Foreign Direct Investment in Africa: Policies Also Matter

21 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2016

See all articles by Jacques P. Morisset

Jacques P. Morisset

World Bank - Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS)

Date Written: November 1999


A few Sub-Saharan countries, by improving their business environment, have begun to attract more substantial foreign direct investment than other African countries with bigger domestic markets and greater natural resources. Like Ireland and Singapore, perhaps they can become competitive internationally and attract sustainable foreign direct investment.

Africa has not succeeded in attracting much foreign direct investment in the past few decades. When countries did attract multinational companies, it was principally because of their (abundant) natural resources and the size of their domestic market. Angola, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, and South Africa have traditionally been the main recipients of foreign direct investment in Sub-Saharan Africa.

But Morisset shows that a few Sub-Saharan countries have generated interest among international investors by improving their business environment. In the 1990s, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, and Senegal attracted substantial foreign direct investment - more so than countries with bigger domestic markets (Cameroon, Republic of Congo, and Kenya) and greater natural resources (Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe).

Mali and Mozambique, which improved their business climate spectacularly in the 1990s, did so with a few strategic actions: liberalizing trade, launching an attractive privatization program, modernizing mining and investment codes, adopting international agreements on foreign direct investment, developing a few priority projects that had multiplier effects on other investment projects, and mounting an image-building effort in which political figures such as the nation's president participated.

These actions are similar to those associated with the success of other small countries with limited natural resources, such as Ireland and Singapore about 20 years ago.

This paper - a product of the Foreign Investment Advisory Service, International Finance Corporation - is part of a larger effort to understand foreign direct investment flows in developing countries. The author may be contacted at

Suggested Citation

Morisset, Jacques P., Foreign Direct Investment in Africa: Policies Also Matter (November 1999). Available at SSRN:

Jacques P. Morisset (Contact Author)

World Bank - Foreign Investment Advisory Service (FIAS) ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States
202-473-0127 (Phone)
202-522-3262 (Fax)

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