In many ways, 2022 has been a year the world will never forget. Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has sent shockwaves through a global economy already struggling to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
An energy crisis, rising interest rates and zero-Covid policies in China have reshaped investment decisions around the globe. With so many factors at play, the fDi team strived to find compelling, innovative ways to illustrate the latest developments and, ultimately, help readers navigate a world economy in flux.
Here are our ten favourite data visualisations from 2022:
Global energy markets went on a rollercoaster ride in 2022. The above chart shows how this was most notable in Europe, where Russia’s weaponisation of gas supplies sent energy prices spiralling. Due to the price of electricity being set by the most expensive operating plant, electricity prices skyrocketed.
Compared to an average European wholesale electricity price of about €190 per megawatt hour (MWh) on February 1, prices in some countries reached more than €600/MWh by September, including in Austria, France, Hungary and Malta. By November, wholesale electricity prices across 11 European countries were lower than they were at the beginning of 2022.
Debt piles became unsustainable in 2022 amid rising inflation and tightening financial conditions. Unctad has warned that a growing number of developing countries are at “severe risk” of defaulting on their external debt.
The above chart shows the IMF’s biggest debtors at the beginning of September. Billions of dollars are owed to the lender of last resort by countries across the globe. Argentina is the biggest debtor with a total outstanding debt of $42.2bn, followed by Egypt ($17.6bn), Ukraine ($9.37bn) and Pakistan ($7.85bn).
Even booming industries have felt the pinch in 2022. After years of technology companies fuelled by cheap money, the boom times have come to an end.
The above chart exemplifies this. A worsening macroeconomic environment has led to a fall of venture capital (VC) investment and forced many tech companies to reverse course on their growth plans. This has permeated the industry, from start-ups to household established companies, including Facebook's parent company Meta and Amazon.
Higher commodity prices and supply constraints after Russia’s war in Ukraine changed the calculus for many energy producers. Much to the dismay of environmentalists, the above chart shows how this has fomented the return of investment into fossil fuels.
Between January and August 2022, foreign investors announced 15 greenfield oil and gas extraction projects worth $42bn, which is already equivalent to the total capital expenditure in the previous four full-year periods combined.
Capital flows to fossil fuels has not come at the expense of renewables investment, which is on track to have another record year in 2022. As part of fDi’s joint Switch Report with the Enel Foundation, wind investment has been firmly blown to Europe.
In 2020 and 2021, Europe was both the largest source and destination for foreign direct investment (FDI) into wind energy projects. Some $55.5bn of capital was pledged by Western European wind developers globally, with $32.7bn deployed to projects in their home region.
The energy transition is still keeping pace in other areas. The above chart produced in January 2022 shows how investment has poured into gigafactories for electric vehicle (EV) batteries across the US.
Throughout 2022, billions more of investment has flown into US-based facilities across the EV supply chain. This is particularly since Washington set aside $369bn of incentives for the green transition under the Inflation Reduction Act, which has been heavily criticised by policymakers in the EU and Japan.
Innovation remained at the heart of multinational plans in 2022. As the above chart shows, fDi researched the biggest spenders on research and development (R&D) in 2021, adding to a similar R&D analysis for 2020.
While these innovative firms are highly coveted by economic developers, research from the LSE suggests that most of the impact from foreign R&D investment does not come from these biggest innovators.
China is one of the most consequential stories of 2022. Foreign investors became cautious about their plans in Asia’s largest economy, in part due to Beijing’s zero-Covid policies and changing engagement with the outside world.
The above chart shows how greenfield FDI data encapsulates this sentiment. In the first half of 2022, announced FDI in China fell to a record low, standing at about half the level of investment recorded in the same period of 2021 and 2020.
This change in FDI is also a sign of China’s economy maturing. The above chart shows how waning greenfield investment in China has coincided with more outbound investments since president Xi Jinping launched the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013.
In 2012, the level of inbound FDI into China was four times higher than the level of outbound FDI from China. Fast-forward to 2021, the balance is now tilted in favour of outbound FDI, which accounts for 53.4% of the country’s total foreign FDI flows.
Finally, India was among the winning countries in 2022 due to diversification away from China. Between January and October, India attracted 225 FDI projects in R&D activities, as many projects as the US, UK and China combined.
Concerns about academic collaboration and intellectual property in China are being played out in these international R&D activities. The rise in India has come at the expense of other destination countries. Between January and October, US-based companies announced just 17 R&D projects in China, compared with a whopping 153 such projects in India.