While most investors continue to focus on the recent European debt woes and the resulting market slides, the developing world is beginning to show signs of real recovery. The BRIC nations (NYSE:EEB), such as Brazil and China, have seen their economies grow at robust rates during the crisis and are working on policies to stem inflation and cool some of that growth off. Growth is just now starting to move along in other, less-frequented markets. These frontier markets may offer some of the more exciting long term growth stories for patient investors. Africa is quickly materializing as premier investor destination for those who can take the volatility.
IN PICTURES: 8 Tips For Starting Your Own Business
Africa's Riches Lure Investors
The Sub-Saharan African economy is estimated to expand about 4.7% in 2010, according to the International Monetary Fund . This is double its rate through of 2009. The increase has been due to a strengthening global economy creating increased demand for African exports and commodities. Countries such as Angola and Nigeria, the continent's largest oil producers, and Botswana, the world's biggest diamond supplier, are expected to pilot the growth.
Its rich commodities are also propelling foreign investment in the continent. Through 2008, capital inflows recorded a $62 billion or 16% gain. In the rest of the world FDI, fell 20% that year. Several Chinese companies have piled nearly $600 million in investment into various countries, such as Namibia, Ghana and Kenya. These investments have encompassed a wide berth of industries from fishing to paper. China continues to expand into the nation on the hunt for commodity deals with Uganda and the Congo. Domestically, companies involved in telecommunications and consumer goods are tapping into the nation's 1 billion constituents. Old Mutual, an investment house, recently raised $407 million for a trust to buy farmland across the continent.
Playing Future Growth
Only a handful of South African based companies, such as paper maker Sappi (NYSE:SPP) or energy firm Sasol (NYSE:SSL), trade on American exchanges. Investing in individual equities on African exchanges is almost impossible. However, recently Wall Street has allowed retail investors to participate in this market via several exchange traded funds.
The broadest based fund for investment is the Market Vectors Africa Index ETF (NYSE:AFK). The fund follows 51 different African companies, spread pretty evenly around the continent. South Africa is the largest weighting at 29%, followed by Nigeria at 18.6%. Net expenses for the fund are 0.84%, but given the nature of the assets, investors might be willing to overlook that. The only real problem with the fund is the lack of trading volume. However, the outlook for the continent is long term. I suspect as more people look to the region for investment, the fund should grow.
The other broad choice in the sector is the SPDR S&P Emerging Middle East and Africa (NYSE:GAF). However, GAF is very South Africa heavy at 63.7% of assets and weighs more towards the Middle East, rather than sub-Saharan Africa. The growth stories in these two regions are different and investors may want to use the PowerShares MENA Frontier Countries (Nasdaq:PMNA) and iShares MSCI South Africa Index (NYSE:EZA) to play them instead.
Africa is quickly becoming a hot-bed of growth. Increased foreign investment and an expanding demand for its commodities are helping push the once troubled region into the limelight. Investors with long enough time horizon may want to put the continent on their radar screens. Retail investors now have the ability to do so using several exchange traded funds including the WisdomTree Dreyfus South African Rand (NYSE:SZR). (For related reading, take a look at Profitable And Easy Ways To Invest In Africa.)
Use the Investopedia Stock Simulator to trade the stocks mentioned in this stock analysis, risk free!