For the past two weeks, I have been beating the drums for Africa, arguing that the continent’s prospects look very good - provided it quickly does the right things. Those things involve big investments in knowledge and connectivity.
Let me wrap up the topic with a closer look at the phenomenon of emerging markets.
I have been listening to the BBC World Service on radio ever since I was a child. Lately, I note something interesting: often, when the clock sounds on the hour and the news begins, we hear two voices: one from London, as always; but also a second one, from Delhi. Listen also to the range of voices and accents on offer on the service throughout the day: once, the BBC was the exclusive domain of the ‘proper’ Home Counties English voice: these days, it contains the full range of global accents in spoken English.
The Economist ran a recent survey on the growing prominence of emerging markets in the world economy, and it made for gripping, almost surreal, reading. Consider these various facts. The emerging world made up 45 per cent of global GDP in 2008; it is expected to tip into more than 50 per cent very soon. Emerging-market consumers now outspend Americans: they account for 34 per cent of global consumption compared to America’s 27 per cent.
Multinationals expect about 70 per cent of the world’s growth over the next few years to come from emerging markets, with 40 per cent coming from just two countries, China and India. Indeed, week after week I listen to renowned multinationals from Audi to Moet & Chandon to Penguin saying that India is their biggest growth market now. This is not surprising, since India and China will add hundreds of millions of people into their middle classes in the years to come.
What to do
But having the population is one thing; knowing what to do with it quite another. Consider Infosys, the Indian computing giant. As The Economist pointed out, “Infosys’s 335-acre campus...houses one of the world’s largest corporate universities. It has a permanent faculty of 250, trains some 10,000 new “Infosysians” a year and provides advanced instruction for thousands of existing employees. It is awash with swimming pools, gyms, tennis and badminton courts, a multiplex cinema, a cricket pitch, an enormous laundry and 5,000 bicycles.
Everything about the campus is designed to underline the company’s claim that it is world-class, not just an Indian company that happens to have had a good run. Its mantra is “No caste, no creed, only merit”.”