Top Ten Ways Pope Francis heralds the Emergence of Global South

The selection of Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the new pope signals the first time the Roman Catholic Church has been headed by a non-European since St. Gregory III (d. 741), who was what we would today call either a Lebanese or a Syrian. (Of course, the church holds that a Palestinian was the first pope).

The decision of the cardinals is significant not just for the Roman Catholic Church but as part of the emergence in the 21st century of the global South as a center of power, economic growth, and cultural influence. When exactly Europe began surpassing other world areas in these regards is controversial in economic history, but it was in any case several hundred years ago. The North’s dominance was extended by its other rising powers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Russia and the United States, which dominated the world in the second half of the twentieth century.

But every indication is that the global South — Latin America, Africa and Asia — will increasingly make itself felt in the coming century. Here are the signs pointing to this change:

1. 42% of the world’s Roman Catholics live in Latin America.

2. The number of Catholics in Africa has more than tripled since 1978, to 176 million, or about 15% of the total.

3. Sometime in the next decade, China’s gross domestic product will likely surpass that of the United States, making it the world’s largest economy. The United States had been the world’s largest economy since 1890, when it surpassed . . . China.

4. Brazil’s gross domestic product is bigger than that of Britain.

5. India will likely be the world’s largest consumer market by 2030.

6. India is already the world’s largest producer of films, and enjoys some of the soft power benefits of the popularity of Bollywood around the world. It produces around 3000 films a year, including around 1300 feature films.

7. But Hollywood is still no. 2 for the production of feature films, right? No, it is now Nigeria.

8. The North is likely to lose population or at most remain stable in the next 40 years, but the world is likely to go from its present 6.8 billion to 9.2 billion by 2050. Africa’s population will likely double in that time, and almost all the growth will come in the global South. In turn, that development will make northerners a small minority of some 1.5 billion, about a 6th of the total. The typical human being 40 years from now will be an Asian from India, China or Indonesia.

9. Nearly a third of humankind could well be Muslim by mid-century.

10. In 1905, both the US and Germany for the first time out-produced Britain in steel, which historians see as a turning point in the history of geopolitics. But in 2013, the Chinese produce more steel than all of Europe and the US combined. Even India alone is probably only a few years away from producing more steel annually than the US, and it already out-produces Russia and Germany.

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9 Responses

  1. Hello Juan,

    thought you might like to see this:

    link to

    “The extent of the church’s complicity in the dark deeds was excellently set out by Horacio Verbitsky, one of Argentina’s most notable journalists, in his book El Silencio (Silence). He recounts how the Argentinian navy with the connivance of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now the Jesuit archbishop of Buenos Aires, hid from a visiting delegation of the Inter-American Human Rights Commission the dictatorship’s political prisoners. Bergoglio was hiding them in nothing less than his holiday home in an island called El Silencio in the River Plate. The most shaming thing for the church is that in such circumstances Bergoglio’s name was allowed to go forward in the ballot to chose the successor of John Paul II. What scandal would not have ensued if the first pope ever to be elected from the continent of America had been revealed as an accessory to murder and false imprisonment”

  2. Sadly, I don’t think most of your predictions will come true. The way the planet is heating up, the south will be empty of people as they move to the poles for food, water, and living space. Diseases will ramp up, medical innovations will not keep pace, life expectancies will drop drastically in all areas as well as a huge decrease in land able to produce food and potable water.
    Water is the new oil and unlike oil, it cannot be replaced by solar or wind power.
    Besides Francis I is nothing more than a place holder pope, he won’t change a damned thing no matte what continent he was born on (his parents were Italian by the way so it is arguable how “South American” he truly is.)

  3. No doubt you have read Eduardo Galeano’s “Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent?” Certainly not enough of the influential policy makers here have read it, especially with respect to the economic and social precariousness of: “…the emergence in the 21st century of the global South as a center of power, economic growth, and cultural influence. Essentially what this means for this part of the world (I am in the global south, Chile) is the continuation of Galeano’s afore-mentioned cruel “pillage,” theft and abusive decimation of the people and the natural habitats and resources by the north to continue enriching their coffers—all under the guise of the south’s becoming a “center of power, economic growth and cultural influence.” Inevitably Galeano will have to revise the last(?)chapter of “Open Veins”, or at least add a suppliment, on ‘The Contemporary Structure of Plunder’ It’s not over yet! I hope he lives long enough to write it. And may this final rape and pillage of this part of the world be the final asterisk to the opening sentence of his Introduction: “The division of labor among the nations is that some specialize in winning and others in losing. Our part of the world, known today as Latin America, was precocious: it has specialized in losing ever since those remote times when Renaissance Europeans (Christians) ventured across the ocean and buried their teeth in the throats of the Indian civilizations.”

    • “I am in the global south, Chile”

      Congratulations, you are living in Chile, a country that got its economics right long ago and has been a beacon that other Latin American countries should follow. I lived in Santiago for three years, and while all is not perfect in Chile, Its free-market policies, welcoming attitude toward foreign direct investment, and export-oriented economy have been, and continue to be, a breath of fresh air. Chile has prospered, while many other Latin American countries have adopted, at one time or another, nationalization of banks, expropriation of foreign business, and import substitution.

      The unsurprising result of countries with those policies is lack of investment, inflation, shortages of everything from food to consumer goods, and a flight of capital to Miami banks. Chile has avoided that scenario, and Mexico, Peru, Colombia, and Brazil have largely followed Chile’s example. They have thrown off the ideological shackles that have hindered Latin American development for so long.

  4. A small nit to pick; this north vs. south division is not very useful. Most of Africa is in the north! India, China, Vietnam, Thailand, and the Philippines are all in the north.

    Perhaps the old dividing lines specified by “the first world”, “the second world”, and “the third world” are more useful here. The third world is coming on strong. The second world is transforming. The first world looks tired!

  5. ALL of the above presumes that the ongoing economic collapse caused by fiat currency coupled with the dire effects of Fukashima on top of the catastrophic effects of chem trails/ocean dumping will leave civilizations intact enough for those predictions to have meaning. Dream on.

  6. Brazil, a country I dearly love, is choking on its newly-found prosperity. The political class is more corrupt than ever, the poor – and they are desperately poor – continue to grow in numbers with little hope they can break out of a decades-long rut. Good luck to Dilma but she has her work ahead. Lula was pretty much of a disaster and most of Brazil’s good economic fortune can be attributed to the reforms put in place by his predecessor, Henrique Cardosa. The same structural challenges which faced Brazil when he took office remain.

    • “the poor – and they are desperately poor – continue to grow in numbers with little hope they can break out of a decades-long rut. Good luck to Dilma but she has her work ahead. Lula was pretty much of a disaster and most of Brazil’s good economic fortune can be attributed to the reforms put in place by his predecessor, Henrique Cardosa.”

      You are correct that President Cardoso laid the groundwork for Brazil’s growing economic prosperity. Lula, however, was not a disaster. Everyone thought Lula would roll back Brazil’s market economy and discourage foreign investment, but he proved otherwise and basically continued the free market economy initiated by Cardoso.

      The poverty level in Brazil has been considerably reduced. World Bank data for poverty in Brazil shows the poverty level at 45 percent in 1990, 30.8 percent in 2005, and 21.4 percent in 2009. That is a huge reduction in the poverty level in a relatively short period of time, and it can all be attributed to Brazil’s growing market economy and government policies geared toward assisting the poor.

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