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The Ever-Shifting Frontier

July 6, 2010Article by Ray Withers

I first heard the term ‘emerging markets’ about twenty years ago to describe the new democracies of Latin America and Eastern Europe. Argentina was once seen as an economic basket case plagued with military dictatorship. Now it is a bread-basket as well as a stable and lively democracy. Brazil is no longer ‘the country of the future’ but is fulfilling its promise and has a new cultural and political confidence. The nations of Eastern and Central Europe are growing much faster than their Western counterparts. They have highly skilled workforces and highly educated populations and are attractive places to work and invest.

Then the phrase was applied to the awakening giants of India and China. All these markets have done far more than emerge – they have grown and grown economically and in some cases become superpowers, whilst Europe and North America face increasing uncertainty. We have had the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and now we have the CIVETS (Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa). Only a few years ago, many of these countries would not be considered by property investors because they would be associated with dictatorship and corruption. But things change quickly and in this less certain, less set-in-stone world order, where at times everything seems to be in flux, there are at least as many success stories as there are stories of crisis and doom – if we care to seek them out. Affordable investment opportunities are occurring throughout what we still patronisingly call the ‘developing world’ and our role is to guide investors towards them.

One of the reasons we are called Property Frontiers is that in our industry the borders are always moving and we have to be prepared for new – and surprising – markets. Only today, for example, we received news of a new residential development in Baghdad! This would satisfy the growing number of young professionals who wish to move out of the family home. In Turkey, we have been successfully working with this type of market for several years – hence achievements such as No 1 Knightsbridge in Istanbul.

We are seeing new possibilities, also, in countries such as Sri Lanka, Colombia and Peru, which are now beginning to reap the benefits of peace and rebuild their economies. These are fertile grounds for new forms of investment – ecological products, for example – as well as the more conventional staples of the property market. And Ghana could soon prove to be a golden opportunity as well. Accra is a thriving modern capital city in a growing economy with a confident democratic structure. It promises us much. The concept of emerging markets is increasingly giving way to the reality of the ever-shifting frontier.

Written by: Aidan Rankin


Ray Withers

Ray has over 17 years’ experience in the international property market and bought his own first international property investment back in 2002. Aside from running Property Frontiers, Ray has been involved in residential, hotel, student and commercial property investment and development in both the UK and overseas and co-wrote "Where to Buy Property Abroad - An Investor's Guide". As Founder and Trustee of the Frontiers Foundation, Ray is directly involved with many of its projects to ensure they have a direct and tangible impact in individual communities across the globe. He is passionate about property, travelling, scouting out new opportunities and finding time to spend with his young family.
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