Members of civil society organisations from the region have called for Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) that truly create the badly needed jobs and meaningfully contribute to development.
The call was made in Kigali yesterday as regional government officials responsible for investment promotion convened for a workshop meant to equip them with knowledge on historical perspectives of investment policy, among others, and how they shape current investment policy dynamics.
The three-day meeting is organised by the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI)-Uganda, and Governance for Africa (GFA)-Rwanda, a non-profit with a continental mandate on aspects such as regional integration.
“We will have a conversation around how to make investments work for the people. In the region, there is always talk about investments yet there are no concrete or decent jobs on the ground,” said Jane Nalunga, the country director of SEATINI-Uganda.
“We need to understand how to make investments work for our people. And in order to do what we have to do, we need to understand dynamics at regional and national level.”
Officials acknowledge that investments, especially FDIs, are important for skills development and technology transfer, and play a key role in growing new sectors that require large capital investments but voiced concerns.
Fred Karemera, the investment promotion manager at Rwanda Development Board, said he was looking forward to sharing experiences with counterparts from the region.
According to Karemera, much is being done in terms of investment promotion but “one wonders why our results are not showing.”
Among others, Karemera told the meeting, before promoting FDIs, “you should take a good look at how you promote domestic investment.”
“We are looking at how we best make Rwandans play a role in in their country’s development. Then we can, later, look at FDI.”
Globally, a proposal to include investment within the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement has been under discussion.
Accordingly, at bilateral and regional levels, investment provisions are being included in trade agreements. These agreements and other investment policy reforms are used to attract FDIs.
On day one of the workshop, discussions put emphasis on provisions that guarantee, among others, investment liberalisation, investor and investment protection, and investment incentives such as tax holidays or exemptions.
While these reforms resulted into greater FDI inflow, it was noted, the region’s level of development has remained undersized.
The World Investment Report 2017 reported that EAC received about $7 billion in FDI in 2016, a figure that is projected to rise in years to come.