The best countries to expand your business internationally: 24 candidates for 2024
Enter new markets around the world, growing your business the right way, with our guide to the 24 best countries to expand your business internationally in 2024.
In today's increasingly digitised and globalised world of business, entering new markets or expanding your operations overseas is no longer only the realm of megacorporations. Companies of all shapes and sizes can leverage the potential benefits of international expansion.
Our guide to the 24 best countries for international business expansion in 2024 tracks the lucrative potential of the world’s most expansion-friendly locations. Entering foreign markets not only offers the chance at a greater market share, but also exposes your enterprise to a wider talent pool, new investment opportunities, greater employee and workplace diversity, and helps to increase international brand awareness.
What to look for when assessing a country’s business expansion potential
There are a great many different metrics we can use when scouting for the best country to set up a company in 2024, from the more obvious – such as GDP and start-up costs – to the less – including public happiness and quality of life.
To compile this list of the 24 best countries to expand your business into, we’ve utilised a few key resources, including The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, journalism from Business Insider Africa, and the Forbes 2023 list of top 10 countries to start a business in.
Before we delve into the heart of the subject, we’ll take a moment to review the key performance indicators we recommend looking for when assessing a country’s potential for business expansion.
Gross domestic product (GDP)
Gross domestic product (GDP) is generally a good starting point for measuring the economic health of a country. GDP is the monetary measure of the market value of all goods and services produced by a country during a set time period, typically annually.
GDP growth rate
The size of a country’s GDP alone is not enough to indicate the potential it may hold for your international business operations. Even small GDPs can prove promising to overseas CEOs and CFOs, especially if their growth rate is strong. The mean global GDP growth rate is around 3%, but in some countries this can be as high as 60% (such as in Guyana, currently) or as low as -30% (in the case of Ukraine).
Number of start-ups
The number of start-ups founded each year in a given country is another good indicator of how lively a country’s business climate is. The more start-ups, the more promising that country may be for international expansion.
Corporate tax rate
Depending on where in the world you expand your operations to, your business will be subject to a wide range of different rules and regulations, from labour laws to tax. Identifying the corporate tax rate charged in different countries can help to establish how expensive expansion there would be, and thus how viable this would be for your business.
Employment rates and labour productivity
High unemployment rates are rarely a good sign for start-up businesses, yet at the same time, unusually low unemployment rates could hint at difficulty in finding the right candidate for the roles in your new offices.
Labour productivity rates record the GDP generated per working hour per capita. The higher these rates, the greater the potential return on your investment into overseas labour may be. According to the International Labour Organization’s latest findings from 2021, Luxembourg had the highest labour productivity rate at USD$136.45 of GDP per hour worked, whilst the African nation of Burundi came in last at just $0.89 per hour.
Costs and regulatory requirements of starting a new business
Depending on your expansion budget, the costs required to register and start a new venture overseas may play a crucial role in your decision-making process. Each country will also have a number of regulations governing the establishment of a permanent business presence – some more complex, and thus less attractive, than others.
Time required to register a new business
Registering a business entity in a foreign country takes time, but in some countries the process can be so lengthy as to be prohibitive. For example, whilst it may take less than 24 hours to register a company in the UK, in Venezuela the same process can take 230 days.
Rate of inflation
Another useful metric for assessing which country is best for international expansion is the national rate of inflation. Typically measured by the consumer price index, high inflation rates – such as those in the UK at present – tend to suggest economic instability in the country in question.
Quality of life and cost of living
Finally, we’d be remiss not to include a compassionate human element to our assessment criteria. After all, the economic health and viability of a country may prove key to a business’s financial success overseas, but the lasting growth of the business will always rest on the shoulders of its workforce.
The cost of living in a country, combined with quality of life metrics such as the global happiness index, help to paint a clearer picture of how engaged a workforce based in, or relocated to that country might be. The happier and healthier a workforce, the more productive they tend to be.
At present, Nordic countries like Finland and Denmark, as well as Latin American countries such as Paraguay and Guatemala top the happiness index, whilst at the bottom of the list are places like Afghanistan and Lebanon.
The 24 best countries for global expansion
Now for the meat of the article! Below are 24 countries deemed by Mauve Group, as well as international bodies like The World Bank, to be the best countries for international business expansion. We’ve numbered them by continent, rather than by ranking.
Europe tops the list of continents with promising potential for CEOs keen to expand their operations overseas. Among the top 30 countries on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, European countries feature an impressive 14 times.
Ireland is perhaps something of a dark horse in the business expansion race, but the small island nation certainly offers an intriguing package. Not only does Ireland have the highest GDP growth rate of all the countries on our list (13.5%), but also has one of the lowest corporate tax rates at 12.5%. Moreover, the average costs of registering a business in Ireland are attractively low, at round just €80.
Quality of life in the socialist democratic country of Denmark is one of the highest in the world, not least for its high average salaries (around $22 per hour for McDonald’s workers, for example). Moreover, the country offers low business start-up costs, at just 0.2% of GNI (gross national income) per capita.
Hungary places quite high on The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index, scoring especially well in the following categories: registering property, getting credit, paying taxes, and trading across borders. Cost of living is also on the low end of the scale, making it an attractive place to relocate employees to or hire employees from. Hungary has a strong GDP growth rate of 4.6%.
Luxembourg has the single highest labour productivity score in the world, producing a whopping USD$136.45 per hour worked per capita, almost double that of the United States. Quality of life and average wages in Luxembourg also make it attractive to employees. However, it’s worth being aware of the commensurately high cost of living, combined with one of the highest associated costs for starting-up a business ($1,343).
Romania scores highly as a potential country for business expansion, particularly in terms of tax legislation, cross-border trading, and contract security. It also has an above-average GDP growth rate of 4.2% and a relatively affordable minimum wage making employment in Romania potentially more lucrative for employers.
Switzerland, long renowned as a liberal tax zone and wealthy nation has a hugely impressive GDP for a country of its size, recorded at USD$807.71 billion at the end of the 2022-23 financial year. The World Bank ranks it as the 36th easiest country in the world to do business in, it also has a relatively low unemployment rate at just 3.3%, and has the 6th best labour productivity rate, too. Be warned though that both living costs and business start-up costs in Switzerland remain exceedingly high.
Sweden is reportedly one of the happiest countries in the world, with a comprehensive universal healthcare system as well as universal basic income. It also has a strong GDP, competitive workforce and is relatively easy to do business in. At the same time, however, it is also one of the most expensive countries for employees to live in.
Another small eastern European country with a promising future for international business expansion prospects, Lithuania boasts a steady GDP growth rate of 1.9% as of 2022, as well as ranking highly on the Ease of Doing Business Index. It sits alongside South Korea and the UAE in terms of labour productivity and has a relatively low cost of living.
One of the most attractive aspects of doing business in Norway is the efficiency and accessibility of its bureaucracy. Communication with the government for regulatory and tax purposes can be carried out with ease online, whilst the nation offers access to some of the most advanced technology in the business world. Norway is another Scandinavian country with a relatively healthy and happy workforce living under political stability and a strong GDP.
France finds itself comfortably among the top 15 countries in the world in terms of ease of doing business, making it an appealing prospect for international business expansion. Its GDP growth rate currently sits at a respectable 2.6% on a GDP of $2,782.91 billion. Acquiring commercial access to utilities such as electricity in France is also very straightforward. It’s worth noting that French workers are famously politicised, with high union membership numbers and an active involvement in labour rights. Strict compliance with national and international labour laws and fair pay are particularly key to the success of an expansion into France.
11) United Kingdom
Doing business in the United Kingdom is very easy, with one of the world’s fastest turnaround times for business registration and the lowest associated costs in Europe. With a well-educated workforce and strong GDP, the UK is a market many business leaders may understandably wish to enter. At present, trade between the UK and European Union remains complicated in the wake of Brexit, whilst an unstable political situation informs an unstable economy. Cost of living in the UK is one of the highest in the world.
Spain is currently enjoying a strong GDP growth rate of 5.5% as well as the 32nd happiest population on earth. The Mediterranean country offers a good quality of life as well as a labour productivity rate equal to the UK’s.
Asia boasts some of the best countries for international business expansion in the world. In fact, our top 3 picks for prospective new markets are found here in Singapore, Hong Kong, and South Korea.
Despite its small size, Singapore has an extraordinary business output, trumping the United States for GDP growth. Singapore is an easy place to establish a new business entity, and doesn’t charge much to do so, either – around just USD$238. Moreover, corporate tax on profits made in Singapore is lower than in the States and a number of other competitive countries around the world. There are no dividend or capital gains taxes in Singapore and it also has a diverse range of free trade agreements, opening up a number of key markets to businesses which expand there.
14) Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s economy is strong and stable and has been growing steadily over the past few decades. Today, however, though Hong Kong has a GDP of $359.84 billion, its annual growth rate is in the negative, at -3.5%. Nevertheless, as the mecca of international business, with a strong workforce and no tariffs on imported goods, Hong Kong should definitely feature in your deliberations.
15) South Korea
South Korea is 5th on the World Bank’s list of places in which it’s easy to do business, ranking highly across all WB metrics. It has a high labour productivity rate of $41.46 GDP per hour per capita, and a GDP growth rate of 2.6%. As one of the most technologically advanced countries on earth, Korea also enjoys a stable political environment and an international blossoming of cultural export.
The tiny Kingdom of Bahrain made its wealth on the back of natural oil reserves. Whilst oil has little future in the green economy towards which we’re transitioning, the Gulf island nation today enjoys a rich involvement in the banking, tourism, and trade sectors as well. Bahrain has one of the highest per capita incomes on the planet, as well as a high social mobility score. Doing business in Bahrain is fairly easy and can prove lucrative.
Recognised as a sovereign state by only a handful of world powers, Taiwan nevertheless remains one of the more attractive places to do business, especially if you operate in the tech industry. Taiwan is responsible for around 65% of the world’s computer chip production, giving it a strong economy and steady GDP growth rate. Business concerns, however, include the increasing deterioration of relations between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China. War may be on the horizon, which is never good for business expansion.
18) New Zealand
It takes just a day or two to get a business registered and off the ground on the small, wealthy island of New Zealand – a place well-versed in importing skilled employees and overseas businesses to compensate for its small population. New Zealand is also presently operating on a GDP growth rate of 2.2%. Most importantly however is this: New Zealand is the number one ranked country in the world by The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index.
The land down under has a GDP growing even faster than its south sea islander neighbour’s (3.6%) and a GDP worth $1.68 trillion: the highest it’s been in recorded history. At 14 on the Ease of Doing Business it’s no slacker in that department either, whilst it has a relatively low VAT rate of just 10% and high wages to match a high cost of living. Not to mention it wouldn’t be a far walk from your new Aussie offices down to the nearest beach...
Whilst many of the countries in Africa remain ‘developing nations,’ or are otherwise at the mercy of political and military strife, there are those whose economies have grown steadily since independence from colonial European powers, and which offer exciting opportunities for the business leader looking to make an impression on the continent.
Despite a small market size, Mauritius is the easiest place to do business in all of Africa, and so should not be overlooked. The island nation’s GDP reached $11 billion in 2021 and is expected to grow at around 8.7%, reaching $16.83 billion by 2026. Complimented by a liberal financial sector and low taxes, Mauritius could prove a good international business expansion move, especially for those working in manufacturing, financial services, tourism, renewable energies, and ICT.
One of the six fastest-growing economies in Africa, Rwanda has recovered remarkably well from the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide in the early-2000s. Today, women make up a significant part of the skilled workforce, helping to significantly boost Rwandan GDP to $10.4 billion as of 2021. An economy built around coffee, tea, mineral mining and tourism, the government’s numerous business reforms has helped make Rwanda a supremely easy place to do business.
North and South America
The USA has the highest number of start-ups, by far, of any other country on earth. Not only is it a haven for entrepreneurship across a diverse range of industries, but it is also ranked as number 6 on the Ease of Doing Business Index. Boasting one of the world’s strongest economies, labour productivity rates, and a respectable GDP growth rate of 2.1%, the USA will likely be one of the first new markets international businesses asses for expansion potential.
The easiest of all Latin American countries to do business in, Chile’s 2023 GDP sits near the highest in its history, at $301.03 billion. Its GDP is also growing faster than the USA’s, with a growth rate of 2.4%
Canada may not be your first choice for international expansion, but we highly recommend considering its merit. It has a highly educated workforce, one of the world’s largest economies (growing steadily at 3.4%), and is ranked number 23 by the Ease of Doing Business Index. Politically stable and in close proximity to the US, Canada may prove a more reliable location for business expansion than its southern neighbour.
Final considerations for successful global business expansion
Identifying the country or countries into which you wish to expand your business is an important first step to make. However, it’s important to remember that even the most promising new market won’t yield positive returns without due diligence and careful planning on the part of the business owner.
Global business expansion considerations which we recommend folding into your search for a new market include:
- The state of the existing market, including potential competition
- The various labour laws and tax regulations to which your business would be subject
- The nuances of consumer and business culture, including linguistic differences
- The current and projected economic and political stability of the country
- The requirements of managing an international and/or remote workforce
Undoubtedly, the most cost-effective and stress-free way to approach international business expansion is to team-up with the experts in global business solutions. Mauve Group is a dedicated Employer of Record with offices around the world, capable of delivery a diverse array of global expansion solutions to help you find the perfect market and enter it confidently.
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