any implications this could have on the extensive sanctions regime placed on doing business with Syria.
Initially scheduled for early 2020, but postponed due to COVID-19, the NATO exercise will be the largest for US forces in 25 years, testing their capability to deploy large numbers of troops across the Atlantic. Russia is likely to protest the exercise as a provocation. Re-evaluate scenarios for the outlook of geopolitical security in the region following the change of power in the White House and expect a potential spike in state-sponsored cyber attacks.
Victory for the party of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) will embolden the president in pursuing his statist agenda, while defeat would likely lead to a stalling of statist reforms. Companies should seek to assess the potential impact of alternative scenarios on their business and sector of operation.
The elections, if held on time, will increase security and political risks for businesses operating in the country. Companies should monitor events and political rhetoric leading up to the election and expect the stalling of key projects as negotiations for forming a government may be protracted.
The elections, alongside US President Biden’s policy towards Iran during his first months in office, will likely define the country’s foreign policy trajectory for the next decade. In the absence of international negotiations, a likely hardline Iranian president could turn the country into an entrenched rogue state in the region, leading to further insecurity in the Gulf and Levant. Companies should revisit Middle East stability scenarios to understand potential long-term impact on their business.
The dry season in the Amazon rainforest is likely to drive deforestation rates upwards again, renewing concerns about ESG risks and increasing reputational scrutiny on companies operating in the region.
Sri Lanka’s ability and political will to service this debt will signal the country’s overall commitment to external liabilities. This also has the potential to inform its sovereign risk ratings as well as relations with China and other creditors like India and Japan. Companies should monitor monetary and fiscal policy and evaluate sovereign risks.
COVID permitting, China will hold national celebrations on a very grand scale. President Xi Jinping appears to consider this an important opportunity to proclaim the CPC’s historical achievements and mission, and perhaps his own status and legacy. Beijing will be determined to avoid major problems or instability around this milestone. Businesses should anticipate heightened political sensitivities in the run-up to and during the anniversary celebrations, with pressure on officials to avoid controversy or disruption.
After COVID-19 forced postponement of the Summer Olympic Games in 2020, the government, organisers, sponsors, and participating countries are likely to face difficult decisions in the run-up to the Games as the pandemic persists. Companies involved should monitor the pandemic outlook for Japan and plan for potential disruption.
Continued political deadlock and economic distress in Lebanon will lead to an emotional anniversary, as well as the potential for significant protests and unrest. Companies should plan for potential disruption in Beirut, including the possibility of localised violence.
These elections will mark a crossroads, resulting in either the advent of a more business-friendly opposition administration, or marking a further erosion of Zambia’s democratic reputation if widespread vote rigging occurs. Companies should assess the impact of alternative electoral scenarios on regulatory and political risk.
Continued development of the dam will increase tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia. While this will not lead to armed conflict, these tensions have already led to cyber attacks and could have ramifications for both countries’ wider international relations.
After a major tightening of Beijing’s control over the territory in 2020, including cracking down on opposition politicians and activists, if and how elections in Hong Kong proceed will be highly contentious. Foreign criticism of the government’s handling of the polls could fuel tensions between China and other countries. Around the election period, companies should assess and monitor potential risks from the geopolitical level (such as reputational or sanctions risks from US and other responses) and the local security level (with potential for protests, or disruption related to heightened security).
The elections are expected to mobilise relatively large anti-government protests. Given President Vladimir Putin’s declining approval ratings and growing public discontent with the economic slowdown, the elections will be a significant test for Putin and put pressure on political stability. Companies should continue to monitor triggers for potential political instability.
The elections will decide Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor, with implications for EU unity as well as EU trade, environment and foreign policy. Companies should seek to assess the potential regulatory and foreign policy trajectory of alternative future governments, particularly around emissions regulations in the likely event that the Green party will be part of the ruling coalition.
Geopolitical competition in Africa has been intensifying, with private-sector investors increasingly finding that the competitive landscape is shaped by geopolitics. The FOCAC summit will provide a clear indication of how China – one of the largest players in Africa – intends to approach the continent and whether the pandemic has changed this approach. Companies should assess and monitor how geopolitical relations with China may impact deals and financing in their sector of operation.
Belarus and Russia will hold a joint military drill with land and naval exercises to project their military might and underscore the countries’ close relations. The drill is expected to cause a spike in Russia-NATO tensions, and draw criticism from Belarus’s European neighbours, but the impact on businesses is likely to be limited.
These will be the first major electoral test for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its new leader since long-time prime minister Abe Shinzo left office in 2020. Organisations should assess potential regulatory implications of alternative scenarios for Japan’s future political trajectory, including a potential return to more unstable ruling coalitions.
The summit is expected to focus on socioeconomic recovery from the pandemic and fighting climate change. Italy as host wants to prioritise gender equality and sustainable development, with a particular emphasis on Africa. Companies should monitor the summit agenda and assess the likelihood of any potentially business-relevant initiatives.
The opposition will likely capitalise on the current government’s dwindling popularity and increase its seats in both houses in Congress. Companies should assess the implications of the election result on Argentina’s policy and regulatory volatility, especially in relation to subsidies and price controls.
This will be a poignant and emotional moment for Armenians, for whom the terms of the ceasefire are widely seen as a national humiliation. There is a high potential for major protests and calls for fresh military offensives by Armenian forces to recapture lost territory. Businesses should monitor declarations leading up to the anniversary and assess the likelihood and impact of potential protests or conflict flare-ups.
COP26 will take place in Glasgow (UK) a year later than scheduled, having been postponed due to COVID-19. Businesses should assess new climate pledges made by countries in the months leading up to the conference and understand the pace and reach of any regulatory changes as a result of these pledges.
The first presidential and parliamentary elections since the 2019 protest wave will shape the country’s outlook for the following four years and beyond. Businesses should assess the impact of alternative election outcomes on the prospect of business-friendly reforms, which have faced opposition from the public.
There is no official date for Kim Jong Un’s accession to power after the death of his father, and no well-established practice for marking it or his father’s death. However, the younger Kim marking a decade in power will be a significant milestone, which he could choose to highlight with major events, propaganda or weapons tests. Businesses should seek to understand alternative scenarios for security in the Korean peninsula and any security or business implications these might trigger.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has seen his ambitious reform agenda hindered by widespread ethnic violence, political tensions and internal conflict with the Tigray regional state. The elections will be a key test of his authority and his commitment to political reforms despite the challenges and will give potential investors an indication of whether Ethiopia can still live up to its huge investment potential.
Ukraine will work hard to secure a high-level Normandy Summit meeting with Russia, Germany and France to discuss resolving the war in the east. Considering a notable reduction in ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine in late 2020, the summit could yield some progress in the peace talks. Businesses should monitor events and diplomatic exchanges leading up to the summit to assess the likelihood of a reduction in security and operational threats for businesses in the region