SA's lead in Africa's race for FDI challenged - report

South Africa, once the clear leader in attracting Foreign Direct Investment in Africa, now shares the top spot with Morocco, according to research by multinational professional services firm EY.

According to EY, this is the first time SA has been challenged in terms of being the most preferred investment destination, as measured by FDI project numbers.

South Africa attracted 96 FDI projects in 2017, the same number as Morocco. In 2016, SA had attracted 139 and Morocco 81.  

President Cyril Ramaphosa has made attracting new FDI to SA a hallmark of his imitative to kick-start SA's sluggish economy.

Leadership changes in South Africa pave the path toward greater reform, says EY, adding that it has already seen policy reforms implemented in some other African countries allowing them to attract a rising share of investor interest and FDI.

"However, the global FDI landscape is becoming increasingly dynamic and competitive, but will also be shaped by the twin forces of geopolitical uncertainty and digitisation.

"It is unclear how growing trade protectionism will impact global investment trends and which regions will be most affected," states the report.

"To attract a strong share of FDI and solidify its position on the global investment map requires considerable effort from many stakeholders."

Leaders must help SA reach potential

In EY's 2015 Africa attractiveness survey, it highlighted five priorities for action for a successful African future. In the latest report, it says that, while gains have been made across some of these areas, more commitment on the part of leaders in the public, private and social sectors is needed to help Africa realise its potential.

EY's research found Rwanda is, by far, Africa's most successful country in terms of attracting FDI.

"Rwanda ranks as one of Africa's most business-friendly destinations. It is also one of the continent's most consistent rapid growth economies," states the report.

The report also found that Africa's FDI is more evenly spread than ever before.

"For the first time since we began tracking FDI in Africa, four of the five regions - East, West, North and Southern Africa - hold an almost equal share of the continent's FDI projects," states EY.

In 2017, the US remained the largest investor in Africa, with a noticeable 43% growth in FDI projects. Western Europe also built on its already strong investments into Africa, up by 17%.

"However, emerging-market investments fell, with both intra-regional and Asia-Pacific investment declining by 12% and 13%, respectively. This is, in part, attributable to slower emerging markets growth and weak commodity prices," according to the report.

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