Historically, returns on investments in emerging markets have been better than in developing markets. An ETF for emerging markets is a great investment for Belgians that want to tap into the growth of developing economies like Brazil and China. But navigating the myriad of options available can be daunting. This article guides you through picking the best emerging markets ETFs while considering factors like cost and fiscal efficiency. Our goal is to help you make an informed decision that aligns with your investment goals and risk tolerance.

Why emerging markets ETFs are a good investment

Higher returns than developed markets

Emerging markets are the countries that are in the process of rapid industrialisation and have the potential for higher growth rates, like China, Taiwan, India, South Korea or Brazil. Historically, investments in emerging markets have delivered higher returns than developed markets. For instance, an emerging markets ETF that tracks the MSCI Emerging Markets index has delivered an average annual return of 9.8% since 1987, whereas an ETF that invests in developed markets through the MSCI World index delivered 7.9% per year on average. However, as with everything in investing, the superior performance comes at the cost of a higher risk. Investments in emerging markets fluctuate more in value.

Comparison of the historical performance of an emerging markets ETF with a developed markets ETF between 1997 and early 2024
Comparison of the historical performance of an emerging markets ETF with a developed markets ETF between 1997 and early 2024 (from Backtest)


Furthermore, an emerging markets ETF provides diversification by exposing your portfolio to companies from other parts of the world. Many emerging markets are at the forefront of adopting and innovating new technologies, leading to potentially disruptive growth opportunities. Lastly, it provides currency diversification.

How to select the best emerging markets ETFs

To choose the best emerging markets ETFs for you to invest in, there are some criteria we would stick with as a Belgian investor.

Follows an index

The style of investing based on index funds, also called passive investing, is a superior strategy for most people. There’s no need to spend time analysing individual companies and stocks, you can just follow an index of companies or governments.


Belgian investors should choose accumulating ETFs to cut taxes. As these funds directly reinvest their dividends, you won’t have to pay the 30% dividend tax.

Low cost

Most ETFs are already low-cost compared to active funds. But, when we have the choice between several ETFs that track the same index, we prefer the cheaper one.

Domiciled in Ireland or Luxembourg

Both countries have special tax treaties with many countries around the  world. This makes it fiscally advantageous to invest in ETFs domiciled  in Ireland or Luxembourg. You can recognise these by their ISIN code  that starts with "IE" (Ireland) or "LU" (Luxembourg).

Traded in €

We only selected funds that are trading in Euro as we don’t want to pay unnecessary currency exchange fees.

Diversified across many sectors and countries

Diversification is important when investing because it helps to reduce the overall risk. The basic idea behind diversification is to avoid having all your eggs in one basket, so that the impact of a single negative event is reduced. For example, if you only invest in one country and that country experiences a downturn or crisis, your entire investment portfolio will be negatively impacted. However, if you had invested in an ETF that diversifies across different countries and sectors, the impact of the downturn of that one country not performing well on the portfolio would be less severe.

Size matters

Larger funds are less likely to be shut down. A good rule is to consider only ETFs with at least €100 million.


We prefer physical replication over synthetic replication to reduce third-party risk.

The best emerging markets ETFs for Belgians

Based on our criteria, we selected only accumulating, physically replicated ETFs that are registered out of Belgium for tax efficiency:

ETF Index Number of companies Cost (TER) Size
Xtrackers MSCI Emerging Markets
MSCI Emerging Markets 1,458 0.18% €4,558m
iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets IMI
MSCI Emerging Markets IMI 3,120 0.18% €16,534m
iShares MSCI EM IMI ESG Screened
MSCI Emerging Markets IMI ESG Screened 2,309 0.18% €2,539m

Xtrackers MSCI Emerging Markets (IE00BTJRMP35)

Known by its ticker XMME, it seeks to mimic the performance of the MSCI Emerging Markets index. It invests in almost 1,500 large-cap companies in 24 countries including Brazil and China, with a significant allocation to Asia (nearly 70%) as well as smaller portions to Latin America and the Middle East.

The ETF is managed by Xtrackers (DWS) and costs 0.18% annually. Using historical data of the MSCI Emerging Markets index, it returned an average 9.7% per year since 1987:

iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets IMI (IE00BKM4GZ66)

This ETF by iShares, commonly known asEMIM, is very similar as it follows the MSCI Emerging Markets IMI index. But whereas XMME invests only in large-cap companies, iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets IMI also exposes to mid and small-cap companies ("IMI"  stands for "Investable Market Index"). It therefore offers additional diversification benefits. It is often combined with IWDA to cover most of the world's stocks in a single portfolio of ETFs.

The ETF is managed by iShares (BlackRock) and also costs 0.18% annually. Using historical data of the MSCI Emerging Markets index, it returned an average 4.8% per year since 1994:

iShares MSCI EM IMI ESG Screened (IE00BFNM3P36)

Lastly, we chose a sustainable ETF. This ETF, also managed by iShares, tracks the MSCI Emerging Markets IMI ESG Screened index. The index starts off with the MSCI Emerging Markets IMI index, but uses sustainaility criteria to exclude certain companies, such as those associated with controversial, civilian and nuclear weapons as well as tobacco, palm oil and arctic oil and gas. Because of this exclusion, it invests in a little over 2,300 companies instead of 3,100 for EMIM.

The ETF costs 0.18% per year. Based on its index, it delivered an average annual return of 4.9% since 2012:

Which emerging markets ETF to go for?

As you can see in the comparison of historical performance below, the difference between the three isn't that large in terms of performance. If sustainability criteria are important to you, we recommend the iShares MSCI EM IMI ESG Screened ETF. Otherwise, the iShares Core MSCI Emerging Markets IMI ETF is a great option as it provides diversified exposure to a large number of developing economies in a single ETF.

Note that we don't advise investing solely in emerging markets. Instead, it's best to consider an emerging markets ETF as an ingredient in a balanced portfolio of ETFs, that's built to meet your goals.

Comparison of the historical performance of our top emerging markets ETFs (from Backtest)

The downsides of emerging markets ETFs

Their value fluctuates more

Emerging markets are often more volatile than developed markets. This increased volatility can result from political instability, economic uncertainty, changes in government policies, and fluctuating currencies. Such factors lead to more significant and rapid price swings in ETFs focused on these regions.

Investing in China has been a popular theme for Belgian investors. As you can see below in the historical performance of the MSCI China A International index, this has been not be a smooth ride and included a drop of over 50%.

They're more expensive

It's harder to trade stocks in emerging markets than for example in the United States or most European countries. Some emerging markets have restrictions on foreign investment or may be difficult for individual investors to access directly. Also, since the markets are smaller, stocks are less liquid. These considerations make it more expensive to trade in emerging markets, which results in higher total expense ratios for emerging markets ETFs than for developing markets ETFs, especially for ETFs that use physical replication. For instance, the cheapest physical MSCI Emerging Markets ETF costs 0.15% per year, but you can get a physical MSCI World ETF for 0.10% per year.

Concentrated in one type of economy

It may be tempting to invest only in emerging markets because of the higher historical returns. But this would ignore the benefits of geographic diversification. Dependence on the economic health and growth prospects of only emerging markets exposes you to higher risks compared to a more globally diversified portfolio.

Harder to invest sustainably

Emerging countries may have less stable political systems and less predictable regulatory environments than here in Europe. Also, some companies in emerging markets may not adhere to the same standards of corporate governance and transparency as those in developed markets like in Europe. This makes sustainable investing on the whole more challenging.

Curvo, an easier way to invest globally

At Curvo, our investment philosophy is rooted in the power of diversification. Unlike the narrow focus of putting all your money into emerging markets ETFs, the portfolios available through Curvo are designed to harness the growth potential of a global outlook.

Global outlook

While we recognize the growth potential of investing in emerging markets, they consist of only 20% of the stocks in the portfolios. After all, in terms of market capitalisation, emerging markets represent between 10% and 20% of the world economy. This ensures decent exposure to emerging markets, while controlling the higher risks associated with those economies. Each portfolio invests in over 7,500 companies, across all sectors, developed and emerging markets, and companies of all sizes.

Invest in a portfolio tailored to you

Based on a questionnaire, the right mix of funds is selected that correspond to your goals and appetite for risk. The portfolios are managed by NNEK, a Dutch investment firm supervised by the Dutch regulator (AFM).

All your money is invested

In contrast with the majority of brokers, your investments work with fractional shares. This means that you are putting all your money to work. There will never be cash sitting on your account doing nothing.

Get a better return on your time

Don't waste energy figuring out the intricacies of good investing. Start your investment plan and spend your free time on the things that matter most to you.

Invest sustainably

Investing sustainably is challenging because everyone has different beliefs and values. We focus on one guiding principle: none of the portfolios invests in companies destructive to the planet.

Learn more about how Curvo works.

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We discussed our top emerging markets ETFs available to Belgians. Each ETF has its benefits and drawbacks, but the most important is that an emerging markets ETF provides exposure to stocks that can provide higher returns, while maintaining diversification. The discussion should help you decide which is best for you.

Questions you may have

Which ETF should I invest in for Asia?

The iShares MSCI EM Asia ETF (IE00B5L8K969) is a good choice for investing only in Asia. It follows a subset of the MSCI Emerging Markets index, namely the MSCI Emerging Markets Asia index which focuses only in Asia. The ETF costs 0.20% per year.