Race to the Top: The World’s 20 Largest Economies in 2050

The group of the world’s 20 largest economies is not static. Over time, some countries are bound to move into this elite club, while others may drop out. We wonder: Which countries are projected to make the greatest upward move among the world’s top 20 economies?

A. Indonesia
B. Brazil
C. Pakistan
D. Nigeria

A. Indonesia is not correct.
Within the world’s 20 largest economies, Indonesia – currently ranking in ninth place globally (measured in terms of GDP, adjusted for purchasing power) – is expected to climb five places between now and 2050, to become the world’s fourth-largest economy. That is a significant upward move, but not the largest one within the top twenty economies, according to an analysis by PricewaterhouseCooper, the accounting firm.

By mid-century, Indonesia’s economy could quintuple in size, to reach $12.2 trillion. That could  lift millions of its people out of poverty.

However, the gap between fourth-ranking Indonesia and the top three economies will remain wide. The size of the U.S. economy — projected to reach $41.4 trillion in 2050 — will still be almost 3.5 times larger than Indonesia’s economy. However, the United States will only have the world’s third-largest economy in 2050 (behind China and India).

The slide of many European countries in the global GDP ranks will be more pronounced, largely as a combination of declining demographics and slow-growth economies.

For example, Germany will fall by five places, from the fifth to the tenth-largest economy. France will also fall by five places (from eighth to 13th) and Italy by six places (from 12th to 18th). Spain, currently ranking 16th, will no longer be among the world’s top 20 economies (falling by ten places, to 26th).

Outside Europe, Iran (currently 18th) is projected to exit the list of the world’s 20 largest economies, joined by Australia (currently ranking 19th).

B. Brazil is not correct.

Within the world’s 20 largest economies, Brazil – currently ranking in seventh place – is expected to move up two places in the ranks by the year 2050.

For Brazil, this increase will go hand in hand with a near tripling of its GDP from its 2014 value, to reach $9.2 trillion. Brazil’s economy will rank in fifth place globally, right behind Indonesia.

Brazil has achieved an impressive track record of lowering extreme poverty. However, economic growth has slowed markedly in recent years, and the country will need to address many structural issues to safeguard the projected rise of its economy into the top five.

In Latin America, Mexico is expected to be the biggest economic riser, improving from the current eleventh to sixth place among the world’s largest economies. With a projected GDP of $8 trillion, its economy in 2050 will be slightly larger than Japan’s.

C. Pakistan is not correct.

Pakistan – currently the 25th largest economy in the world – is projected to climb ten places in the global ranks by the year 2050. That represents the second-greatest increase for any major country, according to the PwC analysis.

If this projection proves correct, Pakistan will rank as the world’s 15th largest economy in 2050, at $4.3 trillion, between Turkey and Egypt. All three of these Muslim-majority nations share a tenuous relationship between democracy and the armed forces.

At the same time, Muslim-majority nations are expected to account for five of the ten nations that will move upward in the ranking of the world’s 20 largest economies by 2050. Those three, along with Indonesia, will be joined by Saudi Arabia – the faith’s birthplace.

To realize the economic gains currently projected for the country, Pakistan faces significant challenges. In particular, it will need to resolve its security and political issues peacefully and on a more permanent basis.

D. Nigeria is correct.

Within the world’s 20 largest economies, Nigeria – currently ranking in 20th place – is expected to climb 11 places in the ranks by the year 2050. That is the single greatest increase for any economy projected to be in the world’s top 20 by 2050.

If this comes to pass, Nigeria’s economy will rank in ninth place globally, ahead of Germany and just behind fellow oil producer Russia. Nigeria’s GDP could reach $7.3 trillion.

The country, which is Sub-Saharan Africa’s 10th largest by land area, currently has around 183.5 million people, making it the world’s seventh most populous nation now. However, Nigeria is expected to become the world’s third most populous nation by 2050 – ranking behind only India and China.

Severe security concerns from the northern and southern insurgencies, along with corruption problems, are very much on the minds of Nigerian voters in the 2015 national elections. These problems pose major challenges to Nigeria’s projected growth, although its demographics are simply too favorable to stop Nigeria’s economic rise altogether.

Word count: 778