For many investors, emerging markets represent the next wave of global growth stories. With their growing populations, rising incomes and resource demands, these developing countries will be major contributors to global GDP strength going forward. To that end, many portfolios now consider holdings like the SPDR S&P Emerging Markets ETF (ARCA:GMM) as necessities. However, most emerging market investors tend to focus on traditional developing markets like Taiwan or the BRIC economies. For one emerging market guru, the path to profits is on a road less traveled.
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All Roads Lead to Africa
What Bill Gross is to fixed income investing, Franklin Resources' (NYSE:BEN) Mark Mobius is to the emerging world. Overseeing more than $50 billion in emerging market assets and serving as executive chairman of Templeton's emerging markets group, Mobius is regarded by many in the financial industry as the leading pundit on emerging markets. With that title in hand, the EM market master now has his sights firmly set on Africa's often-ignored potential.
Historically, Africa has been seen as a wild frontier. Today, the continent is burgeoning with potential. Once fraught with political and social instability, Sub-Saharan Africa has seen strong economic growth and a more stable political environment in recent years. Speaking to British financial publication, Investors Chronicle, Mobius estimates that Africa will grow more than 7% annually over the next 20 years. Already, Africa has seen torrid growth in the last decade, with six of the ten fastest-growing countries located on the continent.
Citing three key factors - better governance, youthful demographics and a boom in commodity prices - Mobius believes that the time is just right to bet on the continent. Much of this growth has been on the back of natural resources wealth. Africa is also home to one of the planet's largest concentrations of natural resources. Nearly 40% of earth's total gold reserves and 30% of its mineral deposits lie within Africa's borders, and the nation has grown its proven oil reserves by 116% since 1989. Those resource dollars may now be beginning to flow back into some of Africa's main barriers: infrastructure, education, and consumer spending.
SEE: 4 Misconceptions That Sink Emerging Market Investors
Betting on the Dark Continent
With Africa's growth possibilities "very high," investors may want to take the emerging guru's lead and take the least beaten path into the nation. Mobius is currently launching a new African-focused mutual fund in England. However, until a similar vehicle launches here, there are some choices for investors wanting to add the continent.
Both Market Vectors Africa Index ETF (ARCA:AFK) or SPDR S&P Emerging Middle East & Africa (ARCA:GAF) can be used as proxies for the region. However, the iShares MSCI South Africa Index (ARCA:EZA) might make a better starting point. With nearly $500 million in assets and strong daily liquidity, the fund makes it easy to add some of the continent's largest players including energy company Sasol (NYSE:SSL) and paper maker Sappi (NYSE:SPP). The fund has managed to post 17.96% annual returns since its inception in 2003.
SEE: Should You Buy Stock Or An ETF?
Guru Mobius believes that banking provides an opportunity to get exposure to the consumer sector and has been growing at a "torrential pace" in the region. England's Standard Chartered (OTC:SCBFF) operates across Africa in nations such as Kenya and Botswana, and can be used as a play on the continent's growing banking sector. Likewise, both VeriFone Systems (NYSE:PAY) and Net 1 (Nasdaq:UEPS) have been making headway into the African m-banking market for the poor.
Finally, Africa's vast gold wealth is helping its miners see higher profit margins and strong production. The trio of AngloGold (NYSE:AU), Gold Fields (NYSE:GFI) and Harmony Gold (NYSE:HMY) is a great way to play Africa's golden riches.
SEE: Playing The West African Gold Rush
The Bottom Line
While most emerging market investors tend to focus the growth stories in China or other, more traditional developing markets, Guru Mark Mobius takes a different path. This time that path leads to Africa. For investors, the continent represents a great way to play an ignored growth story and the preceding picks are just a few examples on how to gain access.
At the time of writing, Aaron Levitt did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.