The interdependence of our globalised world has been brought into sharp focus in 2020. Covid-19 has laid bare the fragility of widely distributed production and supply chains, and accelerated long-running trends across industries.

The reshaping of pre-pandemic ways of life — in economic, political and societal terms — has already begun, and will be here to stay for years to come.

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As the world reaches a fundamental turning point, fDi has come to its own momentous juncture. In 2021, the magazine celebrates its 20-year anniversary. It comes at a time where the need for insights, information and leadership could not be greater. 

The context is well known: global investment has dropped sharply since the pandemic began. Unctad estimates headline FDI to fall by up to 40% this year, and another 5–10% next year. Our own data on greenfield investment suggest global investment activity is down by about 34% this year.

What comes next is more uncertain. As the pandemic struck, exposing the frailty of global value chains (GVCs) and the world’s dependence on China, everyone seemed to agree that GVCs had to be restructured, made more resilient around shorter regional platforms. Except for things like personal protective equipment and a few companies shifting production out of China, we have seen little sign of this adjustment yet as multinational companies remain largely in a ‘wait-and-see’ mode.

At the same time, millions of professionals, mostly in the services sector, continue to work from home. Will new, decentralised forms of working last once the pandemic is reigned in? The salary for millions of other workers — 9.6 million in the UK alone — is currently being paid by the state as their employers — concentrated in sectors like hospitality, tourism, retail and manufacturing — have been facing a doom, near zero-revenue scenario for months. Will they still have a job once the state pulls the plug? And will the energy transition really materialise, as governments across the globe seem committed to mobilising billions of public money to spark a sustainable economic recovery? 

The world needs answers as it moves beyond 2020, and looking for them will be fDi’s defining mission in its upcoming anniversary year. 

Beyond20 will articulate that mission by providing a platform for thought leaders and company executives to share their vision on the future the industries they work in, along with high-quality data-driven analysis based on our proprietary data. 

Martin Wolf, chief economic commentator at the Financial Times and a world leader in economic analysis, inaugurates Beyond20 by sharing his view on the future of globalisation. 

MIT’s visionary architect Carlo Ratti also weighs in on the future of cities, while IWG’s chief executive, Mark Dixon, discusses the future of work; the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s freshly appointed president, Odile Renaud-Basso, discusses the future of development finance; Mainstream Renewable Power’s Mary Quaney sets out the future of renewable energy; Selina’s Rafael Museri outlines the future of tourism; and James Zhan predicts the future of global investment and investment promotion. 

But before looking too far ahead, fDi’s anniversary year is also a chance to reflect on some of the major, systemic shifts in cross-border investment that have defined the global economy’s recent past. fDi’s publisher, Angus Cushley, shares the journey that led him to found the magazine 20 years ago, while global markets editor, Alex Irwin-Hunt, takes a look at the history of global investment over the past 20 years.

This article first appeared in the December/January print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here