Although it’s only February, there are already two global trends in the supply chain logistics industry that’ll play a big part moving forward into future years.
The first trend that has been taking shape in recent years is that next-tier economies (emerging countries that are not Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, also known as BRICS) are having their markets currently experiencing an influx of what Agility’s press release for the 2015 Agility Emerging Markets Logistics Index calls “dynamism”. This is happening in a time when the global economy is experiencing a cool down.
The second trend, which has been ongoing for the better part of two decades, is the continuing evolution of the digital sphere. Specifically, in how Bitcoin has been gaining traction as a medium of exchange in many emerging markets (including ones in Agility’s Index) and what that could mean for even the most basic of financial transactions in those countries.
A closer look at Agility’s 2015 Index
Though the findings and highlights of the Index are interesting, what is important for the purposes of this post is the quote by Essa Al-Saleh, President and CEO of Agility Global Integrated Logistics concerning the trend:
“A year ago, there was talk of an emerging markets meltdown and of a new ‘fragile five’ based on concerns about weakness in South Africa, Brazil, India, Turkey and Indonesia. Emerging markets as a group turned out to be far more resilient – even vibrant – than expected despite continued sluggishness in the global economy” said Al-Saleh. “The factors driving growth are increases in population, size of the middle class, spending power and urbanization rates, along with steady progress in health, education and poverty reduction” he continued.
Bitcoins and their role in emerging markets
This upward trajectory ties into the rise of Bitcoins in emerging markets. For the purpose of brevity, we’ll forgo explaining how it works and instead recommend this Wall Street Journal article by Michael J. Casey and Paul Vigna which explains it, and the ways it’s not just a digital currency.
Although Bitcoins have had several confidence damaging scandals, it’s still seen as having high utility in developing economies as it offers faster, more transparent, and sometimes a more stable alternative to local currencies that are experiencing high volatility. Min-Si Wang’s article in Forbes on subject gives further detail about Bitcoin adoption in emerging markets (for example, the trading volume of Bitcoin in China grew from 0.4 percent in 2012 to 4.7 percent in 2014).
According to Jana, a mobile-payments company that serves as many as 2 billion people in emerging markets, some 58% of those surveyed, from Vietnam to Brazil, said they would feel comfortable investing in a virtual currency, rising to 75% in Kenya, home of the wildly popular M-Pesa mobile-money network. In fact, in some countries, as many as a fifth of respondents claimed that virtual-currency investments were a safer long-term bet than stocks and property.
What does it all mean?
At a fundamental level, Bitcoins offers a cheaper alternative to the financial transactions offered by those offered by banks and credit companies. If Bitcoin became a global standard, well…
… this model could slash trillions in financial fees; computerize much of the work done by payment processors, government property-title offices, lawyers and accountants; and create opportunities for billions of people who don’t currently have bank accounts” writes Casey and Vigna. “Great value will be created, but many jobs also will be rendered obsolete.
The non-BRICS emerging markets are set to have a heavy impact on global business trends in the near future as their economies and logistical networks continue to strengthen. As they do, so does the faith open-source systems and digital money. The future looks to be very interesting in the coming years.
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