A guide to the fast-rising economies of Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa
By Deborah Stokes
The past decade was all about the BRICs, the massive economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, which kicked off at the beginning of the new century, boomed and are now slowing like the rest of the developed world. Taking their place is a new group of fast-rising economies promising businesses outsized returns.
The next decade could belong to the CIVETS â€“ Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa â€“ whose rising middle class, young populations and rapid growth rates make the BRICs look dull in comparison.
â€œThe BRICs are yesterdayâ€™s news,â€ said Professor Jerry Haar, director of the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center at Florida International University in Miami. Hardly emerging economies anymore â€“ China is the worldâ€™s second largest economy and Brazil will take seventh place this year â€“ that their pace would slow down was inevitable.
Now more connected by trade to the developed economies, the BRICs are feeling the same slowdown effects as the developed economies. And, in the case of China and Brazil, they are also wrestling with the strains of their rapid ascensions. Real estate bubbles, currency control issues and hyper-wage inflation are sending global companies elsewhere for growth. Brazil is forecast to grow a mere 3% this year. China, while still targeting a strong GDP growth rate of 7-8% in 2012, is well off its double-digit rates of the past decade. Russia, meanwhile, which canâ€™t kick its dependency on oil exports and endured the retrograde re-election of Vladimir Putin, may grind out 3.2% growth this year. India is also slowing, with a GDP target of 6.9% growth in 2012, a sharp decline from its 2010 pace of 9.6%.
The CIVETS, meanwhile, are at the lift-off point. The six countries in the group are posting growth rates higher than 5% â€” with the exception of Egypt and South Africa â€“ and are trending upwards. Lacking the size and heft of the BRICs, these upstarts nevertheless offer a more dynamic population base, with the average age being 27, soaring domestic consumption and more diverse opportunities for businesses seeking international expansion.
The roads into newly emerging markets are never easily navigated, however, and high growth comes with high risk. With data from the World Bank Doing Business 2012 report and the Economist Intelligence Unitâ€™s Go Tool, we present you with a guide to the CIVETS: The highs, the lows and what you need to know:
By the numbers
GDP: 5.8% (2011); 4.9% (2012)
FDI: $14.8 billion (up from $6.9 billion in 2010); $16B (2012)
A number of key reforms under President Juan Manuel Santos are taking place, including tackling security issues and rebuilding the countryâ€™s decrepit infrastructure. The government passed a 10-year, $55 billion infrastructure investment plan, about half of which will come from private-sector investment.
Colombia moved up five points on the World Bank Doing Business 2012 rankings, from 47th to 42nd spot, as a result of three improvements: It has reduced the cost of starting a business by eliminating the upfront payment of a commercial license fee; it has introduced an electronic filing system for corporate taxes; and has simplified the process around resolving insolvencies.
According to the EIUâ€™s survey of global businesses, security remains the No. 1 risk to doing business in Colombia. Other key concerns are the complexity of taxes and poor infrastructure. And, as in other Latin American nations, corruption and inefficiency are endemic in Colombia.
Need to know
Overall, the Latin American country of 46 million people has come a long way from the years when insecurity kept investors away and led to talent fleeing the country. The government is winning the war with the FARC guerillas, whose position has considerably weakened.
While focused on fixing internal problems, Colombia is also looking outward, signing an ambitious round of free-trade agreements with developed countries, including the United States. The U.S. pact goes into effect May 15. Key opportunities for businesses are in the areas of consumer goods, conventional and alternative energy, mining and infrastructure construction.
The big story in Indonesia is its expanding middle class. Expected to triple in size by 2014, the country is being touted as the next great boom market in Asia, after China and India. Indonesiaâ€™s increasingly confident consumers have passed $3,000 GDP per capita, the benchmark beyond which people start to have real money to spend. As a result, foreign direct investment is pouring into Indonesia. It jumped 30% to a record $5.6 billion in the first three months of the year, and is showing no signs of slowing. In 2013, FDI is forecast to reach $20 billion
Indonesia declined a few notches on the World Bankâ€™s Doing Business 2012 ranking, and now sits at 129th spot. Some of the roadblocks for businesses include such basics as the length of time it takes to get electricity: an average of 108 days. According to the EIU, top concerns for global businesses are government effectiveness, regulatory issues and infrastructure. Lack of a skilled workforce is also a problem in Indonesia.
Need to know
Indonesia has become a hot prospect for foreign businesses because of the sheer number of potential consumers. With 230 million people, it is the fourth-most populous country in the world. Wealth is rising, along with demand for luxury goods.
One worrisome trend is the governmentâ€™s recent shift to protectionist policies. For example, foreign investors must now divest themselves of 51% of ownership in local mines to local entities by the 10th year of operation. Indonesiaâ€™s mining sector is one of the top recipients of FDI, followed by transportation and telecommunications.
According to the EIU, security risks are a non-issue in the Communist country, however, corruption is endemic and regulatory systems are opaque and a challenge to navigate. â€œVietnamâ€™s membership in the World Trade Organization, which took effect in early 2007, has resulted in measures to liberalize trade and investment, and these will serve to make the operating environment more predictable,â€ says the EIUâ€™s country report on Vietnam.
Vietnam also dropped on the World Bankâ€™s Doing Business 2012 ranking, to 98th spot, from 90th the previous year. The country did make one notable improvement, in the area of strengthening investor protection, by demanding higher standards of accountability by company directors.
Need to know
Like other Asian nations, Vietnam is seeing a growing middle class now able to afford the purchase of more consumer goods and luxury items. Of course, that means wages are also rising. Still, Vietnam wages are 35-45% cheaper than Chinaâ€™s, and the country is attracting foreign manufacturers turned off by rising costs in China.
Vietnamâ€™s Communist Party has a strong grip on the country, which means a stable political environment. The government is also showing an increasingly open attitude to foreign investment and business-friendly policies, including tax breaks for priority industries such as high-tech, education and healthcare.
With a young, aspiring population, and a relatively benign transition from the corrupt rule of President Hosni Mubarak compared with other Arab Spring uprisings, Egypt is poised to embark on a period of fast growth.
Egyptâ€™s political instability as it transitions to a democracy remains high. The outcome of the year-long election is far from certain, and this has led to a major drop off in foreign investment. Egyptâ€™s economy is virtually at a standstill as businesses wait licensing, approvals and other direction from a dismantled government.
Need to know
Once Egyptâ€™s political situation stabilizes following the presidential elections, a more motivated diaspora is expected to drive dramatic economic growth. The countryâ€™s youth bulge is being eyed by Western businesses as a potentially lucrative market for consumer goods. As well, expectations are for massive government spending to live up to election promises.
Straddling the Middle East and Europe, Turkey has been a shining star in both worlds. It is one of the few European economies seeing growth, and one of the few politically stable Middle Eastern countries.
Turkey has moved up on the World Bankâ€™s Doing Business 2012 ranking, to 71st spot, thanks to improvements in the length of time it takes to start a business (6 days), and by reducing corporate taxes by lowering social security contributions.
According to the EIU, the top concern for global businesses is government effectiveness. Although Turkeyâ€™s regulatory environment has improved, its legal process is slow and unpredictable. Need to know
Turkey has enjoyed a coming out period economically as well as politically as it asserts itself on the diplomatic scene in the Middle East. The question now is whether it can sustain its strong position. Rapid economic growth is slowing in Turkey, and some strains are showing on its political front. Still, it remains a very attractive market for businesses with its access to European and the Middle Eastern markets, as well as a young, educated, upper middle-income domestic population. Key areas of opportunity include consumer goods, technology and energy.
The EIU report on South Africa is positive and notes a fairly good physical infrastructure, sound macroeconomic policy, developed legal and taxation systems and a strong civil society. The country also rates high on the World Bankâ€™s Doing Business 2012 rankings, in number 35 spot, with improvements over the past year in the length of time to start a business (19 days), resolving insolvencies and to rules around registering property.
South Africaâ€™s export economy has been hit by the slowdowns in Europe and the United States. According to the EIU, it also suffers from some structural issues that hinder growth, such as rigid labor markets and high crime levels. The country is currently struggling with a 23.9% unemployment rate.
Need to know
As one of the wealthier and more advanced African economies, South Africa is a good stepping stone to the continent for businesses. Foreign companies are looking to South Africa as a test market for rolling out products and services to the region, as well as a source of partners to ease their expansion into other African nations.
The countryâ€™s young and modern population â€“ average age is 19 â€” has become a hot prospect for Western consumer goods companies, including retailers such as Gap Inc. and Wal-Mart. Opportunities for businesses are also expected to take off in areas such as construction and transportation. The ANC government under President Jacob Zuma has announced a $39 billion infrastructure spending program to boost private-sector investment and job creation.
**All By the Numbers figures are from the Economist Intelligence Unitâ€™s Global Opportunity Tool available to Business without Bordersâ€™ members. The tool covers 55 countries where U.S. companies are most likely to trade or expand, and provides data on as many as 385 products or services.