This November, I had the opportunity to intern for the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA) and travel to Dubai for the 2017 World Investment Conference. Participation in the two-day conference enriched my internship experience tremendously and elevated my understanding of the intersections between global investment and economic development.
On the first day, attendees to the conference were primarily national or sub-national investment promotion agencies who are members of WAIPA. Discussion centered on best practices for policy and programming to attract new investment to their region. Several presentations by member agencies opened Day 1 and included discussions of global trends in foreign direct investment, branding for Invest in GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland, and streamlining bureaucratic processes by Invest Istanbul. The afternoon was filled with the election of new steering committee representatives and other organization business.
The following day’s agenda included a broader dialogue among experts from the World Bank, several UN agencies, and the private sector. Two key themes emerged in discussions over the course of the conference. The first was sustainable investment: both what it is and how to target it. Across the board, agencies should aim to attract investment which will contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, connect with local suppliers to create far-reaching positive externalities, and choose not to relocate after incentive programs end. The second theme was that in order to succeed in attracting the right kind of investment, agencies will need to identify unconventional sectors and modes of investment and target firms with an expanding variety of incentives. This may require initiatives which guarantee labor with the correct skills, data on local sources for inputs, and a minimum of bureaucratic hurdles depending on the target investment.
Throughout the conference, I found myself involved in a process that contributed to measurable changes in international development and the experience enriched my learning beyond anything before. I would like to express my appreciation for the funding from the Department of Economics which enabled me to attend the WAIPA annual conference.