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A move towards new greener pastures in frontier markets worldwide

The Caucasus-Asia Center in pursuit of its attempts to draw global attention on frontier markets has started the ‘Global Coalition for Frontier Markets (GCFM)’ (Link: https://caucasusasiacenter.org/global-coalition-for-frontier-markets/). The initiative aims to connect with frontier markets across the world. Such markets include countries, regions and sub-regions and territories within any country that fall in the accepted notion of not being developed or experiencing the same economic growth rate as the fast-developing/ emerging markets. We believe for inclusive and sustainable growth to happen these markets need to be connected and integrated into the global markets. Thus, keeping that into consideration, we envision making GCFM a liaison between the frontier market actors, including government bodies, NGOs and private companies, and the developed world. Under prevailing global circumstances when more countries around the world are entering into an insulation mode, the role of the GCFM becomes particularly important. It is now treading towards empowering the frontier market actors to secure fair business and partnership deals with the counterpart actors working in the developed regions. Of course, GCFM remains committed to its core focus of promoting the Greater Caucasus to the global community and facilitating new businesses and investments to enter in all countries there.

The GCFM successfully organized an event “2020 Northeast India International Economic Forum” (19–20 December 2020).

The event is part of a well-planned series of webinars (online sessions) with keynote speakers and participants joining in from different locations in India, as well as from other relevant countries worldwide. The events will relate to different important topics focused on geo-economics, building strategic socio-economic development partnerships in frontier areas with India and its neighboring countries, like Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. The event series attempts to practically drive up the flow of cross-border investments, whilst also advancing the application of advanced digital technologies for fostering trade and sustainable development.

The recently conducted event brought together a number of respected participants coming from different sectors and areas, such as government, think tanks, private sector, academia, and social media. The event was organized in 4 sessions:

1) Understanding contemporary Northeast India: realities vs. media picturization

  • Mr. Sunil Seth (CEO, Adani Group (Myanmar) and President of India Myanmar Chamber of Commerce) — Keynote Speaker for event
  • Prof. T.G. Sitharam (Director Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati)
  • Hriday Sarma (Team-Coordinator, Caucasus-Asia Center)

2) Business opportunities and challenges in NER under emerging new realities

  • Gautam Mukhopadhaya (Ambassador of India to Myanmar, Syria and Afghanistan)
  • Prof. Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad (Director, Dhaka School of Economics, Bangladesh),
  • Mr. Augustine Reading (Entrepreneur & Consultant with NAHAN Business Solutions Co. LTD., Shanghai City, China)

3) NER — a land-bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia

  • Mmhonlumo Kikon (BJP National Spokesperson and present legislative Assemblymember in the Nagaland state of India) — Opening Speech for Day II
  • Dr. Otojit Kshetrimayum (Faculty & Coordinator, Centre for North-East India, V V Giri National Labour Institute),
  • Shrabana Baruah (PhD Researcher with Jawaharlal Nehru University and Lecturer with Hindu College, New Delhi).

4) The future of NER: scenario analysis

  • Md. Joynal Abdin (Secretary at Dhaka Chamber of Commerce & Industry),
  • Keith Hilden (U.S. based investment professional operating in Southeast Asia),
  • Manijyoti Baruah (Officer on Special Duty, State Innovation & Transformation Aayog, Assam )
  • Sudho Gosh (Aviation professional instrumental in setting up operations in many airports in Northeast India)

Most panelists have been professionally or personally connected to the development of the Northeast region, with a number of them eager to enter the region and do more towards its socio-economic development. This event was a huge move towards drawing the attention of the global economic community about the opportunities in this resource-rich Northeast region of India, and the geographic advantage that it stands to offer towards becoming a “land bridge” between South Asia and adjoining countries in Southeast Asia.

During the two-day event, the development of the Northeast region vis-à-vis economic growth was discussed at length with many key stakeholders from the private and public sector, as well as academia and NGOs, expressing their eagerness, readiness, and willingness to enter the region and work towards enhancing its overall socio-economic development.

Based on the discussions and suggestions offered during the two-day extraordinary and challenging event, one can list several challenging and affirmative suggestions to be implemented by the Caucasus-Asia Center in 2021:

1) IIT-Guwahati can organize a summer school on renewable energies/sustainable business, where students and young entrepreneurs from neighboring countries (Myanmar; Bangladesh, Bhutan, etc.) come in and engage with IIT students and faculties.

2) Building institutional level partnership with Dhaka School of Economics, by organizing Regional Entrepreneurship Development program, targeting young people from both India and Bangladesh (also Myanmar and Bhutan)

3) Preparatory activities for increasing business ties with Myanmar and facilitating a multi-stakeholder platform for public-private partnerships, also including local parliamentarians from the northeast region.

The main outcomes of the event

  • The event confirmed our initial thoughts and expectations that private capital representatives (Chambers of commerce and SMEs), Universities/Academia, NGOs and Social media are our most important partners for GCFM future activities and its goal to become an ideas incubation zone and an interface between all frontier markets and the international community.
  • The event enabled and provoked intensive brainstorming among prominent people from within India, the neighboring countries and elsewhere who have the interest and ambition to influence and constructively engage other relevant stakeholders in the region.
  • The event helped the Global Coalition to figure out economic opportunities for collaboration between local stakeholders in the region and international stakeholders, that includes institutions and private businesses, in areas that hold high potential to grow in the coming time, like ecotourism, naturopathy, renewable energies, and so on.
  • The event will allow the Global Coalition to publish scholarly and market-relevant reports by incorporating opinions shared by expert speakers and discussions done in the sessions.
  • Last, but not least: frontier markets are at the furthest edge of the acceptable investment horizon, beyond which markets are no longer suitable for investment. In order to allocate large amounts of funds to frontier markets, investors must be confident that frontier markets are worth the risk. This requires investigating the diversification efficiency of frontier markets as well as the risk-return relationship and overall profitability compared to other market groups.

Report compiled by Prof. Sasho Kjosev, Advisor with the Caucasus-Asia Center and Director, Global Coalition for Frontier Markets.