Business leaders from all over the globe are discussing ways to keep Europe competitive at the World Investment Conference at La Baule in France. Amid an economic downturn, rising inflation, and rocketing oil and food prices, they’re discussing whether Europe can remain the number one destination for foreign direct investment.
Last year, European business secured 40 per cent of that money. But that might change. WIC’s founder Pierre Guénant said: “What we’re concentrating on through the theme ‘Brainpower, Key Factor in Attractiveness’, is the capacity of Europeans, not only to innovate in all areas, but also to ensure that these inventions become an economic reality… become industrial products.”
Investors have long been attracted by Europe’s political and legal stability. But one Egyptian telecoms billionaire thinks non-European investors still face obstacles, especially in France. Naguib Sawiris, the head of Orascom said: “There is still a lot of anxiety about foreign investments. Everything is ‘strategic’. Whatever you want to invest in is ‘strategic’. So they (Europeans) don’t want foreigners coming in and owning French companies. They don’t understand that the world today is global, and if you don’t move, you will be isolated. And if you are isolated, you are not going to be competitive, and you are going to lose jobs.”
Sawiris believes Europeans should open up, and focus more on the Mediterranean and the Middle East nurturing relationships which promise to become economically mutually beneficial. But for that, he says, Europe needs to remove hurdles ingrained in corporate and legal culture to ensure the future is bright.