Building capacity to help Africa trade better

Changing Times: How the MINTs are taking over from the BRICs


Changing Times: How the MINTs are taking over from the BRICs

Changing Times: How the MINTs are taking over from the BRICs

Is the party over for the BRIC economies? After years of hype, Brazil, Russia and India have enjoyed impressive growth but appear to have lost their shine.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, which has at times had growth in the double-digits, is worrying markets as it appears likely to slow down.

Over the years, analysts have put their hopes on other groups of promising emerging economies, from the CIVETS group to the Next 11.

And now Jim O’Neill, the former Goldman Sachs economist who famously coined the term BRIC, is leading the charge for Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey, otherwise known as the MINTs.

O’Neill maintains that China is of huge economic significance – he has joked that he should have originally opted for the term “C” rather than “BRIC” – and is not eager to write off the other economic giants he first brought to prominence in 2001.

But he believes the MINTs, which he has covered in a recent book as well as a BBC documentary, have a number of reasons for optimism.

He notes that they have large, relatively young populations, meaning that they could grow extremely quickly over the coming decades without having to boost their productivity – unlike much of the west, where ageing populations lurk.

He also points out that each of the MINT nations enjoys an excellent location for future trade, particularly as new global powers emerge.

Mexico is neighbour to two huge markets in the form of the USA and Latin America. Indonesia sits at the heart of Southeast Asia. Nigeria, O’Neill has argued, could benefit hugely from being in Africa if nations there become more stable and eager to trade. And Turkey has the advantage of straddling the border between the east and west.

As O’Neill acknowledges, expectations may be low for these markets. The group has been dogged by problems well known to emerging market investors, from Turkey’s heavy-handed government to corruption in Nigeria. And it is not the first set of emerging markets to be highly praised, only to disappoint investors.

But he believes the markets may be pleasantly surprised. O’Neill, who travelled around the countries on research last year, meeting some of the business and political elite, has reminisced about the “wow” factor he got from witnessing major projects in Turkey and Nigeria.

While O’Neill may not be alone in such optimism, it is yet to be seen if investors are won over, and if the MINTs can overcome people’s reservations over the coming years.

Kate Phylaktis, director of the emerging markets group at Cass Business School, argues that while the group has huge potential, much work needs to be done.

“There are a lot of young people wanting to work, which is not the case in some of the other countries,” she says. “That is in their favour, but they have to create the opportunities for these people to work. They need the mobilisation of capital to create these opportunities by attracting foreign investment, because they have poor levels of education and infrastructure.”

She argues that attracting foreign investment is currently a difficult task for many of the emerging markets. Earlier this year, the tapering of quantitative easing was followed by capital flight from such investments. This ended with central banks in some countries, including Turkey, having to fight to shore up their currency, as investors moved to perceived safe havens.

As tapering continues and the threat of a Chinese slowdown looms, there may be similar crises to come in 2014 and beyond.

This could be a challenge to central banks, tasked with defending their currencies. And Phylaktis believes that more developed emerging markets, such as the BRICs, could fare better because of greater experience.

“The more developed the economies, the less affected they will be,” she says. “I think one advantage the BRICs have to the MINTs is their financial markets have a greater depth.

“In China, they were able to handle the [currency crisis] situation. Giving the impression you can handle the situation is important, and I don’t think the MINT countries have that.”

The MINTs may still lack the prestige of the BRIC group, but their future looks brighter than in the west, where recent years have been spent struggling to shake off the effects of the financial crash.

In 2014, the World Bank expects Turkey to grow by 3.5 per cent and Mexico by 3.4 per cent. Indonesia is expected to grow by 5.3 per cent, and Nigeria 6.7 per cent.

In the next few years, the World Bank expects MINT growth to plateau or rise only slightly. This is a long way from China’s peak, when it was growing by between 10 and 12 per cent. But the MINTs have natural strengths, and there is plenty of room for reform. While the BRICs are unlikely to go away, Jim O’Neill may have found a new success story.


Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel +27 21 880 2010