Foreign direct investment (FDI) can transform development plans into reality, especially at a time when the post-COVID economic recovery is increasingly gathering steam, said Fahad Al Gergawi, President of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) and Chief Executive Officer of the Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI), the investment promotion agency of Dubai Economy.
In the presence of Egypt’s Prime Minister, Mostafa Madbouly and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shokri, Al Gergawi delivered a keynote address at the First Forum of the Heads of African Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs) held recently in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, titled ‘Integration for Development’, emphasizing the positive role played by IPAs in ensuring sustainable economic growth and global prosperity. He underlined WAIPA’s continuing collaboration with Africa’s IPAs in sharing knowledge and building capacity to achieve higher investment flows.
“Investment of all kinds, especially foreign direct investment, plays a pivotal role in transforming development plans into reality, through regional economic integration and strengthening partnerships with the private sector,” Al Gergawi said. “However, investment is no longer concerned only with risk and return. It is also concerned with economic, social and environmental sustainability. This enhances the importance of the forum in advancing public-private partnerships and the pivotal role of African IPAs in bridging the gap between an investment that drains resources and another that preserves them for future generations to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goals 2030.”
The forum, organized by the General Agency for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI) under the auspices of the Egyptian Cabinet, was attended by ministers and chairpersons of investment authorities from 34 African countries as well as representatives of African economic institutions.
The IPAs Africa Forum 1 was inaugurated by the Prime Minister of Egypt, Mostafa Madbouly. Wamkele Mene, Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), and Amani Abou Zeid, African Union (AU) Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy, also attended the session along with Egyptian ministers and businesspersons with successful experience of investing in Africa.
According to GAFI, one of the goals of the AU’s Agenda 2063 is to bolster inter-African investment to sustain growth. The forum aims to be a platform to provide technical support, experience, and information to their counterpart African investment authorities, supporting them in facing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on investment flows. Investment opportunities in Africa include those in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure, and energy.
Affirming WAIPA’s commitment to continue supporting African IPAs, Al Gergawi shared the experience of a special program launched in 2020 to build and develop the capacities of the least developed countries with the support of the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WAIPA program included 12 African countries among the 20 participating countries, he said.
Al Gergawi added: “IPAs play a critical role in supporting their governments’ efforts to mitigate the negative economic impact of the pandemic while working to restore investor confidence to promote business expansion and attract new investments. In conjunction with the economic simulation packages, this plays a key role in accelerating economic recovery across the world.
FDI flows are expected to revive and recover in 2021 after the severe lockdowns the world imposed in 2020 to combat the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, leading to a 35% plunge in global FDI flows. The “World Investment Report 2021” published by UNCTAD expected an FDI increase of 10% to 15% by this year.
The actions and strategies of nongovernmental organizations such as WAIPA are crucial in fostering a faster recovery by promoting cooperation amongst IPAs, enhancing their access to decision-enabling information, and building their capacities to better showcase available opportunities and attract investments to their countries, the report said.