HomeIndustry SectorsBusiness and marketsGlobal FDI hit $1.39tn in 2019, growth expected for 2020

Global FDI hit $1.39tn in 2019, growth expected for 2020

Global foreign direct investment (FDI) totalled $1.39 trillion in 2019, and are expected to rise moderately in 2020, according to a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Investment Trends Monitor published on 20 January.

The 2019 figure is reportedly marginally less than a revised $1.41 trillion for 2018.

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UNCTAD highlighted in a statement that it expects FDI flows to rise marginally in 2020 on the back of further modest growth of the world economy. Corporate profits are expected to remain high as signs of waning trade tensions emerge.

However, expectations are tempered high geopolitical risks, concerns about a further shift towards protectionist policies and the 22% decrease of announced greenfield projects – an indicator of future trends.

The US remained the largest recipient of FDI, attracting $251 billion in inflows, followed by China with flows of $140 billion and Singapore with $110 billion.

FDI flows to North America remained flat at $298 billion.

But flows to developed economies as a group decreased by 6% to an estimated $643 billion – just half of the peak amount recorded in 2007.

“The trend for developed economies was conditioned by FDI dynamics in the European Union,” the monitor says, “where inflows declined by 15% to an estimated $305 billion.”

UNCTAD found that flows to developing economies remained unchanged in 2019 at an estimated $695 billion, meaning that these countries continued to absorb more than half of global FDI.

Analysis of the different developing regions showed the highest growth for Latin America and the Caribbean, at 16%.

Africa continued to register a modest 3% rise while flows to developing Asia fell by 6%.

FDI inflows: global and by a group of economies, 2008–2019*
(Billions of US dollars)

FDI inflows - global

Source: UNCTAD (* Preliminary estimates)

After two years of low inflows, countries with economies in transition saw FDI rebound in 2019 to an estimated $57 billion. The 65% pick-up was driven partly by expectations for higher economic growth in the region in 2020 and more stable prices for natural resources.

The UNCTAD monitor also highlights other FDI trends:

  • FDI in the United Kingdom down 6% as Brexit unfolds.
  • Hong Kong, China divestments cause a 48% FDI decline among turbulence.
  • Singapore up 42% in a buoyant region of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
  • Zero-growth of flows to both the United States and China.
  • Inflows to the Russian Federation more than doubled to $33 billion.
  • Brazil up 26% at the start of a privatisation programme.
  • German inflows triple as multinational enterprises extend loans to foreign affiliates in a year of slow growth.
  • Cross-border mergers and acquisitions decreased by 40% in 2019 to $490 billion – the lowest level since 2014. The fall was deepest in the services sector (-56% to $207 billion).

FDI inflows: top 10 host economies, 2018 and 2019*
(Billions of US dollars)

FDI inflows - top 10

Source: UNCTAD (* Preliminary estimates)

Ashley Theron
Ashley Theron-Ord is based in Cape Town, South Africa at Clarion Events-Africa. She is the Senior Content Producer across media brands including ESI Africa, Smart Energy International, Power Engineering International and Mining Review Africa.