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fragile and conflict affected states

Reflections on Investment Prospects for Countries Facing Fragility and Conflict

Kyoo-Won Oh's picture

Facilitating investments into Fragile and Conflict-Affected States (FCS) is one of the most important strategic pillars in MIGA’s Strategy. In an effort to further expand MIGA’s support in FCS countries, I recently visited Burundi, South Sudan, and Afghanistan and met with investors, government agencies, and donors. Although the investment climate varies in these FCS countries, I observed the following four common threads during my visit.

First, despite the deteriorating security situations, there are still investors seeking business opportunities in FCS countries, as long as the expected return on investment is sufficiently high to cover a required level of return plus risk premium.[1] When it comes to the investors actively operating in FCS countries, their concerns appeared to be more focused on unexpected and arbitrary changes in government policies against their investments, rather than the security issue itself. Most aspects of the government-related procedures are risks beyond the control of investors, for example, renewal of licenses and permits, taxation, and various contracts signed with the government. Investors usually go through several political cycles during their investment horizon. An approval from the current government does not guarantee the same approval would be obtained from the succeeding government. A foreign investor I met in Afghanistan cemented this notion by telling me that “when we made a decision to invest in Afghanistan, we were already well-aware of the security issue in the country. For us, the security was a foreseeable risk that could be mitigated to some extent, if not entirely avoidable. We can take care of security risks as well as commercial risks; but what concerned us the most was the risks related to uncertainties in the government’s regulation and policy.”
 

Juba, South Sudan
Juba, South Sudan

Are Rates of Return in Places that are Fragile and Affected by Conflict Really Higher?

Paul Barbour's picture

Supporting populations in fragile and conflict-affected situations (FCS) is a key priority for the World Bank Group.  The Group’s President, Jim Yong Kim, has repeatedly stressed the importance of finding ways to bring sustainable peace and development to these difficult contexts. According to the World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development, more than 1.5 billion people in today’s world live in FCS, or in countries with high levels of criminal violence.

Apart from the very human cost of fragility, it colors foreign investors’ perceptions of risk, especially political risk, affecting private sector activity. This begets a vicious cycle, where economies worsen, increasing fragility. The importance of political risk, including political violence, in the perceptions of investors is well documented, including in the annual MIGA-EIU surveys presented in MIGA’s World Investment and Political Risk report. In particular, MIGA’s 2011 report focused specifically on investing into FCS, and the survey results demonstrate that political violence remains a very serious factor inhibiting investment.

Aside from capital, foreign direct investment (FDI) can bring essential knowledge and technology across borders. These benefits are often what make FDI so sought-after by policy makers. But investors have to consider the return on their investment relative to the risks they are taking, especially political risks such as expropriation, currency convertibility and transfer restrictions, breach of contract by the sovereign, and war and civil disturbance.