Last week the leaders of the BRIC nations – Brazil, Russia, India and China – held a summit meeting in Durban. The addition of their host, South African President Jacob Zuma, turned BRIC to BRICS and at last gave Africa a deserved inclusion in the now famous Goldman Sachs acronym that has become not only an established part of the investment lexicon but is synonymous with the growing power and influence of emerging markets.
More recently, Jim O’Neill of Goldmans who coined the phrase over a decade ago has suggested that the acronym be re-ordered to reflect what he now regards as the relative investment potential of the original four. BRIC has become CRBI. This not only overstates the prospects for Russia it is also wholly forgettable. BRIC resonated because it sounded like something that is used to build new structures. Had Kazakhstan not South Africa made the grade then it would have had the added potency of being correctly spelt.
At the height of last year’s Eurozone crisis, the troubled economies of Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain combined to form PIGS. This was highly convenient for newspaper headline writers but unfairly derogatory to one of the most intelligent and likeable of farmyard animals. Should the Scots vote to go it alone in next year’s independence referendum, then they will hope that they don’t get lumped together with Iceland and Cyprus on the sic-kly fringe of Europe. No doubt they would much rather reunite the Caledonian diaspora in Canada, Australia and New Zealand and together scan the world for new opportunities.
Acronyms also need to be short. Not to be outdone by Goldman Sachs, HSBC came up with CIVETS to denote the next generation of high performing emerging markets. Unfortunately, once you get beyond Colombia, Indonesia and Vietnam it gets harder to remember the rest. That is probably just as well as the E is for Egypt which shortly after being elevated to acronym category rather unhelpfully had a revolution and its economy tanked. Turkey has aspirations beyond mere CIVET and South Africa is hedging its bets by attaching itself to the BRICS as well.
I doubt Jim O’Neill had any idea that it would become so popular. But some acronyms have a habit of sticking. Others do not. Despite the puerile hilarity of their colleagues in the western hemisphere, “AnnaPurna Consulting Asia Pacific” has been stoutly resisted by our colleagues from Mumbai to Tokyo. And South Africa’s early forays into broadcasting stumbled at the first fence with the creation of “Southern Hemisphere International Television”, although should Messrs Xi, Putin, Singh and Rousseff turn on the TV during a break in the Durban talks they may conclude that it was not such an inappropriate name after all.