The session, organised in partnership with the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), gave the representatives of investment promotion agencies from implementing countries a chance to present an overview of their experience with the guides. The online investment guides (i-Guides) have been recognised as helpful tools by investment promotion agencies to attract investors. The event continued with an open discussion driven by the following questions:
How can i-Guides be further improved?
How can i-Guides be aligned with countries’ investment facilitation agendas?
How can international organisations contribute?
The event was launched by a short introductory speech by Ms Isabelle Durant (Deputy Secretary-General, UNCTAD), who stressed that investment guides help countries attract investors, and constant feedback is needed to improve these publications. Furthermore, additional efforts are needed to make sure that as many countries as possible can access the project.
Mr Stephen Karingi (Director, Capacity Development Division, UNECA) presented the current state of play of i-Guides. He explained that the project complements the achievement of regional development and integration goals, as well as meeting sustainable development goals (SDGs) in the region. He defined i-Guides as 'a digital solution promoting investment and helping the eradication of poverty'. They provide reliable and up-to-date information for investors, representing a successful project that will increase to 11 platforms in Africa by the end of 2018.
The session had a brief explanation about the platforms that provide information about laws; different types of businesses; labour issues; production factors such as energy suppliers; transport costs and infrastructure; taxes; dispute settlement; and boxes with 'what investors think', to cite a few. However, it must be noted that this also gives investors all the information they would need without visiting a country.
The session then featured the following countries’ experiences in using and implementing the platform. Madagascar explained that despite the fact that the platform was launched only five months ago, it has reached a considerable degree of success. The representative of Madagascar called it 'a marketing tool of choice', providing efficiency and accessibility; a comprehensive database; and, a unique canvas answering FAQs. The i-Guide is easy to edit and update, allowing improvements to the business climate. Malawi highlighted some of the challenges faced, mainly connected to slow loading of information. The representative of Malawi proposed incorporating the registration processes into the portal, and creating public awareness about the potential of the platform. A further suggestion was proposed by Nigeria, regarding a multilingual feature on the platform, proposing creating sub-national pages in the platform.
Finally, the event announced the future partnership with the Jamaica and Caribbean Association of Investment Promotion Agencies.