In recent years, many landlocked developing countries have liberalized their economies and opened up new sectors for private investors. Public sector divestments and privatization have stimulated local entrepreneurial activities, while national investment promotion agencies of LLDCs have begun to target strategic investors from abroad to exploit new business opportunities or to help turn around loss-making State enterprises. However, despite these efforts, the total FDI flows to the group of 31 LLDCs remain insignificant.
The High level Investment Forum was co-organized by UN-OHRLLS, UNCTAD and the World Bank on 1 October 2008 with the objective to bring together policy makers and private sector practitioners from LLDCs, as well as current and prospective international investors to analyze current trends in FDI flows to LLDCs, exchange experiences and best practices and to explore future opportunities for FDI to these countries.
About one hundred and fifty participants attended the Forum, with forty-four UN Member States represented.
The Forum was chaired by Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra, USG and High Representative. The opening session was addressed by:
The Forum was organized around two round table discussions, each with panelists from LLDC governments, Investment Promotion Agencies and senior business representatives/investors.
The first roundtable, in the morning, focused on “FDI trends and prospects in LLDCs: opportunities and challenges”. When domestic resources, in terms of finance, technology or human capital, are limited, FDI can make a difference through transfers of technology and business processes, knowledge of export markets and non-debt creating transfers of capital. FDI can also play a key role in providing the physical infrastructure that underpins economic activities, freeing scarce government resources for investment in social development. Many LLDCs have liberalized domestic economic policies with a view to attracting a larger share of global FDI flows. The lead presentation for this roundtable was made by Mr. James Zhan, Officer-in-Charge, Division on Investment and Enterprise of UNCTAD. The moderator was Mr. Habib Ouane, Director of the Division for Africa, Least Developed Countries and Special Programmes, UNCTAD.
The second roundtable, in the afternoon, focused on “Best-practices in the formulation and implementation of investment policies in LLDCs”. Foreign direct investors take investment decisions on the basis of a broad array of factors that make up the investment climate. Government policies in FDI-receiving countries, in particular the regulatory environment, are key among location-specific factors that influence investment decisions. Mr. John S. Wilson, Lead Economist, International Trade, Development Research Group of the World Bank, made the lead presentation. Ms. Eva Molnar, Director of the Transport Division of the Economic Commission for Europe, acted as moderator.
During the closing session, the two moderators of the Forum put forward recommendations on the way forward (contained in the Report of the Investment Forum).