Emerging Market Expansion: Inle Responds to Demand, Forms Advisory Board with Expertise in Asia, the Caribbean and Africa
Since Myanmar’s political opening and the easing of global financial sanctions in 2012, foreign businesses have clamored to invest in the country that is rich in natural resources, including oil and gas, gemstones, minerals, and timber, its strategic location, and its young population hungry for jobs, educational and training opportunities, and new consumer goods.
Coca Cola, APR Energy, GE, and credit giants Visa and Mastercard were all early successful entrants and took advantage of being a first mover one of the world’s most exciting frontier economies. Additionally, Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) have entered the market, bringing mobile and app-based technology, media platforms, and restaurants to Myanmar’s major cities.
Despite these early successes, many multinational firms and development organizations are hesitant to jump into Southeast Asia’s latest “tiger” country, citing dilapidated infrastructure, opaque and confusing legal constructs, capacity issues, and unclear returns on investment or financing opportunities. But, as successful emerging market veterans know, these obstacles are surmountable with the right partner.
Demand Increases for Emerging Market Support
Inle has recently had an influx of requests for project work in other frontier and developing Asian, African, and the Caribbean economies.
The 10 countries that make up the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have a combined population of 626 million and a $2.4 trillion economy, making it one of the world’s largest markets. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Myanmar alone is set for 7% growth this year and is set to see more than 8% growth next year. Sub-Saharan African countries are also expected to post similar growth, with increased opportunities for foreign investment in agriculture, telecommunications, mining, and clean energy solutions. The Caribbean countries also present interesting investment chances in similar markets but also offer skilled labor, openness to trade, and financial incentives to investors. Despite these statistics, headlines touting political and economic instability and violence and capacity and corruption issues have compounded risk aversion, preventing companies from considering these economies.
“The time for our clients is now. From my time in Asia, especially Myanmar, I agree with ADB’s assessment of the economy as well as the various opportunities in the region. Certain companies, especially those in the telecommunications, infrastructure, energy, and financial services industry, understand the benefits of being first movers and the reputational advantages of helping the citizens of these countries build healthy economies,” explained Erin Murphy, Founder and Principal of Inle Advisory Group.
Inle’s Advisory Board Brings Broad and Deep Expertise
Murphy realized that she needed to bring on additional experts across a range of fields to support expanded client work.
Formally formed in April, the Board includes:
- Peter Gaudet, President of Campfire Capital, an SDVOSB investment bank;
- Bert Laurent, an agricultural anthropologist with more than thirty years of senior management experience throughout Africa and the Caribbean;
- Tom Malinowski, former US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; and
- Sandee Pyne, Chief Executive Officer of Community Partners International (CPI) which delivers health services to conflict-affected and remote communities in Myanmar.
Each board member was brought on because of their unique skillset and professional experience. For example, Gaudet’s Wall Street tenure and venture capital experience helps connect typical first movers, such as private equity and venture capital firms, and financing with market opportunities and risk mitigation strategies.
According to Gaudet, who worked across a vast spectrum of asset classes and markets over two decades in the institutional investment space, noted, there are new and growing opportunities in these regions, especially in energy, telecom, infrastructure, and the financial services industry. “Our clients,” he said, “stand to realize significant returns on investment and make a positive impact for years to come.”
Murphy described the board as exceptionally qualified to lay the groundwork for those interested in emerging and frontier markets. Bert Laurent echoed Murphy’s comments, adding, “Through my work in the Caribbean and Africa, I’ve seen the key sectors that have the highest growth potential and opportunities for investors. I’ve also seen how companies can make mistakes in these markets. I’m ready to lend my in-country and sector experience in agriculture and public-private sector work to address these needs and challenges.”
Risk Mitigation in Emerging Markets
Companies themselves can play a major role in mitigating the risks preventing them from investing and improving the livelihoods of impacted communities. Inle Advisory Group and its clients have taken a principled-based approach to investment, incorporating and strengthening anti-discrimination, transparency, and anti-corruption policies throughout its organizations and bringing transparency to and adhering to international standards of corporate conduct. Additionally, companies are thinking through corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs—governments in frontier and emerging economies are considering making CSR a requirement—that incorporates a business’ values and strengths and accounts for impacted citizens’ needs and concerns.
Sandee Pyne said, “Erin and I have worked together on Myanmar since we were both in the U.S. government and I know we have a capable team that can really work with companies to have a long-term vision that benefits not only their bottom line, but the country’s.” Tom Malinowski added, “In working in these challenging regions for years, I’ve consistently seen investment lack a principled approach and any reflection on social or environmental impacts. Inle’s emphasis on responsible and transparent corporate standards and accountability are not just a nice-to-haves, but necessary components for successful development for both businesses and communities.”
“Myanmar will always be Inle’s primary focus but our team truly believes that our investment model can be tailored and replicated across global emerging markets. There’s no way to short-cut this work, and the right experts must be involved,” Murphy said. “Our team is unmatched.”
View the full bios of the Advisory Board here: http://inleadvisorygroup.com/expertise-2/