Foreign direct investment

Foreign direct investment inflows as per cent of gross domestic product, 2019

Trends and global patterns

Global FDI flows rose modestly in 2019, following sizable declines registered in 2017 and 2018. At US$1.54 trillion, inflows were 3 per cent higher than in 2018, but remained below their level of 2017.

In 2019, seven of the top 20 host economies were developing economies. The largest recipient of FDI was the United States of America, followed by China and Singapore. The world’s largest foreign direct investors were Japan, the United States of America and the Netherlands.

Many economies of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus region, Latin America and the Caribbean, Western, Middle and Eastern Africa, South-Eastern Asia and Oceania recorded FDI inflows exceeding 2 per cent of their GDP. Rates below 1 per cent were mainly found in Eastern Asia and in oil-exporting economies in Southern America, Africa and Western Asia.

Figure 1World foreign direct investment inflows (Billions of United States dollars)

Note: Excluding financial centres in the Caribbean (see the note to table 1 below).

Inflows and outflows by group of economies

In 2019, FDI inflows to developing economies amounted to US$685 billion, almost twice their FDI outflows (US$373 billion). Sixty-nine per cent of these inflows and 87 per cent of the outflows were attributed to developing economies in Asia and Oceania. Developing economies in America and Africa attracted less FDI and played only a marginal role as foreign direct investors. Developed economies generated slightly more FDI than they received. Transition economies were net FDI recipients.

Figure 2Foreign direct investment inflows and outflows, 2019 (Billions of United States dollars)

Note: Excluding financial centres in the Caribbean (see note, table 1 below).

Origins and destinations of foreign direct investment

Outward FDI flows from developed economies rose significantly from the previous year, from US$534 billion to US$917 billion in 2019. This increase was mainly due to a resurgence of outflows from Northern America. After a year with slightly negative FDI from that region in 2018, in 2019 Northern American outwards FDI reached 15 per cent of global FDI. The developed economies in Asia and Oceania had a comparable share (18 per cent). The share of developed economies in Europe was double (36 per cent).

On the recipient side, Asia and Oceania remained the main host region of FDI in the developing world, attracting 31 per cent of world FDI. American and African developing economies received, respectively, 11 and 3 per cent.1

1
For further analyses on that topic, see UNCTAD (2020c).
Figure 3Selected foreign direct investment flows (Percentage of world total)

Note: Excluding financial centres in the Caribbean (see note, table 1 below).

Summary tables

Table 1

Foreign direct investment flows by group of economies

Group of economies

Inflows

Outflows

Value

Ratio to GDP

Value

Ratio to GDP

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

2018

2019

2018

2019

2018

2019

2018

2019

Worlda

1 495

1 540

1.7

1.8

986

1 314

1.2

1.5

Developing economies

699

685

2.1

1.9

415

373

1.2

1.1

Developing economies: Africa

51

45

2.2

1.8

8

5

0.4

0.2

Developing economies: America

149

164

2.8

3.0

0

42

0.0

0.8

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

500

475

1.9

1.7

406

326

1.6

1.2

Transition economies

35

55

1.5

2.3

38

24

1.6

1.0

Developed economies

761

800

1.5

1.6

534

917

1.1

1.8

Selected groups

Developing economies excluding China

561

543

2.8

2.6

272

256

1.4

1.3

Developing economies excluding LDCs

677

664

2.1

1.9

414

374

1.3

1.1

LDCs

22

21

2.1

1.9

1

-1

0.1

-0.1

LLDCs

22

22

2.7

2.4

1

0

0.2

0.1

SIDS (UNCTAD)

2

3

2.5

3.5

0

1

0.2

1.1

HIPCs (IMF)

27

25

3.9

3.5

1

2

0.2

0.4

BRICS

259

300

1.3

1.4

178

170

0.9

0.8

G20

1 146

1 180

1.5

1.6

714

1 126

1.0

1.5

Note: Excluding financial centres in the Caribbean, namely: Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, the Bahamas, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sint Maarten and Turks and Caicos Islands.

a
At world level, recorded FDI inflows may not equal recorded FDI outflows, due to imperfect geographic coverage and cross-country differences in compilation methods.
Find the data on UNCTADstat
Table 2

Foreign direct investment stock by group of economies

Group of economies

Inward stock

Outward stock

Value

Ratio to GDP

Value

Ratio to GDP

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

2018

2019

2018

2019

2018

2019

2018

2019

Worlda

32 944

36 470

38.5

41.8

31 508

34 571

37.1

39.8

Developing economies

10 634

11 312

31.4

32.3

7 533

7 900

22.7

22.8

Developing economies: Africa

895

954

38.0

37.7

321

285

15.2

12.5

Developing economies: America

2 028

2 263

38.1

41.9

646

763

12.7

14.8

Developing economies: Asia and Oceania

7 711

8 095

29.5

29.8

6 565

6 851

25.2

25.2

Transition economies

799

873

34.2

36.1

405

448

17.7

18.9

Developed economies

21 512

24 286

43.6

48.7

23 569

26 223

47.8

52.6

Selected groups

Developing economies excluding China

9 006

9 542

44.5

45.8

5 551

5 801

28.3

28.4

Developing economies excluding LDCs

10 280

10 935

31.4

32.2

7 509

7 876

23.1

23.2

LDCs

354

376

33.1

33.8

24

24

3.3

3.2

LLDCs

392

407

49.1

45.8

48

50

8.1

7.6

SIDS (UNCTAD)

48

51

62.2

65.0

3

4

4.4

5.4

HIPCs (IMF)

326

355

47.0

49.1

21

24

4.0

4.4

BRICS

3 130

3 452

15.4

16.3

2 950

3 097

14.5

14.6

G20

24 336

27 531

32.9

36.6

25 520

28 406

34.5

37.7

Note: Excluding financial centres in the Caribbean (see note, table 1 above).

a
At world level, recorded FDI inflows may not equal recorded FDI outflows, due to imperfect geographic coverage and cross-country differences in compilation methods.
Find the data on UNCTADstat
Table 3

Foreign direct investment inflows, top 20 host economies, 2019

Economy
(Ranked by inflow value)

Inflows

Inward stock

Value

Ratio to GDP

Ratio to GDP

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Percentage)

United States of America

246

1.1

43.9

China

141

1.0

12.4

Singapore

92

25.5

469.3

Netherlands

84

9.3

193.3

Ireland

78

20.2

289.9

Brazil

72

4.0

35.3

China, Hong Kong SAR

68

18.5

506.5

United Kingdom

59

2.1

73.6

India

51

1.7

14.0

Canada

50

2.9

59.8

Germany

36

1.0

25.0

Australia

36

2.6

51.0

France

34

1.3

32.1

Mexico

33

2.6

49.7

Russian Federation

32

1.9

27.3

Italy

27

1.3

22.3

Cyprus

24

99.0

1 816.5

Indonesia

23

2.1

20.5

Sweden

21

3.9

64.5

Israel

18

4.7

42.7

Note: Excluding financial centres in the Caribbean (see the note to table 1 above).

Find the data on UNCTADstat
Table 4

Foreign direct investment outflows, top 20 home economies, 2019

Economy
(Ranked by outflow value)

Outflows

Outward stock

Value

Ratio to GDP

Ratio to GDP

(Billions of US$)

(Percentage)

(Percentage)

Japan

227

4.5

35.7

United States of America

125

0.6

35.8

Netherlands

125

13.8

283.3

China

117

0.8

14.8

Germany

99

2.6

45.0

Canada

77

4.4

95.3

China, Hong Kong SAR

59

16.1

486.5

France

39

1.4

56.7

Korea, Republic of

36

2.1

26.5

Singapore

33

9.2

305.8

United Kingdom

31

1.1

69.2

Italy

25

1.3

28.0

Spain

24

1.7

43.9

Sweden

23

4.3

75.3

Russian Federation

23

1.3

22.7

Belgium

20

3.7

124.0

Ireland

18

4.7

280.8

Denmark

16

4.6

58.3

United Arab Emirates

16

3.9

37.8

Brazil

16

0.9

12.3

Note: Excluding financial centres in the Caribbean (see the note to table 1 above).

Find the data on UNCTADstat