In This Review

The Emerging Markets Century: How a New Breed of World-Class Companies Is Overtaking the World
The Emerging Markets Century: How a New Breed of World-Class Companies Is Overtaking the World
By Antoine Van Agtmael
Free Press, 2007, 384 pp.

A common assumption about the increasingly globalized world is that high-skill design work and complex global management occur in advanced economies, while low-skill labor-intensive manufacturing and raw materials are provided by developing economies. Van Agtmael, a former official of the International Finance Corporation, argues that this assumption is inappropriately complacent. In this fascinating collection of success stories, he identifies and sketches, with helpful commentary, the history and the current success of 25 enterprises in developing countries -- producing everything from appliances to soap operas -- that are not just successful but also world-class firms. They represent what is likely to be a cascade of such enterprises in the coming decades, able to challenge and perhaps outcompete their rich-world competitors in skill and suppleness of management, and even in mastery of advancing technology. These 25 firms include four each from Brazil, Mexico, South Korea, and Taiwan; three from India; two from China; and one each from Argentina, Chile, Malaysia, and South Africa. The list of world-class firms in developing countries continues to grow -- and not by relying on protection at home but by engaging with the world market.