U.N.: Investing in Poor Countries Should Not Be Considered “Charity”

United Nations conference aims to develop ways to assist “least developed countries,” many of which are in Africa.

Posted: 05/12/2011 04:45 PM EDT
Filed Under Africa

Investing in poor countries shouldn’t be seen as “charity” but rather a profitable economic opportunity for everyone involved, a United Nations official said recently at a conference.


“Investing in LDCs can provide the stimulus that can help to propel and sustain global economic recovery,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said during a conference in Turkey on ways to help the 48 “least developed countries” (LDCs).


Investments in LDCs yield much higher profits than investments in developed or other developing nations, according to a U.N. report, which could be one of the reasons foreign investments in the poor countries have skyrocketed by almost $24 billion in the last decade. In particular West Africa’s Benin, an LDC open to foreign investments, received 63 million dollars in foreign direct investment in 2006 (the latest numbers available). Investors have bought textile, cigarette, cement, and brewing companies in the nation, according to the State Department.


Companies often choose to invest in the manufacturing sector, but opportunities in the tourism, agriculture, infrastructure and logistics areas exist as well.


In addition, many LDCs have pushed tax incentives, usually “aimed at manufacturing, agriculture and tourism with a priority being given to poorer areas,” the report states.


During the conference, Ki-Moon also stressed the importance of nations keeping their aid pledges to LDCs, pointing out that since the last such conference in 2001, not country that pledged financial aid kept their promise.


Out of the 48 countries, 33 are in Africa, 14 are in Asia and one—Haiti—is in the Caribbean.


African nations on the list include: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia.


The list excludes larger countries (the population must be less than 75 million) and the nations on the list all have a per capita income of less than $905.


Up to 8,000 delegates from the 48 LDC nations—most of which are in Africa—are attending the conference in Istanbul that kicked off Monday. Attendees also include aid organizations and business and academic executives. Turkey is paying for up to 11 delegates from each of the poor nations, the Associated Press reports.