Amid all the hype surrounding U.S. interest rates, finance veterans at the Milken Institute's Asia Summit reminded investors not to ignore profitable themes in high-growth emerging regions.
"The key is to try and see the future...A U.S. interest rate increase of 25 or even 50 basis points doesn't make any difference," noted Michael Milken, the former junk-bond king who is chairman of the institute that bears his name.
What does make a difference is education, skills for the future, and jobs of the future, said the man who is considered one Wall Street's most successful come-back stories after his 1990 conviction for securities fraud.
Such comments aren't the norm at finance conferences but then again, the Milken Institute's annual affair isn't just your typical convention. The summit is geared towards human capital and how financial markets can address urgent social and economic problems.
"The growing middle class in Asia is one of the dominant stories of the world, and the youth and rising population of sub-Saharan Africa will be the next major global change over the next few decades," Milken said.
Medical research and public health have been two of the primary drivers of global growth but sub-Saharan Africa has yet to benefit from that, he added. Pointing to Southeast Asia's booming retail market as an example, he explained how health improvements helped the region increase life expectancy by nearly 70 percent in two generations.
"If you're living longer, healthier lives, ultimately you will become a consumer," he said, suggesting that medical advancements could do the same for Africa.