DAVOS. — “You cannot measure a whole economy by Apple sales.”
This is the first thing Bassim Haidar says when asked about a potential slowdown in China. He has seen the doom-and-gloom headlines calling for a global growth contraction, and he is not overly worried.
“When we look at China, we say they have dropped off 1%, which is not that massive in the grand scale of things,” he told Business Insider at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.
“It is still growing. People should see the positive side.”
This is remarkably positive commentary compared to what is usually espoused publicly about China.
But Haidar should know as well as anyone how much untapped potential is still left. After all, he is a self-made billionaire whose telecom company has seen its greatest success in emerging nations.
His company, Channel IT Group, provides loans to low-income customers so they can readily use mobile phones, rather than rely on prepaid cards. Focused on places like Nigeria, Dubai, and sub-Saharan Africa, the service racked up 200 million active users last year while loaning out a whopping US$1,7 billion.
But what about President Donald Trump’s trade war?
Has not that made doing business in places like China immeasurably more difficult?
Yes, says Haidar, who laments the fact that Trump and his US colleagues are trying to “clip the wings” of nations like China in an attempt to preserve a degree of economic dominance. But he argues that those efforts will only delay the nation’s inevitable growth.
“Regarding tariffs, knowing how China works, they will probably just shift their factories to Taiwan or Korea,” Haidar said.
“I do not think it will play for too long. It will all die down in a year.” This all informs Haidar’s overarching view that, among all of the skepticism around doing business in the East, it is actually a far more intriguing option than the usual strongholds in the West.
“Look what is happening in the US and Europe,” Haidar said.
“Everything is becoming fragmented, and new allies are being created. World power is shifting to the East.”
And Haidar is not just referring to China. He expects India to leapfrog the UK and France in terms of gross domestic product, making it the world’s third-largest economy. He is also quite fond of Nigeria, where Channel IT was originally launched. Beyond that, Haidar sees major opportunities in Pakistan and
Ethiopia. There is a simple throughline connecting these countries: they are open for business. It is a new attitude, and one Haidar says reflects vast
growth potential in these emerging nations.
“That is what we call green territory,” he said. “There is growth everywhere.”
US, Europe and bitcoin
But Haidar’s comments are not solely focussed on his fondness for emerging markets. He also has strong thoughts about why the US and Europe are not right for a businessman like him.
When it comes to the US, one of Haidar’s hang-ups is the environment of political uncertainty. That turmoil is what prompted him to exit the US stock market entirely in July. It proved to be a prescient call, as the S&P 500 tumbled 8% in the second half of 2018.
But what troubles Haidar the most about the US is the massive debt load carried by both American companies and consumers. — Business Insider.