South Africa was the largest "developing country" foreign direct investor (FDI) in Africa between 2006 and 2008, with South African companies having invested an average of $2,61-billion a year over the period, which was even higher than FDI flows from China, whose companies invested an average of $2,53-billion a year on the continent during the same period.
Confirmation of South Africa's growing role as an investor in Africa was provided in the twentieth edition of the 'World Investment Report' (WIR), which was released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) on Thursday evening.
Speaking at the South African launch of the publication in Sandton, University of Johannesburg development economics professor Stephen Gelb, whose Edge Institute contributed to the compilation of the WIR 2010, said that South Africa companies participated in 2 250 Africa projects in 2009.
The share of Africa host countries in the outward stock of South African FDI had increased from less than 5% before 2000 to 22% in 2008. In fact, South African FDI stock on the continent had climbed to $10,8-billion by 2008, covering sectors such as telecommunications, construction and infrastructure, financial services, retail, hospitality and tourism and mining.
Further, South African FDI, along with flows from transnational corporations (TNCs) in other developing countries, such as China and India, had proved less volatile during the recent economic crisis than had been the case with flows from developed economy TNCs, which slumped markedly.
That said, the total stock of developing-country assets in Africa was still only 7,4% of overall FDI stock, with developed country TNCs accounting for the 91,6% balance. In fact, Africa still only accounted for 4% of China's outward FDI, and 9% of India's outward flows, in 2009.
The Unctad report also showed that Africa was relatively resilient, but not immune, to the fall-off on FDI flows during 2009.
Global FDI inflows slumped by 37% to $1,1-trillion in 2009 - in 2008, global inflows fell 16% from the record of around $2,1-trillion achieved in 2007.
The Industrial Development Corporation's research and information head Jorge Maia, who also briefed journalists on the report on Thursday, reported that inflows into Africa, which climbed in 2008, fell 19% to $59-billion in 2009, officially ending what have been seven consecutive years of expanding FDI flows into the continent.
South African FDI inflows also slumped to around $5,7-billion in 2009, from around $9-billion in 2008. This made South Africa, Africa's fourth-largest FDI recipient after Angola ($13-billion), Egypt ($6,7-billion) and Nigeria ($5,85-billion).
As with global FDI flows, Africa was expected to show a recovery in 2010.
The WIR argues that global flows should exceed $1,2-trillion this year, rising to between $1,3-trillion and $1,5-trillion in 2011, and to between $1,6-trillion and $2-trillion in 2012.
South Africa is also expected to record a recovery during 2010, having been ranked in the WIR's top 20 "priority economies" for global FDI for the first time, coming in at 19. China leads that list, followed by India, Brazil and the US.