When the Covid-19 pandemic caused national lockdowns in 2020, ultimately leading to a major slump in global foreign direct investment (FDI), the case for investor retention came to the fore.
In April 2020, the World Bank advised that investment promotion agencies (IPAs) “should prioritise retention services not only for investors to survive the crisis, but also to recover quickly”.
It was in this light that Carolina Arriagada Peters, David Coble, Toby X Li and Brendan Lewis decided to rewrite their guide to post-investment services, Investment Aftercare Explained: A guide for FDI practitioners and policymakers on how to grow and retain investors. The book had already been well underway, but the pandemic, alongside the fresh attention given to investor retention, necessitated a reframing of the argument.
The result is a book that aims to fill the gaps in our understanding of what happens after the initial phase when an investor sets up shop in a particular location. Formed of interviews with policy-makers, executives and consultants, the book pieces together a comprehensive overview of why aftercare is important for economic development and how policy-makers can implement better aftercare strategies.
Split into “the why”, “the what” and “the how”, it reads as part textbook and part academic paper, complete with bullet points, diagrams and footnotes. The often-sidelined counterpart to investor attraction is thus given a thorough treatment.
It is peppered with examples and case studies throughout, from Mass BizWorks (an initiative from the US state of Massachusetts to help businesses at different parts of the economic life cycle) to the Edo state in Nigeria (which advocates for harmonious engagement between businesses and the local community).
One part of the initial idea for Investment Aftercare Explained came from Ms Arriagada Peters’s experience working as an FDI practitioner, when she noticed that public money was skewed towards investment attraction, leaving post-investment services by the wayside.
Following a brief hiatus of interest in investor retention during the global financial crisis — another shock that briefly dragged investor retention into the limelight — Ms Arriagada Peters discovered that there were very few publications that had covered the topic, identifying a “clear knowledge gap in the FDI value chain”.
In an interview with fDi, Ms Arriagada Peters likened the concerted attention on investment attraction with the global expansion of the 2000s, which, she says, needs to move in step with the challenges the world currently faces.
“Now we’re in the 2020s, we need to think of global challenges and the industry needs to [take] a more holistic approach, where we speak about the lifecycle of an investment that needs to match the business life cycle, which needs to match the economic lifecycle,” she said.
Investment Aftercare Explained places aftercare next to three other ‘pillars’ of post-investment: investment climate, ecosystem and place. It advocates for how under the right ecosystem and place, IPAs can work with industry sectors and start-ups to generate real growth and community prosperity.
For the general reader with an interest in FDI, the detail and jargon may well prove a testing read. For the FDI practitioner, it provides a strong case for paying more attention to aftercare and offers tangible examples to draw from. Overall, it is a timely, detailed piece of work, which I’m sure will provide much food for thought. And with any luck, aftercare will cease to be an “afterthought”.
This article was first published in the December 2021/January 2022 edition of fDi Intelligence magazine. Read the online edition here.