Several months ago, I had the bright idea of writing a series of blog posts about all of the changes resulting from the Arab Spring and how they affected investors. I didn’t get very far.
There’s simply too much going on to make for me to write any sort of useful blog post. And so, the project was abandoned.
I don’t think investors should abandon the Middle East and North Africa, but they need to remember that this is an incredibly volatile part of the world. Each country will end up taking a different path to dealing with popular dissent and with regime change. We’re already seeing that. Libya had a violent overthrow of its regime with international military assistance, while Egypt has been more or less non-violent.
Investors who want to approach this market need to remember that it is very high risk proposition (albeit with the possibility of very high return); for most people, any allocations should be small to diversify a total portfolio. And within the region, a diversified approach is almost necessary. These nations are so small and so volatile right now that paying one country or one stock is akin to gambling.
T. Rowe Price has an Africa and Middle East fund, which is one way to invest in the region. It’s not the only way, but you can start your research there. Keep in mind that most of the region’s big oil companies are nationalized, so outside investors can’t get stakes in them. Although it seems like an oxymoron, investing here really isn’t an energy play.
The human capital, natural resources, and proximity to Europe mean that these countries could be potentially huge economies, but they have a long way to go.