Investment flows in Africa set to drop 25% to 40% in 2020
…All industries on the continent are reeling from the double blow of the coronavirus pandemic and low commodity prices, UNCTAD’s new report says.
A new World Investment Report 2020 by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) states that the trend of declining foreign direct investment (FDI) to Africa is set to exacerbate significantly in 2020 amid the dual shock of the coronavirus pandemic and low prices of commodities, especially oil.
FDI flows to the continent are forecast to contract between 25% and 40% based on gross domestic product (GDP) growth projections as well as a range of investment specific factors, the report says.
“Although all industries are set to be affected, several services industries including aviation, hospitality, tourism and leisure are hit hard, a trend likely to persist for some time in the future,” said UNCTAD’s director of investment and enterprise, James Zhan.
Manufacturing industries intensive in global value chains are also strongly affected, a sign of concern for efforts to promote economic diversification and industrialization in Africa.
Overall, there is a strong downward trend in the first quarter of 2020 for announced greenfield investment projects, although the value of projects (-58%) has dropped more severely than their number (-23%).
Similarly, as of April 2020, the number of cross-border merger and acquisition (M&A) projects targeting Africa had declined 72% from the monthly average of 2019.
Hope for recovery
However, two distinct factors offer hope for the recovery of investment flows to the continent in the medium to long run. The first is the higher value being assigned to ties to the continent by major global economies, promoting investment in infrastructure, resources, but also industrial development.
Investments from these countries, which have varying degrees of political backing, despite being affected by the joint impact of COVID-19 and low commodity prices to some degree, could be relatively more resilient.
The second is deepening regional integration due to the commencement of trade under the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) after years of deliberation and the expected finalization of its investment protocol.
In the short term, curtailing the extent of the investment downturn and limiting the economic and human costs of the pandemic is of paramount importance.
Longer term, diversifying investment flows to Africa and harnessing them for structural transformation remains a key objective. Both of these objectives will require a prudent, coordinated and timely response from countries on the continent.
FDI was already on the decline before the crisis
UNCTAD noted that the COVID-19 crisis has arrived at a time when FDI was already in decline, with the continent having experienced a 10% drop in inflows in 2019 to $45 billion.
The negative effects of tepid global and regional GDP growth and dampened demand for commodities inhibited flows to countries with both diversified and natural resource-oriented investment profiles alike, although a few countries received higher inflows from large new projects.
FDI to West Africa decreased by 21% to $11 billion in 2019. This was largely driven by the steep decline in investment in Nigeria due to new investment regulations for multinational enterprises in the oil and gas industry.