Nigeria has been listed among countries that could become the next set of economic giants in some years to come. Africa’s Giant and most populous nation was classified among the MINT countries by renowned economist, Jim O’Neill, who coined the name BRICS for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, having seen them as emerging economic giants.
In O’Neill’s latest discovery, the acronym MINT was coined from the first letters of the names of nations he sees as the next set of economic giants. On the list are four countries, namely Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey.
Outstanding Features of the MINT Countries
The MINT countries have some potential that would make them the envy of even the greatest economies in the world. Apart from their “numerical strength”, they have “inner demographics” that will work in their favour for at least the next 20 years. Within that period, the countries are expected to experience a rise in their working population compared to the number that would be listed as dependent population.
From the economist’s postulation, if the MINT countries get their acts together, they might stand at par with China’s double digit rates soon.
Another selling point shared by the countries is their geographical positions in locations that could be of enormous advantage with the gradually changing patterns of world trade. For instance, Mexico’s proximity to the United States and its Latin American status will be of immense benefits. Same for Indonesia which sits in the heart of Asia and maintains close links with China.
Turkey is in both the West and East. Nigeria is not really similar in this regard for now, partly because of Africa’s lack of development, but it could be in the future if African countries stop fighting and trade with each other.
This might in fact be the basis for the Mint countries developing their own economic-political club just as the Bric countries did.
It is already being said that that the creation of the Mint acronym could spur pressure for Nigeria to become a member of the G20, as the other Mints already are.
This was something the charismatic Nigerian finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was keen to talk about: “We know our time will come,” she said. “We think they are missing something by not having us.”
Meade Kuribrena went so far as to suggest that, as a group of four countries, the Mints have more in common than the Brics. I am not sure about that, but it is an interesting idea.
Economically three of them – Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria – are commodity producers and only Turkey isn’t. This contrasts with the Bric countries where two – Brazil and Russia – are commodity producers and the other two – China and India – aren’t.
In terms of wealth, Mexico and Turkey are at about the same level, earning annually about $10,000 (£6,100) per head. This compares with $3,500 (£2,100) per head in Indonesia and $1,500 (£900) per head in Nigeria, which is on a par with India. They are a bit behind Russia – $14,000 (£8,500) per head – and Brazil on $11,300 (£6,800), but still a bit ahead of China – $6,000 (£3,600).
I returned from my travels thinking it won’t be so difficult for Nigeria and Turkey to positively surprise people, as many put far too much weight on the negative issues that are well-known – crime and corruption in Nigeria, for example, or heavy-handed government in Turkey.
Indonesia, I am less sure about. The country’s challenges are as big as I thought and I didn’t hear too many things that made me go “Wow” in terms of trying to deal with them. The country needs more of a sense of commercial purpose beyond commodities, and has to improve its infrastructure.
In Turkey, visits to white goods manufacturer Beko and Turkish Airlines, the world’s fastest growing airline, definitely made me go “Wow”, and in Nigeria, I was saying it all the time.
The creativity in that place is so easy to get enthused about, at least it was for me, and I returned full of excitement about different personal investments I might follow up on.
In Mexico I was all set to be disappointed, as expectations are so high, but the young president and his equally young colleagues are full of determination to change the place.
If you thought Maggie Thatcher stood for serious reforms, these guys make her seem like a kitten. They are reforming everything from education, energy and fiscal policy to the institution of government itself.
What about all the challenges and things that usually scare people? Well corruption is obviously one topic that all four would seem to share, and I had many interesting discussions about it in each country.
In Nigeria, Central Bank Governor Lamido Sanusi argued that corruption rarely prevents economic development – and that the growth of the economy, accompanied by improvements in education, will lead to better governance and greater transparency.
Such views are important to listen to, as an alternative to our often simplistic Western way of thinking. For many credible people in the Mint countries, corruption is a consequence of their weak past, not a cause of a weak future, and certainly not the number one challenge. It falls way down a list compared with the costs of energy and the breadth of its availability and, of course, infrastructure.
Sorting out energy policy was seen in both Mexico and Nigeria as a top priority and each country has launched a major initiatives this year, which if implemented, will accelerate growth rates significantly.
Here is an amazing statistic. About 170 million people in Nigeria share about the same amount of power that is used by about 1.5 million people in the UK. Almost every business has to generate its own power.
“Can you imagine, can you believe, that this country has been growing at 7% with no power, with zero power? It’s a joke.” says Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote.
He’s right. I reckon Nigeria could grow at 10-12% by sorting out this problem alone. That would double the size of its economy in six or seven years.
In Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world, I would say leadership and infrastructure are the major challenges, though there are many more too. But challenges and opportunities sit side by side.
In one of Jakarta’s slum areas, Pluit, the land is sinking by 20cm per year because of over-extraction of water, but property prices elsewhere in the city are rocketing.
I talked to a man building the country’s first Ikea store, who reckons a third of greater Jakarta’s population of 28 million (the third biggest conurbation in the world) would have sufficient disposable income to shop at his store. As he said: “We just know it’s going to work.”
In Turkey of course, its politics and the combination of a Muslim faith with some kind of desire to do things the Western way is a unique sort of challenge. Some might argue the same challenge exists for Indonesia but I returned thinking this was not the case. In Jakarta at least, the Western way of doing things seems to be generally accepted – in striking contrast with Turkey.