For those of us who enjoy contemplating our navel whilst at the same time reading macroeconomic reports on which export markets we should next be focusing our efforts on, the last few years has been a trying time. You see, it has all to do with acronyms. You might well ask what have they got to do with selling overseas. Well, the acronyms I’m referring to, represent collective names bestowed on lists of countries, which assorted experts and consultants consider to be the next happening places in terms of market growth and international trade development.

BRICS , I understand. This acronym has been around for some time and refers to Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa as the most rapidly advancing large economies in the world, which are destabilising the old world order dominated by the USA, Japan, Germany and other former colonial powers of the West. Indeed, China is now the second largest economy in the world but Brazil after moving to sixth largest economy a couple of years ago now lies in 9th place in the world order with India 7th and Russia 12th. Poor South Africa, fairly soon after becoming the 'S' in BRICS, the slide began and the country now lies in 39th place and is sinking fast. New world order? Perhaps not.

Other acronyms also confuse: MIST, CIVETS, N-11, BRICET, BEM, F-10, TIMBI…the list goes on and on. But what do they mean?

Well, first of all, you won’t be surprised to read that many of the acronyms were thought up by consultants (is that perhaps why they don’t have any obvious meaning?). However, dig a little deeper and a treasure trove of information is uncovered on exactly why and where we should be placing our forward bets (informed ones only, of course) regarding increasing our sales overseas.

I don’t have the space here to run through each of the acronyms and which countries each of them favour - they can all easily be found by googling. What is interesting, however, is that some of the same countries crop up time and time again in most of the lists, namely Vietnam, Indonesia, and Turkey. Egypt, Mexico, and Colombia also feature prominently. Some surprises (perhaps) include Pakistan, Bangladesh and Argentina, all of which appear in more than one list.

Remember, these are countries which experts are predicting will increasingly offer serious business opportunities and are worthy of investigation now, where the risks involved - political instability, weak legal systems, poor infrastructure, amongst others – have started to be offset by substantial rewards, often deriving from first-mover advantage.

Despite the strange acronyms, there is profitable business to be done in the countries in these lists. If you haven’t done so already, they may be worth a look.

For my part, in the sub-BRICS lists I personally favour Colombia and Indonesia as offering opportunities now and in the next 3-5 years. Also, given South Africa's continuing difficulties, is it time in 2017 for Nigeria or Kenya to at last fulfill its potential as the true gateway to that continent?

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