Current Oxford MBA student Gabriela Hernandez Galindo gives her perspective on the Skoll World Forum seminar session ‘Global Megatrends: How does Latin America Fare?’
With a flourishing middle class, new energy reforms in place and increased access to education and technology, Latin America is a booming region whose evolution can at times be misunderstood. So what is really happening? What are some of the opportunities and challenges this region currently face as the middle classes emerge out of poverty?
Natalie Alhonte, Associate Director of the Adrienne Arsht Latin America Center, led a stimulating discussion on the first morning of the Skoll World Forum. She identified and sparked debates around what the Atlantic Council visualised as the megatrends and transformations in this region. The main topics of discussion were demographic changes, access to food and water, rapid urbanisation, revolutions in energy, power diffusion and individual empowerment.
As the number of topics suggests, there is much to be said on what is occurring in the region, and it is hard to make generalisations – but one that is for certain is that during the last decade, over 65 million people have entered the ranks of middle class in Latin America thus leaving poverty behind. Nevertheless, this rising middle class is still in a fragile and mobile state and the challenge will now be to sustain these social gains under lower growth expectations.
Global Megatrends: How does Latin America Fare?
With the rapid demographic change and migration from rural areas to big cities over the last ten years, Latin America is more urbanised than any other region in the world with over 80% of the population living in cities. In light of this growth, many mayors and municipal leaders are beginning to understand that it is imperative to make these cities more ‘livable’ for everyone, and are doing so by investing in innovation labs, technological centres, and alliances with the private sector and social entrepreneurs to improve the standard of living for the population in these cities. Natalie mentioned the case of Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor, Eduardo Paes, and his ‘Pact for Rio’ programme which has been successful in bringing together all constituents of society to promote information-sharing and sustainable development.
Coming from Mexico City, I have been a personal witness of the positive effects that the demographic shift has had on distribution of power and individual empowerment, and how these are also evolving as the region experiences a rise of mobilisation from the civil society; pushing ideas forward and directly influencing events and policy-making. Nevertheless, there is still much that needs to be done. More support from multilateral institutions is imperative and a stronger representation of people with distinct pro-progress agendas within the government is much needed.
Overall, I am positive and like to believe that the grass is looking greener for Latin America, yet the time has come to identify and bring in the fertiliser that will continue to incentivise growth, development and innovation. We must work hard as a region to make sure that the economic and social advancement achieved in the last decade consolidates into a strong virtuous cycle, creating even better opportunities and protecting the middle class from slipping back into poverty.