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Thursday, 7 June 2018

FDI is slumping around the world, but Egypt remains top destination in Africa

Foreign direct investment is slumping around the world: The latest figures from the United Nations. World Investment Report show global FDI fell 23% in 2017 and may not grow at all this year. You can thank rising trade tensions, including the brewing trade war between the US and China as well as the US and traditional its allies in Canada and the European Union.

Egypt was the top destination for FDI in Africa last year (outpacing Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ghana and Morocco), but still fell 8.8% y-o-y to USD 7.4 bn. On the regulatory side, the report took note of the Industrial Permits Act and Investment Law coming into effect, which should promote domestic and further investment “by offering further incentives, reducing bureaucracy and simplifying administrative processes.”

Where did the inflows to Egypt come from last year? UNCTAD thinks they were “supported by a large increase in Chinese investment across light manufacturing industries and wide- ranging economic reforms beginning to pay off: financial liberalization, for instance, fostered more reinvestment of domestic earnings.”

We’re not sure we agree with UNCTAD’s analysis: Far from reinvesting earnings last year, Egyptian companies saw profits eroded by (among other factors) high interest rates. Earnings recovery is a 2018 story, and the return of CAPEX spending will be a theme for 2019. What’s more, Chinese investment in the TEDA industrial zone seems to us to have been far from sufficient to move the needle — the big stuff is in major infrastructrure and urban development projects, many of which haven’t seen final contracts signed.

FDI to Africa fell 3% for the year thanks in part to “weak oil prices and lingering effects from the commodity bust.” You can read the full UNCTAD World Investment Report 2018 (pdf) or check out coverage in the Financial Times.

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