Regional civil society roots for labour-intensive FDIs

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.
Arnold Kwesiga moderates the workshop. (Photos by Timothy Kisambira)
Arnold Kwesiga moderates the workshop. (Photos by Timothy Kisambira)

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.”

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Amb. Nathan Irumba, a SEATINI activist, sheds light on global investment policy dynamics from a historical perspective at the workshop. 

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.

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Burghard senior policy officer speaks at the workshop. 

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. 

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Panelists (L-R) Cyrus Munyaburanga Nkusi, CEO of Governance for Africa, RDB’s Fred Karemera, and Burghard ilge senior policy officer during a panel discussion.
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Burghard ilge senior policy officer( L) talks to Jane Nalunga, the Country Director of SEATINI-Uganda at the workshop.
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Participants follow proceedings.
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Peter Lunenborg discusses the Trims agreement and why development countries are opposed to Investment in the WTO. 
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Munyaburanga consults from RDB’s Karemera at the workshop. 

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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