After BRIC comes MINT

In 2001, Jim O’Neill (then Head of Economic Research at Goldman Sachs) coined the acronym “BRIC” to place the spotlight on four countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) which he believed were poised for amazing growth in the decades ahead and would one day take their place amongst the world’s largest economies. 10 years later this prediction has been widely described as the “biggest market call of the decade” and the term “BRIC” has become synonymous with the process of investing in global emerging markets, researching the economic powerhouses of the future and even geo-political leadership (the BRIC leaders, along with South Africa, now meet once a year to debate their own political, economic and social issues, independently of the G8 group of nations, an unexpected development which surprised even Jim!).

Whilst Jim believed that the “BRIC dream” would take at least the current century to fully unfold, such is the world these days that he was constantly asked to make bold predictions about which countries would come next. He now believes he has the answer: “MINT” (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) the next four economies that over time will take their place amongst the world’s top 10.

Much has already been said, written and discussed about the MINTs amongst journalists, commentators and economists, and Jim’s predictions are now followed closely by the investment community and blogosphere. If you google the word “MINT”, you’ll find numerous references, predictions, criticisms and even praise for Jim’s latest grouping, and who knows what will come next! In making my own assessment of the outlook and characteristics of each of these four countries, I believe you need to weigh up their merits against five key drivers of economic growth:

1. Demographics

Everyone understands the benefits of a young, dynamic and energetic population which can propel economic growth over long sustained periods. Conversely, many developed countries, and even two of the BRICs (notably China and Russia) understand the long term challenges associated with an ageing population which places constraints on economic growth as a shrinking working population has to support more and more old age pensioners.

One country which has an amazingly young demographic profile is Nigeria with a current median age of 18 which is predicted to increase to only 21 by 2050. This rising tide of young and ambitious workers is predicted to stimulate an increase in Nigeria’s per capita incomes by over 30%, which will help triple the size of its economy by 2030 and propel the population from around 170 million today to just under 1 billion by the year 2100.

Nigeria has already attracted the world’s attention earlier this year when it overtook South Africa to become the largest African economy and the 26th largest in the world. Whilst Nigeria faces many challenges in the years ahead (notably the compelling need to stamp out corruption and raise education standards for its young population) its ‘demographic dividend’ (a term often used to describe India’s young workforce) provides it with an undisputed advantage in the decades ahead. It is this which places Nigeria at the heart of the MINTs.

2. Urbanisation

Urbanisation is a driving force for economic growth and expansion (urban growth alone produces an increase of 20% GDP per capita). It increases rural productivity, boosts demand for resources, commodities and energy and drives domestic consumption (urban residents spend 3.6 times more than rural dwellers). The developed world already knows the significant economic benefits that have been derived from the process of urbanisation. In the two centuries following 1800, the world's average per capita income increased over tenfold as a result of the ‘Industrial Revolution’ in Britain.

Indonesia is experiencing the fastest pace of urbanisation of any country in the world. It is estimated that the ratio of Indonesian urban-rural migrants is poised to leap to 71% from its current level of 53% and, with rapid urbanisation and growth sweeping a nation of 250 million people, analysts are forecasting that Indonesia will rise to become the world’s 7th largest economy by 2030 (overtaking developed nations like Germany and the UK) and the third largest middle class amongst emerging markets by 2050 (after India and China). Productivity gains, economic opportunities and rising incomes are products of Indonesia’s urban-centered growth as the country needs to support its growing middle class. Whilst Indonesia has many challenges (notably an urgent need to upgrade its infrastructure and open up its economy to foreign investment) it is no surprise that Indonesia is being touted to be a nation home to a wealth of developmental possibilities.

3. Innovation

No nation has ever achieved long term sustainable wealth or growth by exporting cheap manufactured goods or digging holes in the ground to supply commodities and resources to developed countries. To take their place amongst the world’s economic powerhouse nations, countries have to move up the value chain to become more innovative, creative and inventive.

A good example of a country which has never been able to rely on cheap labour or natural resources to achieve economic growth is Turkey which for centuries has been known for its abundance of entrepreneurs, traders and innovators.

A great example of Turkish innovation is the company Beko, a privately owned white goods manufacturer which is becoming famous for its highly innovative and award-winning washing machines. Beko manufactures 12,000 washing machines per day and, in addition to shipping them to the US and Western Europe (where it competes on value, price and quality against some of the best known white good brands) it exports over 500,000 washing machines each year to both China and Russia (yes, Turkey exports washing machines to China!). Turkey is now becoming an international hub of innovation, research and development, underpinned by its strong entrepreneurial culture, and many international business leaders are now travelling to Turkey to exchange capabilities, experience and technology. Don’t be put off by some of Turkey’s political challenges. Turkey will soon resume its place as one of the world’s great trading nations.

4. Consumption

With rising incomes, minimal debt and rapidly increasing wealth, the emergence of a new middle class from emerging countries is creating optimism and excitement around the world as business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors work out how best to profit from the billions of new consumers predicted to enter global markets over the coming decades. Members of the middle class do not necessarily have rich pockets, but still wield strong purchasing power, a promising potential to boost a nation’s consumption and long term economic growth.

Mexico is at the heart of this consumption story. Improving education combined with an increasingly skilled work force and its close proximity to a recovering US market, will propel a huge leap in Mexican’s income brackets from low middle to the upper middle/high social class by the year 2038. In 2012, Mexico overtook Brazil to become Latin America’s biggest luxury goods market and is experiencing a luxury boom thanks to a young, affluent middle-class population who are ready to spend.

The MINT nations are set to lead the world’s millionaire boom, according to research by Wealthmonitor. In a list of the countries set to create the most millionaires in 2014, the MINT countries overall performed better than both the BRICs and the G8, with a 7% increase expected alone in Mexico, which ranked eight out of fifteen.

5. Globalisation

Anyone who claims that the real economic benefits of globalisation have already been realised may only be considering the experience of the developed nations. In fact, the genesis of globalisation is still germinating for the MINTs, especially in Turkey. Turkey’s geographical location places it right in the centre of a new globalised world, with Russia to its North, Africa to its South, Western Europe and the USA to its West and Asia to its East.

According to the latest KOF Globalization Index, Turkey is the most integrated nation amongst all the MINTs and the BRICs. Istanbul is poised to become a commercial hotspot as a result of the success of Turkish Airlines, the world’s fastest growing airline, to establish Turkey as an international transport and business hub. Istanbul’s main airport, Ataturk, already handles nearly 50 million passengers per annum, and with a commitment to double the size of its airport in the next decade, Turkish Airlines have unveiled their grand ambition to service at least 90 million people by 2020.

So what now?

All of the MINT countries have political, social and economic challenges to overcome before taking their place at the world’s top table of economic giants. But one thing is clear. The rapidly changing dynamics in the global economy will change our lives forever. Nothing is certain, anything is possible. Don’t let past assumptions dictate future actions. In the new world of the BRICs and the MINTs, nothing is sacred. Our challenge is to keep up!