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UN APAC Innovation Forum: Insights on Digital FDI and Strategic Collaboration

The United Nations ESCAP Innovation Forum, hosted in Xiamen, China welcomed leaders of regional Investment Promotion Agencies (IPAs), Ministries, and key private sector thought leaders, sharing experiences and strategies in attracting Digital Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).


Panel discussions included; National Strategies for Digital Development and the Role of FDI | Incorporating AI into Investment Promotion | Promoting Digital Business | Attracting Investment to Encourage Digital Adoption | Attracting Investment to Build Digital Infrastructure.


Industry Insights and Challenges: Leading companies with a strong digital presence, including Grab, Sino Group, Axiata, Citic Group, Dorae, and XTransfer, as well as experts from fDi Intelligence, Investment Monitor, KW Group, and FDI Center, took the stage to illuminate the challenges they encounter when expanding within the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. These challenges spanned from navigating complex regulatory landscapes to overcoming logistical hurdles and addressing market-entry intricacies. The forum served as a vital platform for these industry leaders to articulate their concerns and engage in constructive dialogues with government representatives, fostering collaborative efforts to tackle these challenges and create an enabling environment for digital investment and innovation.


AI in Investment Promotion: A key topic at the forum was the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in investment promotion efforts. The panel discussions on identifying AI approaches and tools appropriate for different IPAs and their respective developmental levels offered insights into global IPA AI adoption and best practices. An important takeaway was the need to view AI as a complementary tool, enhancing the efficiency of investment promotion rather than replacing the human workforce. Concrete examples were shared by Invest Estonia, illustrating how AI has significantly increased investment leads resulting in an increase in employees within the IPA, highlighting its positive impact on investment promotion efforts.


Public-Private Collaboration for Digitalization and FDI: Throughout the discussions, it was evident that public-private collaboration is paramount in driving digitalization and attracting FDI in the Asia-Pacific region. Industry and government representatives recognized that joining forces is essential to create an ecosystem conducive to digital investment and innovation, particularly in areas around new technology adoption and closer collaboration around regulatory and policy development.


Event Host and Collaborators: The United Nations APAC Digital FDI Forum, hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in collaboration with the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA), took place on the sidelines of the China International Fair for Investment and Trade (CIFIT) in Xiamen, China. This significant event was made possible through collaboration with CIPA, the Investment Promotion Agency of the Ministry of Commerce, China (MOFCOM). Additionally, the World Economic Forum played a pivotal role in facilitating private sector participation, emphasizing the importance of a multi-stakeholder approach in promoting digital investment and innovation.


Summary: In summary, the forum provided a much-needed platform for IPAs, government representatives, and industry leaders to share insights, address challenges, and explore opportunities in the context of digital FDI. It underscored the critical requirement for public-private collaboration to drive digitalization and FDI in the Asia-Pacific region. The forum emphasized the integration of digital investment strategies into national development plans, the importance of AI as a strategic enabler, and the collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors to promote digital strategy and economic growth. We look forward to further supporting the Asia Pacific's Investment Promotion Communities to enhance economic development through digital and innovation-led FDI - watch this space!


Andrew Keable, Managing Partner, KW Group Asia: Economic Development, Trade, Investment & Market Access & Senior Advisor Asia Pacific, WAIPA








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