2013 is well underway and we are finding a lot of entrepreneurs are looking to kick-off their business ideas and established companies to expand overseas.

Popular areas: Middle east (Dubai), Singapore, HK

Dubai international financial centerThe financial and trading hubs of Singapore and Hong Kong are still at the top of the list for many western companies seeking a foothold in Asia. The strong business environment, infrastructure, and favorable tax regulations in the two cities continue to make them attractive locations for foreign corporations (Hong Kong: Global Hub of the Future).

Dubai is also becoming increasingly popular for investors. The city-state suffered a debt crisis and property market collapse from 2008 to 2010, but it seems that Dubai is back on track following a surge in demand for services and exports. While it’s unlikely that growth rates will hit the pre-crash highs, we predict that the economy will progress at a more sustainable pace. As outlined in a Reuters article, it also seems increasingly likely that the government will ease restrictions for foreign investors, allowing citizens from neighboring Gulf States to establish businesses with foreign partners, without having to include government investors. As it is, foreign investors in Dubai and the UAE can only hold minority stakes in companies and must have local partners, with the exception of designated “free zones” where 100% foreign ownership is permitted.

Growing potential: Africa, Indonesia

The recent World Economic Forum at Davos has highlighted another country that is ripe for investment: Indonesia. Investors are increasingly looking towards the Southeast Asian archipelago as companies seek to diversify their risk away from China. Indonesia is already the region’s biggest market and largest economy, but it still has room for growth due to a lower national wage rate. Strong domestic consumption supported by a growing middle class is a good indication that future growth within the country is sustainable.

Africa as a whole is also receiving attention from foreign investors. International Enterprise (IE) Singapore recently opened its first African office in Johannesburg, South Africa, to help Singaporean firms gain a foothold in the rapidly growing continent. IE Singapore chief executive Teo Eng Cheong emphasized the great potential for continued growth in Africa, which has averaged 5% per year since 2008 (significantly higher than the world average of 3.6%).

Company incorporation in Africa has not been a common strategy for entrepreneurs due to unknown factors, or high risk, factors related to setting up a company on the African continent.  While there are well-established business centres such as South Africa and Nigeria, there are other jurisdictions rich in resources and offering opportunities for foreign investors.

Along with the South East Asia countries, Africa is a region our firm is looking forward to assisting our clients with during 2013.  Let us know about your business experiences in Africa….