Investors have been looking past developing economies toward supposedly riskier frontier markets. With exchange traded funds, anyone can access less developed countries just beginning to shape their economies.

Charlie Robertson of Renaissance Capital argues that the frontier markets could experience their own run up similar to the 1990s growth spurt in the emerging markets, The Economist reports.

Frontier countries, or pre-emerging markets, have less advanced capital markets, or less established investable markets, than emerging countries. These countries can generate potentially outsized returns, but investors have to be comfortable with the greater level of risk, such as political instability, corruption and poor regulations, among others.

To meet the criteria as a frontier market, the country’s market must have at least two stocks that have specific thresholds for size and liquidity, and should be “accessible,” or open to foreign access. About 24 markets across eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, with a combined $146 billion in market capitalization, meets these factors.

The MSCI Frontier Market benchmark includes a hefty weight toward oil-rich Gulf states: Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. However, Qatar and UAE are set to move into the emerging market category.

The frontier markets may have once been a side allocation for broader emerging market exposure, but Andrew Brudenell, a manager of frontier equity funds at HSBC, believes they are now an asset class in their own right. [The Ongoing Allure of Frontier Markets]

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