How to Play the 5 Fastest-Growing Economies of 2011

Every year, The Economist magazine provides predictions for global economic growth for the coming year. This year, it projects the fastest-growing countries will be Qatar, Ghana, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. China and India won’t be far behind and are expected to grow GDP more than 8% next year. Below is a brief overview of each economy and potential ways to profit from impressive growth potential that will likely last well beyond 2011.

1. Qatar
Projected 2011 growth rate: 15.9%
Location: Middle East

Qatar is located next to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. If you aren’t familiar with the country, you may be familiar with the capital city Doha, given it was the location of the World Trade Organization’s round of trade negotiations, called the “Doha Round.” Unsurprisingly, oil and gas drive the country, while gas exports are expected to lead the way to making Qatar the fastest-growing economy in 2011.

#-ad_banner-#The closest investors will come to investing in individual companies in Qatar is through the London Stock Exchange where the Commercial Bank of Qatar and Qatar Telecom trade. However, major U.S. firms including Occidental Petroleum (NYSE: OXY) and Exxon Mobil (NYSE: XOM) have operations in the country.

2. Ghana
Projected 2011 growth rate: 14.0%
Location: Africa

Ghana is another energy-rich country, located in the western part of Africa, and is second on the list with projected economic growth of 14.0% during 2011. Ghana is growing from a small base and is still a poor country by many measures. It is still a very tough place to do business, but it is improving and seeing increased investment activity. American Tower (NYSE: AMT) recently announced a joint venture to build communications towers with a local firm. Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) just announced an intent to buy a controlling position in South African retailer Massmart, which operates primarily in Southern Africa but also in Ghana. Yum! Brands (NYSE: YUM) also has ambitions to ramp up growth in Africa. It has targeted South Africa as its primary focus, but it also has expansion plans in Ghana and other countries.

3. Eritrea & Ethiopia (tie)
Projected 2011 growth rate: 10.0%
Location: Africa

Eritrea and Ethiopia are tied for third with projected 2011 economic growth of 10.0%. They are also the final two countries that are expected to log double-digit growth for the coming year. As with many emerging markets, both these countries offer commodities for export. Eritrea is rich in mining, while Ethiopia has a large agricultural component. Despite the limited opportunities for investors to profit from the growth in these two countries specifically, there is growing interest and potential in Africa in general, and there are several continent-wide exchange-traded funds for investors to consider, including the Market Vectors Africa Index ETF (NYSE: AFK).

4. China
Projected 2011 growth rate: 8.4%
Location: Asia

China deserves mention, given its rapid expected growth for the coming year and fact that it has one of the most compelling growth outlooks in the world. Ironically, its 8.4% growth rate is seen as somewhat of a disappointment, given investors had become accustomed to double-digit growth for many years now, but it still is enough to put China at the top of the global heap.

There are many ways to invest in China and a healthy wave of IPO activity means there will be ever-increasing opportunities to find appealing individual companies. Aside from ETFs, big companies are likely your safest bets, including Internet giant Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU), mobile telecom giant China Mobile (NYSE: CHL) and energy titan PetroChina (NYSE: PTR). Yum! Inc. is also a big player in the restaurant space in the country.

5. India
Projected 2011 growth rate: 8.2%
Location: Asia

Right next to China on the list is India. China garners the majority of attention, given its stunning and vast growth potential, but I recently highlighted just why I think India deserves its fair share of consideration. Corporations that qualify as national champions include the information technology outsourcers of Wipro (NYSE: WIT) and Infosys (Nasdaq: INFY). Playing on more domestic trends, Tata Motors (NYSE: TTM) has solid growth potential and also recently acquired the storied British brands of Jaguar and Land Rover.

Action to Take —> Export demand will drive all emerging markets, and though there are limited opportunities to find individual investment opportunities in some of the fastest growing economies for next year, they are worth getting to know in more detail. Today’s frontier markets often become the emerging powerhouses of tomorrow.

For investors looking for direct plays now, clearly China and India stand out for the vastness of their populations and huge consumption potential of their domestic markets. Any of the stocks I mentioned above are solid options for you to investigate further.

P.S. — When you get in on the ground floor of a promising new trend or technology, the profits that can follow can change your life forever. Andy Obermueller’s Game-Changing Stocks is entirely devoted to finding the next big, life-changing investing idea. See his latest report, The Hottest Investment Opportunities of 2011, to find even more ground-breaking investment plays.