Indonesia and Turkey top Brics contenders
by Martyn Davies
March 03rd 2013
SOUTH Africa became the last member of the Brics (which also includes Brazil, Russia, India and China) grouping of emerging markets in December 2010.
There was a lot of protest and debate over South Africa's inclusion, in particular from Goldman Sachs' Jim O'Neil, the creator of the original acronym, based on the size of the South African economy, its demographics and the country's growth potential.
There is a likelihood that the Brics alliance of leading emerging markets may expand as a geo-economic grouping. But, in the same way that South Africa's entry was debated, other potential members will be scrutinised not just on economic merit but also strategic rationale by the existing Brics members. So who are the likely candidates to become members of the Brics?
As the grouping expands, it will become impossible to retain the simplicity (not to mention the ability to pronounce an expanded acronym) of the word Brics.
Perhaps a more accurate and ultimately more inclusive title will be the "E5" or "E6," in other words the "emerging five" or "emerging six".
Brics has become the global ranking standard for the first tier of emerging markets, a compass almost for capital seeking growth and yield in the new emerging economic order.
The A-list of likely potential new members includes Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea,Turkey and Vietnam. All of these economies deserve inclusion based on their size, high GDP growth rates and large populations or, in Korea's case, corporate muscle (the so-called chaebol).
Emerging economies enjoy far higher growth prospects than the developed world, even in light of the cooling off of growth in the emerging world in the past 12 months.
There is a debate within the Brics as to whether to "deepen" or "widen" the grouping. While South Africa and Brazil are keen to expand the number of member countries, China and India prefer to consolidate. Russia is ambivalent.
The most likely candidate to join is arguably Indonesia. Following the Asian financial crisis that hit Indonesia in 1997, it took the country more than a decade to re-set its developmental trajectory.
It was only in January this year that Moody's restored Indonesia's investment level rating. This followed Fitch's investment grade rating in November, on the back of strong economic growth.
A country of 238million people, Indonesia has a robust growth outlook, with a forecast of 6.7% in 2013 by the bank of Indonesia, its fastest growth since 1996. Indonesia now has the second fastest economic growth in Asia after China, driven by a stable political environment, strong domestic consumption by its emerging middle class, investment into infrastructure and robust capital inflows.
Another sizeable emerging market that would fit into the Brics group is Turkey. For much of the last decade, Turkey's GDP growth has been above 7%, resulting in its economy being ranked in the top 20 globally. It has a sizeable population of 75million and is strategically positioned, straddling Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.
Turkey is also increasingly projecting its commercial interests into Africa. In 2009 Turkey had 13 embassies in Africa. Today the figure has more than doubled to 34.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in their African Economic Outlook 2011 report, included Turkey in the list of Africa's top five emerging partners - alongside China, India, Brazil and South Korea.
Despite Turkey's worrying current-account deficit, the size of its economy, young demographic profile, strong domestic demand and GDP growth in recent years have supported foreign investment interest.
The government's ambitious goal is to make Turkey into one of the world's top 10 economies by 2023.
GDP per capita has already tripled in US dollar terms over the past decade. By 2023, per capita income may hit US$25000 (R222000).
Favourable geographies in their own respective regions support the possible inclusion of Indonesia and Turkey into the Brics. There is no representation of Southeast Asia or Central Asia in the Brics and thus there are unlikely to be objections from existing members.
Their inclusion would also bolster the regional representation of the group. Pretoria would probably object to Nigeria joining the group (Brincs?), Brazil might be opposed to Mexico and India to Bangladesh.
Both Indonesia and Turkey are part of Goldman Sachs' "N-11" or Next-11, formulated in 2005 as the second tier of emerging markets after the Brics.
Davies is CEO of Frontier Advisory and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.