Over the last two fiscal years (2011-2012), Wallonia managed to withstand the financial crisis, both with regard to its exports and foreign investment. However, an economic downturn was perceptible toward the end of 2012. In a gloomy international context, 2013 looked like it was going to be a difficult year for attracting foreign investment. That was until an unexpected turnaround in the second half of the year reversed the situation. After a rather slow beginning, foreign investment in Wallonia saw a dramatic upswing starting in June, bringing the yearly average up into line with figures from previous years by the end of 2013.
When all was said and done, 2013 closed with the materialisation of 78 investment projects in Wallonia from groups with foreign capital (establishment and expansion of cumulative activities), totalling 862 million euros (up 11% over 2012) injected into the regional economy. The direct jobs generated by these investments is numbered at 1,531 (down 10% compared to the figures achieved in 2012). With an average of 20 direct jobs per project completed, the year 2013 still remained in line with the results from previous years.
It is important to note that these figures are the cumulative results of the work done by AWEX and the projects handled by Walloon public “Economics” agencies, including the Directorate General for the Economy and Research (DGO6) and all of the inter-district councils for economic development.
These results are reassuring with regard to Wallonia’s ability to withstand the economic crisis and attract or consolidate foreign investment.
Expansion vs. creation
Of the 78 projects implemented, 43 of them, totalling 686 [million] euros in investments, were for expansions of business activities by companies with foreign capital that were already established in Wallonia. Thirty-five of the projects, representing an invested sum of 176 [million] euros, were for new establishments, which, with the creation of 783 direct jobs, accounted for nearly half of the direct employment reported in 2013.
Sources of the Investments Made in 2013
The largest portion of the foreign investments made in Wallonia in 2013 came, like in prior years, from European countries. North America was the next largest contributor, followed by Asia.
Accounting for nearly 58% of the invested capital, the European portion is a testament to the harshness and amplitude of the crisis for our economies, which prefer to develop in bordering countries. Representing 40% of the foreign funds injected into the Walloon economy, investments originating from North America continue to support the results for the year, despite the uncertainties that persist among investors on the other side of the Atlantic about the long-term viability of the euro zone. In spite of significant efforts made by the Agency to attract Asian investors, in 2013 these investments were limited to 2.5% of the total amount.
As for new jobs, while Europe (1,282 jobs or 84% of the total) is in the top position thanks to significant investments from our Dutch-speaking neighbours (accounting for nearly half of these jobs), North American (11%) and Asian (5.5%) projects were the second and third largest contributors of the direct jobs reported.
Growing sectors in 2013
The sectors that attracted the most investment in Wallonia in 2013 were new information and communication technologies (NICTs) (305 million euros), the food processing industry (150 million euros) and logistics (122 million euros), followed by an almost equal showing by the construction sector (91 million euros) and mechanical engineering (65 million euros). Life sciences and general chemistry (with 41 and 23 million euros invested, respectively) finish off the list of the top sectors.
Regarding the direct jobs created by these investments, the logistics, mechanical engineering and food processing sectors were the top three job creators (accounting for 72% of the total direct jobs reported). They were followed by the life sciences sector, NICTs and the service sector, which represent a total of 18% of the direct jobs created. This year, the energy/environment, aeronautic and tourism sectors bring up the rear.