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Bolivia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

In general, Bolivia remains open to FDI.  The 2014 investment law guarantees equal treatment for national and foreign firms.  However, it also stipulates that public investment has priority over private investment (both national and foreign) and that the Bolivian Government will determine which sectors require private investment.

U.S. companies interested in investing in Bolivia should note that in 2012 Bolivia abrogated the BIT it signed with the United States and a number of other countries.  The Bolivian Government of former President Evo Morales claimed the abrogation was necessary for Bolivia to comply with the 2009 Constitution.  Companies that invested under the U.S. –Bolivia BIT will be covered until June 10, 2022, but investments made after June 10, 2012 are not covered.

Pursuant to Article 320 of the 2009 Constitution, Bolivia no longer recognizes international arbitration forums for disputes involving the government.  The parties also cannot settle the dispute in an international court.  However, the implementation of this article is still uncertain.

Specifically, Article 320 of the Bolivian Constitution states:

  1. Bolivian investment takes priority over foreign investment.
  2. Every foreign investment will be subject to Bolivian jurisdiction, laws, and authorities, and no one may invoke a situation for exception, nor appeal to diplomatic claims to obtain more favorable treatment.
  3. Economic relations with foreign states or enterprises shall be conducted under conditions of independence, mutual respect and equity.  More favorable conditions may not be granted to foreign states or enterprises than those established for Bolivians.
  4. The state makes all decisions on internal economic policy independently and will not accept demands or conditions imposed on this policy by states, banks or Bolivian or foreign financial institutions, multilateral entities or transnational enterprises.
  5. Public policies will promote internal consumption of products made in Bolivia.

Article 262 of the Constitution states:

“The fifty kilometers from the border constitute the zone of border security.  No foreign person, individual, or company may acquire property in this space, directly or indirectly, nor possess any property right in the waters, soil or subsoil, except in the case of state necessity declared by express law approved by two thirds of the Plurinational Legislative Assembly.  The property or the possession affected in case of non-compliance with this prohibition will pass to the benefit of the state, without any indemnity.”

The judicial system faces a huge backlog of cases, is short staffed, lacks resources, has problems with corruption, and is believed to be influenced by political actors.  Swift resolution of cases, either initiated by investors or against them, is unlikely.  The Marcelo Quiroga Anti-Corruption law of 2010 makes companies and their signatories criminally liable for breach of contract with the government, and the law can be applied retroactively.  Authorities can use this threat of criminal prosecution to force settlement of disputes.  Commercial disputes can often lead to criminal charges and cases are often processed slowly.  See our Human Rights Report as background on the judicial system, labor rights and other important issues.

Article 129 of the Bolivian Arbitration Law No. 708, established that all controversies and disputes that arise regarding investment in Bolivia will have to be addressed inside Bolivia under Bolivian Laws.  Consequently, international arbitration is not allowed for disputes involving the Bolivian Government or state-owned enterprises.

Bolivia does not currently have an investment promotion agency to facilitate foreign investment.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There is a right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in remunerative activity.

There are some areas where investors may judge that preferential treatment is being given to their Bolivian competitors, for example in key sectors where private companies compete with state owned enterprises.  Additionally, foreign investment is not allowed in matters relating directly to national security.

The Constitution specifies that all hydrocarbon resources are the property of the Bolivian people and that the state will assume control over their exploration, exploitation, industrialization, transport, and marketing (Articles 348 and 351).  The state-owned and operated company, Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) manages hydrocarbons transport and sales and is responsible for ensuring that the domestic market demand is satisfied at prices set by the hydrocarbons regulator before allowing any hydrocarbon exports.  YPFB benefitted from government action in 2006 that required operators to turn over their production to YPFB and to sign new contracts that gave YPFB control over the distribution of gasoline, diesel, and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) to gas stations.  The law allows YPFB to enter into joint venture contracts with national or foreign individuals or companies wishing to exploit or trade hydrocarbons or their derivatives.  For companies working in the industry, contracts are negotiated on a service contract basis and there are no restrictions on ownership percentages of the companies providing the services.

The Constitution (Article 366) specifies that every foreign enterprise that conducts activities in the hydrocarbons production chain will submit to the sovereignty of the state, and to the laws and authority of the state.  No foreign court case or foreign jurisdiction will be recognized, and foreign investors may not invoke any exceptional situation for international arbitration, nor appeal to diplomatic claims.

According to the Constitution, no concessions or contracts may transfer the ownership of natural resources or other strategic industries to private interests.  Instead, temporary authorizations to use these resources may be requested at the pertinent ministry (Mining, Water and Environment, Public Works, etc.).  The Bolivian Government needs to renegotiate commercial agreements related to forestry, mining, telecommunications, electricity, and water services, in order to comply with these regulations.

The Telecommunications, Technology and Communications General Law from 2012 (Law 164, Article 28) stipulates that the licenses for radio broadcasts will not be given to foreign persons or entities.  Further, in the case of broadcasting associations, the share of foreign investors cannot exceed 25 percent of the total investment, except in those cases approved by the state or by international treaties.

The Central Bank of Bolivia is responsible for registering all foreign investments.  According to the 2014 investment law, any investment will be monitored by the ministry related to the particular sector.  For example, the Mining Ministry is in charge of overseeing all public and private mining investments.  Each Ministry assesses industry compliance with the incentive objectives.  To date, only the Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy has enacted a Law (N 767) to incentivize the exploration and production of hydrocarbons.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Bolivia underwent a World Trade Organization (WTO) trade policy review in 2017.  In his concluding remarks, the Chairperson noted that several WTO members raised challenges impacting investor confidence in Bolivia, due primarily to Bolivia’s abrogation of 22 BITs following the passage of its 2009 constitution.  However, some WTO members also commended Bolivia for enacting a new investment promotion law in 2014 and a law on conciliation and arbitration, both of which increased legal certainty for investors, according to those members.

Business Facilitation

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 rankings, Bolivia ranks 150 out of 190 countries on the ease of doing business, much lower than most countries in the region.  Bolivia ranks 175 out of 190 on the ease of starting a business.

FUNDEMPRESA is a mixed public/private organization authorized by the central government to register and certify new businesses.  Its website is www.fundempresa.org.bo and the business registration process is laid out clearly within the tab labeled “processes, requirements and forms.”  However the registration cannot be completed entirely online. A user can download the required forms from the site and can fill them out online but then has to mail the completed forms or deliver them to the relevant offices.  A foreign applicant would be able to use the registration forms.  The forms do ask for a “cedula de identidad,” which is a national identification document; however, foreign users usually enter their passport numbers instead.  Once a company submits all documents required to FUNDEMPRESA, the process takes between 2-4 working days.

The steps to register a business are: (1) register and receive a certificate from Fundempresa; (2) register with the Bolivian Internal Revenue Service (Servicio de Impuestos Nacionales) and receive a tax identification number; (3) register and receive authorization to operate from the municipal government in which the company will be established; (4) if the company has employees, it must register with the national health insurance service and the national retirement pension agency in order to contribute on the employees’ behalf;  and (5) if the company has employees, it must register with the Ministry of Labor.  According to Fundempresa, the process should take 30 days from start to finish.  All steps are required and there is no simplified business creation regime.

Outward Investment

The Bolivian Government does not promote or incentivize outward investment.  Nor does the government restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Bosnia and Herzegovina struggles to attract foreign investment.  Complex labor and pension laws, the lack of a single economic space, and inadequate judicial and regulatory protections deter investment.  Under the BiH constitution, established through the Dayton Accords that ended the 1990s war, Bosnia and Herzegovina (henceforth “the state”) is divided into two “entities,” the Federation of BiH (the Federation) and the Republika Srpska (RS).  A third, smaller area, the Brčko District, operates under a separate administration.  The Federation is further divided into ten cantons, each with its own government and responsibilities.  There are also 143 municipalities in BiH: 63 in the RS and 80 in the Federation.  As a result, BiH has a multi-tiered legal and regulatory framework that can be duplicative and contradictory, and is not conducive to attracting foreign investors.

Employers bear a heavy burden toward governments.  They must contribute 69 percent on top of wages in the Federation and 52 percent in the RS to the health and pension systems.  The labor and pension laws are also deterrents to investment, though both are being reformed to decrease burdens on employers.  While corporate income taxes in the two entities and Brčko District are now harmonized at 10 percent, entity business registration requirements are not harmonized.  The RS has its own registration requirements, which apply to the entire entity.  Each of the Federation’s ten cantons has different business regulations and administrative procedures affecting companies.  Simplifying and streamlining this framework is essential to improving the investment climate.  The EU Reform Agenda targets changes that should improve the investment climate by clarifying and simplifying regulation and procedures while decreasing fees faced by businesses at the entity, canton, and municipal levels.

Generally, BiH’s legal framework does not discriminate against foreign investors.  However, given the high level of corruption, foreign investors can be at a significant disadvantage in relation to entrenched local companies, especially those with formal or informal backing by BiH’s various levels of government.

The Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA) is a state-level organization mandated by the Council of Ministers to facilitate and support FDI (www.fipa.gov.ba).  FIPA provides data, analysis, and advice on the business and investment climate to foreign investors.  All FIPA services are free of charge.

BiH does not maintain an ongoing, formal dialogue with foreign investors.  Sporadically, high-ranking government officials give media statements inviting foreign investments in the energy, transportation, and agriculture industries; however, the announcements are rarely supported by tangible, commercially-viable investment opportunities.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

According to the Law on the Policy of FDI, foreign investors are entitled to invest in any sector of the economy in the same form and under the same conditions as those defined for local residents.  Exceptions include the defense industry and some areas of publishing and media where foreign ownership is restricted to 49 percent; and electric power transmission, which is closed to foreign investment.  In practice, additional sectors are dominated by government monopolies (such as airport operation), or characterized by oligopolistic market structures (such as telecommunications and electricity generation), making it difficult for foreign investors to engage.  There have been no significant privatizations of government-owned enterprises in the past few years.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years, the BiH government has not conducted an investment policy review through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD); the World Trade Organization (WTO); or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Business Facilitation

Establishing a business in BiH can be an extremely burdensome and time-consuming process for investors.  The World Bank estimates there are an average of 13 procedures (actual number depends on the type of business), taking a total of 81 days, to register a new business in the capital city of Sarajevo.  Registration in BiH can sometimes be expedited if companies retain a local lawyer to follow up at each step of the process.  The RS established a one-stop shop for business registration in the entity.  On paper, this dramatically reduced the time required to register a business in the RS, bringing the government-reported time to register a company down to an average of 7 to 14 days.  Some businesses, however, report that in practice it can take significantly longer.

The entity, cantonal, and municipal levels of government each establish their own laws and regulations on business operations, creating redundant and inconsistent procedures that enable corruption.  It is often difficult to understand all the laws and rules that might apply to certain business activities, given overlapping jurisdictions and the lack of a central information source.  It is therefore critical that foreign investors obtain local assistance and advice.  Investors in the Federation may register their business as a branch in the RS and vice versa.

The most common U.S. business presence found in BiH are representative offices.  A representative office is not considered to be a legal entity and its activities are limited to market research, contract or investment preparations, technical cooperation, and similar business facilitation activities.  The BiH Law on Foreign Trade Policy governs the establishment of a representative office.  To open a representative office, a company must register with the Registry of Representative Offices, maintained by the BiH Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Affairs (MoFTER) and the appropriate entity’s ministry of trade.

Additional English-language information on the business registration process can be found at:

BiH Ministry of Foreign Trade & Economic Relations (MoFTER):
Ph: +387-33-220-093
www.mvteo.gov.ba

BiH Foreign Investment Promotion Agency (FIPA):
Ph: + 387 33 278 080
www.fipa.gov.ba

Republika Srpska Company Registration Website: http://www.investsrpska.net

Outward Investment

The government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  There are no programs to promote or incentivize outward investment.

Botswana

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoB publicly emphasizes the importance of attracting (FDI) and drafted an investment facilitation law recommended by the 2014 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Investment Review. While the draft was completed in 2016 with technical assistance from UNCTAD, it was never enacted. The draft is still under review and will be presented to Parliament for approval. The GoB has launched initiatives to promote economic activity and foreign investment in specific areas, such as establishing a diamond hub which brought more value-added businesses (i.e., cutting and polishing) into the country. Additional investment opportunities in Botswana include large water, electricity, transportation, and telecommunication infrastructure projects. Economists have also noted Botswana’s considerable potential in the mining, mineral processing, beef, tourism, solar energy, and financial services sectors. BITC assists foreign investors with projects intended to diversify export revenue, create employment, and transfer skills to Botswana citizens. The High Level Consultative Council (HLCC), chaired by the President, and an Exporter Roundtable organized by BITC and Botswana’s Exporters and Manufacturers Association (BEMA), are mechanisms employed by the GoB to focus on a healthy business environment for FDI.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Botswana’s 2003 Trade Act reserves licenses for citizens in 35 sectors, including butcheries, general trading establishments, gas stations, liquor stores, supermarkets (excluding chain stores), bars (other than those associated with hotels), certain types of restaurants, boutiques, auctioneers, car washes, domestic cleaning services, curio shops, fresh produce vendors, funeral homes, hairdressers, various types of rental/hire services, laundromats, specific types of government construction projects under a certain dollar amount, certain activities related to road and railway construction and maintenance, and certain types of manufacturing activities including the production of furniture for schools, welding, and bricklaying. The law allows foreigners to participate in these sectors as minority joint venture partners in medium-sized businesses. Foreigners can hold the majority share if they obtain written approval from the trade minister.

The Ministry of Investment, Trade, and Industry (MITI) administers the citizen participation initiative and takes an expansive interpretation of the term chain stores, so that it encompasses any store with more than one outlet. This broad interpretation has resulted in the need to apply exemptions to certain supermarkets, simple specialty operations, and general trading stores. These exceptions were generally granted prior to 2015 and many large general merchandise markets, restaurants, and grocery networks are owned by foreigners as a result. Since 2015, the GoB has denied some exception requests, but reports they have approved some based on localization agreements directly negotiated between the ministry and the applying company. These agreements reportedly include commitments to purchase supplies locally and capacity building for local workers and industry. BITC conducts due diligence on companies that are looking to invest in the country and the Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) handles background checks for national security.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In December of 2014, the OECD released an Investment Policy Review on Botswana. ( http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/finance-and-investment/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-botswana-2014_9789264203365-en ).

Botswana has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. In 2016, the WTO conducted a trade policy review of the Southern African Customs Union to which Botswana belongs ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp322_e.htm ).

Business Facilitation

To operate a business in Botswana, one needs to register a company with the GoB’s CIPA through the OBRS at:   https://www.cipa.co.bw/types-of-entities 

CIPA asserts that the company registration process can be completed in a day and is integrated with BURS which allows for a fast-tracked tax registration in 30 days. Additional work is required to open bank accounts and obtain necessary licenses and permits. The World Bank ranked Botswana 159 out of 190 in its ease of starting a business category.

BITC ( www.bitc.co.bw ), the GoB’s investment promotion agency, was designed to serve as a one-stop shop to assist investors in setting up a business and finding a location for operation. BITC’s ability to streamline procedures varies based on GoB entity and bureaucratic requirements. BITC assesses investment projects on their ability to diversify the economy away from its continued dependence on diamond mining, contribute towards export-led growth, and job creation for and skills transfer to Batswana citizens. BITC also hosts the Botswana Trade Portal ( https://www.botswanatradeportal.org.bw ) that is designed to ease trade across borders. It is a single point of contact for all information relating to import and export to and from Botswana and represents a number of ministries and parastatals.

Botswana has several incentives and preferences for both citizen-owned and locally based companies. Foreign-owned companies can benefit from local procurement preferences which are usually required for government tenders. MITI instituted a program in 2015 to give locally based small companies a 15 percent preferential price margin in GoB procurement, with mid-sized companies receiving a 10 percent margin, and large companies a five percent margin. Under this policy, MITI defines small companies as having less than five million pula in annual revenue reflected in their financial statements, medium companies with five to 20 million pula in revenue, and large companies with revenues exceeding 20 million pula. The directive applies to 27 categories of goods and services ranging from textiles, chemicals, and food, as well as a broad range of consultancy services. The government can also offer up to 50 million pula in funding through Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) to joint ventures between foreign and citizen owned companies.

For Companies Act registration purposes, enterprises are classified as: Micro Enterprises – fewer than six employees including the owner and an annual revenue below 60 thousand pula; Small Enterprises – fewer than 25 employees and an annual revenue between 60 thousand and 1.5 million pula; Medium Enterprises – fewer than 100 employees and annual revenue between 1.5 and 5 million pula; Large Enterprises – over 100 employees and an annual revenue of at least 5 million pula. This classification system permits foreigners to participate as minority shareholders in medium-sized enterprises in the 35 business sectors reserved for citizens.

Outward Investment

The GoB neither promotes nor restricts outward investment.

Brazil

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Brazil was the world’s sixth-largest destination for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2019, with inflows of $72 billion, according to UNCTAD.  The GoB actively encourages FDI – particularly in the automobile, renewable energy, life sciences, oil and gas, and transportation infrastructure sectors – to introduce greater innovation into Brazil’s economy and to generate economic growth. GoB investment incentives include tax exemptions and low-cost financing with no distinction made between domestic and foreign investors.  Foreign investment is restricted in the health, mass media, telecommunications, aerospace, rural property, maritime, and insurance sectors.

The Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (Apex-Brasil) plays a leading role in attracting FDI to Brazil by working to identify business opportunities, promoting strategic events, and lending support to foreign investors willing to allocate resources to Brazil.  Apex-Brasil is not a “one-stop shop” for foreign investors, but the agency can assist in all steps of the investor’s decision-making process, to include identifying and contacting potential industry segments, sector and market analyses, and general guidelines on legal and fiscal issues.  Their services are free of charge.  The website for Apex-Brasil is: http://www.apexbrasil.com.br/en

In 2019, the Ministry of Economy created the Ombudsman’s office to provide foreign investors with a single point of contact for concerns related to FDI.  The plan seeks to eventually streamline foreign investments in Brazil by providing investors, foreign and domestic, with a simpler process for the creation of new businesses and additional investments in current companies.  Currently, the Ombudsman’s office is not operating as a single window for services, but rather as an advisory resource for FDI.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

A 1995 constitutional amendment (EC 6/1995) eliminated distinctions between foreign and local capital, ending favorable treatment (e.g. tax incentives, preference for winning bids) for companies using only local capital.  However, constitutional law restricts foreign investment in healthcare (Law 8080/1990, altered by 13097/2015), mass media (Law 10610/2002), telecommunications (Law 12485/2011), aerospace (Law 7565/1986 a, Decree 6834/2009, updated by Law 12970/2014, Law 13133/2015, and Law 13319/2016), rural property (Law 5709/1971), maritime (Law 9432/1997, Decree 2256/1997), and insurance (Law 11371/2006).

Screening of FDI

Foreigners investing in Brazil must electronically register their investment with the Central Bank of Brazil (BCB) within 30 days of the inflow of resources to Brazil.  In cases of investments involving royalties and technology transfer, investors must register with Brazil’s patent office, the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI).  Investors must also have a local representative in Brazil. Portfolio investors must have a Brazilian financial administrator and register with the Brazilian Securities Exchange Commission (CVM).

To enter Brazil’s insurance and reinsurance market, U.S. companies must establish a subsidiary, enter into a joint venture, acquire a local firm, or enter into a partnership with a local company.  The BCB reviews banking license applications on a case-by-case basis. Foreign interests own or control 20 of the top 50 banks in Brazil, but Santander is the only major wholly foreign-owned retail bank.

Since June 2019, foreign investors may own 100 percent of capital in Brazilian airline companies.

While 2015 and 2017 legislative and regulatory changes relaxed some restrictions on insurance and reinsurance, rules on preferential offers to local reinsurers remain unchanged.  Foreign reinsurance firms must have a representation office in Brazil to qualify as an admitted reinsurer.  Insurance and reinsurance companies must maintain an active registration with Brazil’s insurance regulator, the Superintendence of Private Insurance (SUSEP) and maintain a minimum solvency classification issued by a risk classification agency equal to Standard & Poor’s or Fitch ratings of at least BBB-.

Foreign ownership of cable TV companies is allowed, and telecom companies may offer television packages with their service.  Content quotas require every channel to air at least three and a half hours per week of Brazilian programming during primetime.  Additionally, one-third of all channels included in any TV package must be Brazilian.

The National Land Reform and Settlement Institute administers the purchase and lease of Brazilian agricultural land by foreigners.  Under the applicable rules, the area of agricultural land bought or leased by foreigners cannot account for more than 25 percent of the overall land area in a given municipal district.  Additionally, no more than 10 percent of agricultural land in any given municipal district may be owned or leased by foreign nationals from the same country.  The law also states that prior consent is needed for purchase of land in areas considered indispensable to national security and for land along the border.  The rules also make it necessary to obtain congressional approval before large plots of agricultural land can be purchased by foreign nationals, foreign companies, or Brazilian companies with majority foreign shareholding.  In December 2020, the Senate approved a bill (PL 2963/2019; source:  https://www25.senado.leg.br/web/atividade/materias/-/materia/136853) to ease restrictions on foreign land ownership; however, the Chamber of Deputies has yet to consider the bill. Brazil is not yet a signatory to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA), but submitted its application for accession in May 2020.  In February 2021, Brazil formalized its initial offer to start negotiations.  The submission establishes a series of thresholds above which foreign sellers will be allowed to bid for procurements.  Such thresholds differ for different procuring entities and types of procurements.  The proposal also includes procurements by some states and municipalities (with restrictions) as well as state-owned enterprises, but it excludes certain sensitive categories, such as financial services, strategic health products, and specific information technologies.  Brazil’s submission still must be negotiated with GPA members.

By statute, a Brazilian state enterprise may subcontract services to a foreign firm only if domestic expertise is unavailable.  Additionally, U.S. and other foreign firms may only bid to provide technical services where there are no qualified Brazilian firms. U.S. companies need to enter into partnerships with local firms or have operations in Brazil in order to be eligible for “margins of preference” offered to domestic firms participating in Brazil’s public sector procurement to help these firms win government tenders.  Nevertheless, foreign companies are often successful in obtaining subcontracting opportunities with large Brazilian firms that win government contracts and, since October 2020, foreign companies are allowed to participate in bids without the need for an in-country corporate presence (although establishing such a presence is mandatory if the bid is successful).  A revised Government Procurement Protocol of the trade bloc Mercosul (Mercosur in Spanish), signed in 2017, would entitle member nations Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay to non-discriminatory treatment of government-procured goods, services, and public works originating from each other’s suppliers and providers.  However, none of the bloc’s members have yet ratified it, so it has not entered into force.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) December 2020 Economic Forecast Summary of Brazil summarized that, despite new COVID-19 infections and fatalities remaining high, the economy started to recover across a wide range of sectors by the end of 2020.  Since the publication, Brazil’s economy is faltering due to the continuing pandemic’s financial impact.  The strong fiscal and monetary policy response managed to prevent a sharper economic contraction, cushioning the impact on household incomes and poverty.  Nonetheless, fiscal vulnerabilities have been exacerbated by these necessary policy responses and public debt has risen.  Failure to continue structural reform progress could hold back investment and future growth.  As of March 2021, forecasts are for economic recovery in 2021 and high unemployment.  The OECD report recommended reallocating some expenditures and raising spending efficiency to improve social protections, and resuming the fiscal adjustments under way before the pandemic.  The report also recommended structural reforms to enhance domestic and external competition and improve the investment climate.

The IMF’s 2020 Country Report No. 20/311 on Brazil highlighted the severe impact of the pandemic in Brazil’s economic recovery but praised the government’s response, which averted a deeper economic downturn, stabilized financial markets, and cushioned income loss for the poorest.  The IMF assessed that the lingering effects of the crisis will restrain consumption while investment will be hampered by idle capacity and high uncertainty.  The IMF projected inflation to stay below target until 2023, given significant slack in the economy, but with the sharp increase in the primary fiscal deficit, gross public debt is expected to rise to 100 percent of GDP and remain high over the medium-term.  The IMF noted that Brazil’s record low interest rate (Selic) helped the government reduce borrowing costs, but the steepening of the local currency yield curve highlighted market concerns over fiscal risks.  The WTO’s 2017 Trade Policy Review of Brazil noted the country’s open stance towards foreign investment, but also pointed to the many sector-specific limitations (see above).  All three reports highlighted the uncertainty regarding reform plans as the most significant political risk to the economy. These reports are located at the following links:

Business Facilitation

A company must register with the National Revenue Service (Receita Federal) to obtain a business license and be placed on the National Registry of Legal Entities (CNPJ).  Brazil’s Export Promotion and Investment Agency (APEX) has a mandate to facilitate foreign investment.  The agency’s services are available to all investors, foreign and domestic.  Foreign companies interested in investing in Brazil have access to many benefits and tax incentives granted by the Brazilian government at the municipal, state, and federal levels.  Most incentives target specific sectors, amounts invested, and job generation.  Brazil’s business registration website can be found at: http://receita.economia.gov.br/orientacao/tributaria/cadastros/cadastro-nacional-de-pessoas-juridicas-cnpj .

Overall, Brazil dropped in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report from 2019 to 2020; however, it improved in the following areas: registering property; starting a business; and resolving insolvency.  According to Doing Business, some Brazilian states (São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro) made starting a business easier by allowing expedited business registration and by decreasing the cost of the digital certificate.  On March 2021, the GoB enacted a Provisional Measure (MP) to simplify the opening of companies, the protection of minority investors, the facilitation of foreign trade in goods and services, and the streamlining of low-risk construction projects.  The Ministry of Economy expects the MP, together with previous actions by the government, to raise Brazil by 18 to 20 positions in the ranking.  Adopted in September 2019, the Economic Freedom Law 13.874 established the Economic Freedom Declaration of Rights and provided for free market guarantees.  The law includes several provisions to simplify regulations and establishes norms for the protection of free enterprise and free exercise of economic activity.

Through the digital transformation initiative in Brazil, foreign companies can open branches via the internet.  Since 2019, it has been easier for foreign businesspeople to request authorization from the Brazilian federal government.  After filling out the registration, creating an account, and sending the necessary documentation, they can make the request on the Brazilian government’s Portal through a legal representative.  The electronic documents will then be analyzed by the DREI (Brazilian National Department of Business Registration and Integration) team.  DREI will inform the applicant of any missing documentation via the portal and e-mail and give a 60-day period to meet the requirements.  The legal representative of the foreign company, or another third party who holds a power of attorney, may request registration through this link: https://acesso.gov.br/acesso/#/primeiro-acesso?clientDetails=eyJjbGllbnRVcmkiOiJodHRwczpcL1wvYWNlc3NvLmdvdi5iciIsImNsaWVudE5hbWUiOiJQb3J0YWwgZ292LmJyIiwiY2xpZW50VmVyaWZpZWRVc2VyIjp0cnVlfQ%3D%3D     

Regulation of foreign companies opening businesses in Brazil is governed by article 1,134 of the Brazilian Civil Code  and article 1 of DREI Normative Instruction 77/2020 .  English language general guidelines to open a foreign company in Brazil are not yet available, but the Portuguese version is available at the following link: https://www.gov.br/economia/pt-br/assuntos/drei/empresas-estrangeiras .

For foreign companies that will be a partner or shareholder of a Brazilian national company, the governing regulation is DREI Normative Instruction 81/2020 DREI Normative Instruction 81/2020.  The contact information of the DREI is drei@economia.gov.br and +55 (61) 2020-2302.

References:

Outward Investment

Brazil does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad and Apex-Brasil supports Brazilian companies’ efforts to invest abroad under its “internationalization program”: http://www.apexbrasil.com.br/como-a-apex-brasil-pode-ajudar-na-internacionalizacao-de-sua-empresa .  Apex-Brasil frequently highlights the United States as an excellent destination for outbound investment.  Apex-Brasil and SelectUSA (the U.S. Government’s investment promotion office at the U.S. Department of Commerce) signed a memorandum of cooperation to promote bilateral investment in February 2014.

Brazil incentivizes outward investment.  Apex-Brasil organizes several initiatives aimed at promoting Brazilian investments abroad.  The Agency´s efforts comprised trade missions, business round tables, support for the participation of Brazilian companies in major international trade fairs, arranging technical visits of foreign buyers and opinion makers to learn about the Brazilian productive structure, and other select activities designed to strengthen the country’s branding abroad.

The main sectors of Brazilian investments abroad are financial services and assets (totaling 50.5 percent); holdings (11.6 percent); and oil and gas extraction (10.9 percent).  Including all sectors, $416.6 billion was invested abroad in 2019.  The regions with the largest share of Brazilian outward investments are the Caribbean (47 percent) and Europe (37.7 percent), specifically the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

Regulation on investments abroad are contained in BCB Ordinance 3,689/2013  (foreign capital in Brazil and Brazilian capital abroad): https://www.bcb.gov.br/pre/normativos/busca/downloadNormativo.asp?arquivo=/Lists/Normativos/Attachments/48812/Circ_3689_v1_O.pdf

Sale of cross-border mutual funds are only allowed to certain categories of investors, not to the general public.  International financial services companies active in Brazil submitted to Brazilian regulators in late 2020 a proposal to allow opening these mutual funds to the general public, and hope this will be approved in mid 2021.

Brunei

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Brunei has an open economy favorable to foreign trade and FDI as the government continues its economic diversification efforts to limit its long reliance on oil and gas exports.

FDI is important to Brunei as it plays a key role in the country’s economic and technological development. Brunei encourages FDI in the domestic economy through various investment incentives offered by the Ministry of Finance and Economy.

Improving Brunei’s Ease of Doing Business status by upgrading the domestic business regulatory environment through a whole-of-nation approach has been a priority for the government. The World Bank Ease of Doing Business report indicated that Brunei ranked 66th overall out of 190 world economies in 2019. Brunei ranked first in the report’s “Getting Credit” category, tied with New Zealand, indicative of Brunei’s strong credit reporting mechanisms.

Brunei amended its laws to make it easier and quicker for entrepreneurs and investors to establish businesses. The Business License Act (Amendment) of 2016 exempts several business activities (eateries, boarding and lodging houses or other places of public resort; street vendors and stalls; motor vehicle dealers; petrol stations, including places for storing petrol and inflammable material; timber store and furniture factories; and retail shops and workshops) from needing to obtain a business license. The Miscellaneous License Act (Amendment) of 2015 reduced the wait times for new business registrants to start operations, with low-risk businesses like eateries and shops able to start operations immediately.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There is no restriction on foreign ownership of companies incorporated in Brunei. The Companies Act requires locally incorporated companies to have at least one of the two directors—or if more than two directors, at least two of them—to be ordinarily resident in Brunei, but exemptions may be obtained in some circumstances. The corporate income tax rate is the same whether the company is locally or foreign owned and managed.

All businesses in Brunei must be registered with the Registry of Companies and Business Names at the Ministry of Finance and Economy. Foreign investors can fully own incorporated companies, foreign company branches, or representative offices, but not sole proprietorships or partnerships.

More information on incorporation of companies can be found on the Ministry of Finance and Economy website .

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Secretariat prepared a Trade Policy Review of Brunei  in December 2014 and a revision in February 2015.

Business Facilitation

As part of Brunei’s effort to attract foreign investment, the government established the Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) and Darussalam Enterprise (DARe) as facilitating agents under the Ministry of Finance and Economy. These organizations work together to smooth the process of obtaining permits, approvals, and licenses. Facilitating services are now consolidated into one government website .

BEDB is the government’s frontline agency that promotes and facilitates foreign investment into Brunei. BEDB is responsible for evaluating investment proposals, liaising with government agencies, and obtaining project approval from the government’s Foreign Direct Investment and Downstream Industry Committee.

Outward Investment

A major share of outward investment is made by the government through its sovereign wealth funds, which are managed by the Brunei Investment Agency (BIA) under the Ministry of Finance and Economy. No data is available on the total investment amount due to a strict policy of secrecy. It is believed that the majority of sovereign wealth funds are invested in foreign portfolio investments and real estate. Despite the limited availability of public information regarding the amount, the funds are generally viewed positively and managed well by BIA.

Burma

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Although the military regime has told investors and foreign chambers of commerce it welcomes foreign investment, its actions have undercut recent efforts to improve the enabling environment for investment. Many foreign investors have withdrawn from the market, evacuated foreign national employees, or suspended their operations in Burma.

The 2016 Myanmar Investment Law (MIL) and the 2018 Companies Law continue to govern treatment of foreign investment. The MIL includes a “negative list” of prohibited and restricted sectors for foreign investment. The Companies Law implemented in August 1, 2018 permits foreign investment of up to 35 percent in domestic companies— which also opened the stock exchange to limited foreign participation.

The Directorate for Investment and Company Administration (DICA), which is part of the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations (MIFER) serves as Burma’s investment promotion agency. However, following the coup, DICA has limited operations because of staff participation in the civil disobedience movement. Previously, DICA encouraged and facilitated foreign investment by providing information, fostering networks between investors, and providing market advice to potential investors.

The government maintains a private sector advisory forum with the Union of Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which principally includes domestic businesses. However, military authorities have summoned business leaders for command appearances rather than conduct voluntary consultations. The U.S. Trade Representative suspended the U.S.-Myanmar Trade and Investment Framework in March 2021. Foreign Chambers of Commerce have limited interactions with the military regime following the coup.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Generally, foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in remunerative activity with some sectoral exceptions. Under Article 42 of the Myanmar Investment Law, the Burmese government restricts investment in certain sectors. Some sectors are only open to government or domestic investors. Other sectors require foreign investors to set up a joint-venture with a citizen of Burma or citizen-owned entity or obtain a recommendation from the relevant ministries.

The State-Owned Economic Enterprises Law, enacted in March 1989, stipulates that SOEs have the sole right to carry out a range of economic activities in certain sectors, including teak extraction, oil and gas, banking and insurance, and electricity generation. However, in practice many of these areas have been opened to private sector investment. For instance, the 2016 Rail Transportation Enterprise Law allows foreign and local businesses to make certain investments in railways, including in the form of public-private partnerships.

The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC), “in the interest of the State,” can also make exceptions to the State-Owned Enterprises Law. The MIC has routinely granted exceptions, including through joint ventures or special licenses in the areas of insurance, mining, petroleum and natural gas extraction, telecommunications, radio and television broadcasting, and air transport services, although whether such exceptions will continue to be granted after the coup is unclear.

As one of their key functions, the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA) and the MIC are responsible for screening and approving inbound foreign investment to ensure it does not pose a risk to national security, as well as to make a determination that such investment sufficiently furthers Burma’s growth and development.

Other Investment Policy Reviews.

In 2020, the OECD conducted an investment review for Myanmar, which can be found at http://www.oecd.org/investment/countryreviews.htm 

In February 2021, the World Trade Organization produced a trade policy review for Myanmar based on pre-coup information, which can be found at http://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tpr_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

Following the military coup, the military regime’s governance has caused a sharp reduction in commercial activities including in Yangon and Mandalay. Many routine services that businesses require like customs, ports, and banks were not fully operational as of April 2021. Many companies report difficulty accessing bank funds to pay employees and suppliers and there is limited foreign and local currency available. The security situation is unstable and some companies’ local staff have been killed by security forces and foreign-owned factories have been burned. The government previously provided limited business facilitation services through the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, but services are restricted at present.

The government instituted online company registration through “MyCo” ( https://www.myco.dica.gov.mm  ). Investors were able to submit forms, pay registration fees, and check availability of a company name through a searchable company registry on the “MyCo” website. However, military regime officials have publicly threatened to take down the company registration website so it may not continue to operate, and military-imposed restrictions on internet and mobile access limit businesses’ ability to access this website.

The Myanmar Investment Commission (MIC) is responsible for verification and approval of investment proposals above USD5 million. Companies can use the DICA website to retrieve information on requirements for MIC permit applications and submit a proposal to the MIC. If the proposal meets the criteria, it will be accepted within 15 days. If accepted, the MIC will review the proposal and reach a decision within 90 days. In 2016, state and regional investment committees were granted the right to approve any investment of less than USD5 million. The World Bank assessed that it takes on average seven days to start a business in Myanmar involving six procedures. Following the coup, it is likely to take substantially longer to register a business because of the suspension of many government services, bank closures, and internet access restrictions and suspensions. Post-coup, the MIC has approved several pending investment applications. According to DICA data, the number of new companies registered in February and March 2021 (the first two months following the coup) fell to just 15 percent of the average level in previous two years.

Burundi

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Burundi (GoB) is generally supportive of FDI and seeks investment as a means to promote economic growth. Uneven implementation of laws and regulations, however, limits the predictability of the environment for Burundian and foreign investors alike. The GoB has not implemented laws, regulations, or economic or industrial strategies that limit market access or discriminate against foreign investors. There is a minimum initial foreign investment of $50,000, which does not apply to domestic investors. An overview of the legal framework for foreign investment can be found at: http://www.eatradehub.org/burundi_investment_policy_assessment_2018_presentation 

Based on the Burundi Investment Code enacted in 2008, the government established the Burundi Investment Promotion Agency (API) in 2009. API is the government authority in charge of promoting investment, improving the business climate, and facilitating market entry for investors in Burundi. API offers a range of services to potential investors, including assistance in acquiring the licenses, certificates, approvals, authorizations, and permits required by law to set up and operate a business enterprise in Burundi. API has set up a “one-stop shop” to facilitate and simplify business registration in Burundi. For now, investors must be physically present in country to register with API. API provides investors with information on investment and export promotion, assists them with legal formalities, including obtaining the required documents, and intervenes when laws and regulations are not properly applied. API also designs reforms required for the improvement and the ease of doing business environment and ensures that the impact of investments on development is beneficial and sustainable.

The GoB conducts dialogue with national and foreign investors to promote investment. API is the initial and primary point of entry for investors, but government ministries meet regularly with private investors to discuss regulatory and legal issues.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic companies have the same rights to establish and own businesses in the country and engage in all forms of activities. However, there are restrictions on foreign investments in weaponry, ammunition, and any sort of military or para-military enterprises. There are no other restrictions nor are there any other sectors in which foreign investors are denied the same treatment as domestic firms. There are no general limits on foreign ownership or control.

Article 63 of the 2013 mining code stipulates that the GoB must own at least 10 percent of shares in any foreign company with an industrial mining license and state participation cannot be diluted in the event of an increase in the share capital.

Burundi does not maintain an investment screening mechanism for inbound foreign investment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

No investment policy review from a multilateral organization has taken place in the last three years. The most recent review was performed in 2010 by UNCTAD.

Business Facilitation

In addition to fiscal advantages provided in the investment code, Burundi has implemented reforms, including reinforcing the capabilities of the one-stop shop at API, simplifying tax procedures for small and medium enterprises, launching an electronic single window for business transactions, and harmonizing commercial laws with those of the East African Community.

Business registration takes approximately four hours and costs 40,000 Burundian francs (around $21). For more details and information on registration procedures, time and costs, investors may visit API’s website at https://www.investburundi.bi/ .

There is no specific mechanism for ensuring equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities.

Outward Investment

The host government does not have mechanisms for promoting or incentivizing outward investment. The host government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Cabo Verde

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Cabo Verde seeks both domestic and foreign investment to drive economic recovery, diversification, and growth following the COVID-19 crisis.  The government’s Ambition 2030 strategy, completed in September 2020, emphasizes development of sustainable tourism, transformation of the country into a transportation and logistics platform, renewable energy, blue and digital economy, and export-oriented industries.  The government promotes a market-oriented economic model in which all investors, regardless of nationality, have the same rights and are subject to the same duties and obligations under the law.  Improvement of the business climate to attract investment remains an economic priority, as does reduction of the state’s role in the economy, though the COVID-19 pandemic has put plans to privatize state-owned enterprises on hold.    

In 2020, approved investment projects reached an all-time high of USD 1.5 billion, confirming investor confidence in Cabo Verde despite pandemic uncertainties.  Foreign investment continues to be concentrated in tourism and light manufacturing.  In 2020, 80 percent of the approved investment projects were in the tourism sector.  

Cabo Verdean law offers tax benefits for foreign citizens who decide to buy a second home in Cabo Verde and grants permanent residence to any foreigner whose investment exceeds 180 million escudos (USD 2 million).  The legal framework also establishes conditions for investment in the country by Cabo Verdean emigrants, including fiscal incentives.

Investment promotion agency Cabo Verde TradeInvest (CVTI) is a one-stop shop for all investors.  Through CVTI, the government maintains dialogue with investors using personalized and virtual meetings, round tables, conferences, and workshops.  CVTI offers investors a “One-Stop Shop for Investments” electronic platform and help in formalizing expressions of interest and monitoring the investment process.  It also provides investors and exporters information about trade agreements and benefits (including AGOA, ECOWAS), market information, details on trade fairs and events, and contacts with other state institutions and potential partners.  In addition, CVTI can assist with obtaining authorizations and licensing, tax and customs incentives, work permits for foreign workers, visas for company workers, registration of workers with social security, and introductions to service providers, such as banks, lawyers, accountants, and real estate agents.

For investments of less than USD 500,000, government entities ProEmpresa and the Casa do Cidadao (Commercial Registry Department) provide similar services.  

The International Business Center (Centro Internacional de Negocios – CIN) provides a set of tax and customs benefits for companies that do international business, with the aim of promoting, supporting, and strengthening the emergence of new industrial, commercial, and service provision activities in Cabo Verde.  

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Investment Law applies to both foreign and domestic investors, and it enshrines the principle of freedom of investment regardless of the nationality.  However, sectoral legislation imposes restrictions on some activities such as fishing and maritime transport.  The Investment Law further protects against direct and indirect expropriation.  Private property is protected from unilateral requisition and nationalization, except for public interest reasons, in accordance with the Law and the non-discrimination principle, subject to prompt, full, and fair compensation.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

During 2018, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conducted an Investment Policy Review (IPR) at the request of the Government of Cabo Verde.  The report contains strategic analysis on how Cabo Verde can utilize foreign direct investment (FDI) in the tourism sector to advance sustainable development objectives.  https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationWebflyer.aspx?publicationid=2248

Business Facilitation

Cabo Verde offers benefits to attract private-sector investment.  Although equality of treatment and non-discrimination are granted to all investors, certain investment projects, given their nature or size, may receive special treatment and support from the government.  

In an effort to reduce approval time for investment projects, the government has established a maximum period of 15 days for analysis and 30 days for approval of investment and export projects.  In addition, Cabo Verde has adopted measures to facilitate and stimulate business activity, including lowering the maximum personal income tax (IRPS) one percentage point to 24 percent, eliminating double taxation, and waiving tax installment payments for taxpayers who had negative results or began their business activity in the previous year.  Investments of at least 500 million escudos (USD 4.8 million) qualify for contractual benefits.  Those that create a minimum number of jobs or expand into new strategic sectors qualify for a 50 percent investment credit, which can be deducted over 15 years.

Laws commit the government to paying its bills within 45 days; the law further commits the government to paying interest on late payments.  These measures were adopted to ensure predictability in the payment of the state’s obligations to companies.  The 2021 budget prioritizes expenditures on measures to support families, save companies and jobs in the context of the pandemic, and includes benefits to attract private sector investments and improve the business environment.

Registering a company is straightforward.  The Commercial Registry Department (Casa do Cidadao) is a one-stop shop where a company can be created and registered in less than a day.  Information on business registration procedures is available at https://portondinosilhas.gov.cv/ and http://caboverde.eregulations.org/show-list.asp?l=pt&mid=1.  Step-by-step information on procedures, time, and cost involved in starting a company can be found at http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/cabo-verde/starting-a-business/.  The CVTI website also offers information on investing in Cabo Verde, including Cabo Verde’s Investment Law, the Code of Fiscal Benefits, and the Contractual Tax Benefits-Incentives:  https://cvtradeinvest.com/.

Outward Investment

The government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  There is no information or data available on outward investments.

Cambodia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment 

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Cambodia has a liberal foreign investment regime and actively courts FDI. The primary law governing investment is the 1994 Law on Investment. The government permits 100 percent foreign ownership of companies in most sectors. In a handful of sectors, such as cigarette manufacturing, movie production, rice milling, and gemstone mining and processing, foreign investment is subject to local equity participation or prior authorization from authorities.  While there is little or no official legal discrimination against foreign investors, some foreign businesses report disadvantages vis-a-vis Cambodian or other foreign rivals that engage in acts of corruption or tax evasion or take advantage of Cambodia’s weak regulatory environment.

The Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) is the principal government agency responsible for providing incentives to stimulate investment. Investors are required to submit an investment proposal to either the CDC or the Provincial-Municipal Investment Sub-committee to obtain a Qualified Investment Project (QIP) status depending on capital level and location of the investment question.  QIPs are then eligible for specific investment incentives.

The CDC also serves as the secretariat to Cambodia’s Government-Private Sector Forum (G-PSF), a public-private consultation mechanism that facilitates dialogue within and among 10 government/private sector working groups. More information about investment and investment incentives in Cambodia may be found at: www.cambodiainvestment.gov.kh.

Cambodia has created special economic zones (SEZs) to further facilitate foreign investment. As of April 2021, there are 23 SEZs in Cambodia.  These zones provide companies with access to land, infrastructure, and services to facilitate the set-up and operation of businesses. Services provided include utilities, tax services, customs clearance, and other administrative services designed to support import-export processes. Cambodia offers incentives to projects within the SEZs such as tax holidays, zero rate VAT, and import duty exemptions for raw materials, machinery, and equipment. The primary authority responsible for Cambodia’s SEZs is the Cambodia Special Economic Zone Board (CSEZB). The largest of its SEZs is in Sihanoukville and hosts primarily Chinese companies.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are few limitations on foreign control and ownership of business enterprises in Cambodia. Foreign investors may own 100 percent of investment projects except in the sectors mentioned Section 1. According to Cambodia’s 2003 Amended Law on Investment and related sub-decrees, there are no limitations based on shareholder nationality or discrimination against foreign investors except in relation to investments in property or state-owned enterprises. For property, both the Law on Investment and the 2003 Amended Law state that the majority of interest in land must be held by one or more Cambodian citizens.  For state-owned enterprises, the Law on Public Enterprise provides that the Cambodian government must directly or indirectly hold more than 51 percent of the capital or the right to vote in state-owned enterprises.

Another limitation concerns the employment of foreigners in Cambodia. A QIP allows employers to obtain visas and work permits for foreign citizens as skilled workers, but the employer may be required to prove to the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training that the skillset is not available in Cambodia. The Cambodian Bar has periodically taken actions to restrict or impede the work of foreign lawyers or foreign law firms in the country.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD conducted an Investment Policy Review of Cambodia in 2018. The report may be found at this  link .

The World Trade Organization (WTO) last reviewed Cambodia’s trade policies in 2017; the first review was done in 2011.  The 2017 report can be found at this link .

Business Facilitation

All businesses are required to register with the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) and the General Department of Taxation (GDT).  Registration with MOC is possible through an online business registration portal ( link ) that allows all existing and new businesses to register.  Depending on the types of business activity, new businesses may also be required to register with other relevant ministries.  For example, travel agencies must also register with the Ministry of Tourism, and private universities must also register with the Ministry of Education, Youth, and Sport.  The GDT also has an online portal for tax registration and other services, which can be located here .

The World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report ranks Cambodia 144 of 190 countries globally for the ease of starting a business. The report notes that it takes nine separate procedures and three months or more to complete all business, tax, and employment registration processes.

Outward Investment

There are no restrictions on Cambodian citizens investing abroad. Some Cambodian companies have invested in neighboring countries – notably, Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar.

Cameroon

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Creating a conducive business environment to attract foreign direct investments is a corner stone of Cameroon’s development strategy. Governance and strategic management of the state constitutes one of the four pillars of the National Development Strategy 2030 (NDS 30), which was launched on November 16, 2020. The government of Cameroon acknowledges that the challenging nature of the domestic business climate remains a concern. To fight corruption, rebuild a weak legal system, and modernize an inefficient public service, the NDS 30 has adopted a holistic approach to governance, which includes political and institutional governance, administrative governance, economic and financial governance, regional governance, and social and cultural governance.

Cameroon has put in place an arsenal of institutions and laws to improve governance. The country has prevention programs and has reinforced the powers of the judiciary through the creation of the Special Crime Tribunal on corruption and economic crimes. This special tribunal, which began activities on December 14, 2012, is empowered to trial perpetrators of economic crimes amounting to at least $100,000. The court specifically targets custodians of public funds as well as officials who have the prerogatives to collect or spend money on behalf of the state. Since its creation, the tribunal has tried 225 cases and recovered $323 million. However, corruption and administrative mismanagement continue to hamper the business climate in Cameroon. Cameroon consistently ranks at the bottom of the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index. In 2020, Cameroon ranked 167 of 190 on the Ease of Doing Business index and 149 of 180 on the Corruption Perceptions Index.

Despite the active presence of state-owned companies in important sectors of the economy, private entities – both domestic and foreign – can create and own businesses that engage in all forms of legal remunerative activities. They can also enter joint ventures and public-private partnerships with the government. There are no general economy-wide (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control. Cameroon has no laws or regulations that prescribe outright prohibition on investment, equity caps, mandatory domestic joint venture partners, licensing restrictions, or mandatory intellectual property (IP)/technology transfer requirements. Cameroon has a screening process, which is applicable to all domestic and foreign investments.  This screening process ensures that investors have legitimate registered businesses and are able to meet criteria, such as employment creation and export quantities, to qualify for private investment incentives.

The Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) was created in 2010. To date, the CIPA has signed 172 investment agreements and generated the creation of over 60,000 jobs. CIPA’S mission, in collaboration with other state institutions and private bodies, is to contribute to the development and implementation of government policy in the field of investment promotion. The agency seeks also to foster an enabling environment for investments in Cameroon.

The investment incentives offered by CIPA cover existing and emerging economic sectors. The agency also serves as a one-stop-shop facilitator through the assistance it provides to foreign and domestic investors. It processes application files for approval in compliance with its investment charter and assists in the alignment of projects with the general tax code. It can support potential foreign investors for visas applications. The agency also follows up to monitor the implementation of commitments made by approved companies.

CIPA’s sector coverage

Cameroon Investment Promotion Agency (CIPA) Sector Coverage

Sources: National Institute of Statistics, IMF, Internal estimates 2019-2020

The government maintains dialogue with business associations such as the Groupement Inter-Patronal du Cameroun (GICAM) and Enterprise Cameroon through the Cameroon Business Forum, which is sponsored by the World Bank.  Over the past year, GICAM has been critical of the government handling of the negative impact of COVID-19 on business.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no general economy-wide (statutory, de facto, or otherwise) limits on foreign ownership or control. Apart from national defense and security areas, there are no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements applied to foreign ownership and control. Despite an active government presence in most sectors of the economy, private entities – both domestic and foreign – can create and own businesses that engage in all forms of legal remunerative activities. They can also enter joint ventures and public-private partnerships with the government.

Cameroon has no laws or regulations that prescribe outright prohibition on investment, equity caps, mandatory domestic joint venture partners, licensing restrictions, or mandatory intellectual property/technology transfer requirements.  Cameroon has a screening process, which is applicable to all domestic and foreign investments.  This screening process ensures that investors meet the criteria, such as employment and export quantities, to qualify for private investment incentives.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

On June 22, 2020, the Minister of Economy and Regional Planning (MINEPAT) announced an economic stimulus package to counter the negative economic and social impacts of the COVID –19 pandemic. With a total expected budget of $798 million, the package planned to allocate funds to five areas, which include strengthening the health system ($97.3 million), supporting economic and financial resilience ($625 million), and maintaining strategic suppliers of essential goods ($9.1 million). In addition to these financial measures, the government introduced a set of temporary tax rebates, incentives, moratoria, and deferred payments for private companies. Cameroon has also benefitted from regional measures introduced by the regional central bank, Banque des Etats de l’Afrique Centrale (BEAC). Throughout 2020, BEAC maintained low interest rates, increased liquidity provisions, and widened the range of private financial instruments accepted as collateral for monetary policy operations.

The pandemic emerged as Cameroon prepared to close a three-year Extended Credit Facility agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which it signed in June 2017.  The program included structural reforms to accelerate and consolidate growth and control spending.  Under the terms of the agreement, the IMF has conducted five policy reviews outlined below.  Copies of the reviews can be found on the IMF website.

  • First Review (January 2018)
  • Second Review (July 2018)
  • Third Review (December 2018)
  • Fourth Review (July 24, 2019)
  • Fifth Review (February 14, 2020)

The evaluation and closure of the program has been disrupted by the eruption of COVID-19. But on January 22, 2021, IMF said the economic shock associated with the COVID-19 pandemic was set to have long-lasting effects on the economic outlook for the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC). The IMF indicated that the CEMAC economic outlook is highly uncertain and contingent on the evolution of the pandemic and its impact on oil prices. Before COVID-19, IMF expressed satisfaction with the progress of the implementation of reforms, while urging the country to implement stronger measures on budget transparency and improvement of the business climate.

Cameroon: Historical and Forecast Growth and Inflation 2015-2024

Sources: Cameroon Ministry of Finance and IMF

The IMF estimates that the economic shock associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is set to have long-lasting effects on the economic outlook for Cameroon and other CEMAC members. The IMF has granted financial resources to individual countries in the region to fight the pandemic. This emergency financial support has contained the initial economic fallout. Uncertainties remain in the long-term impact, especially in the context of stagnating oil prices. The IMF outlook projects that CEMAC’s fiscal and external adjustments will be slower than previously envisaged, entailing large external financing needs (around $7.7 billion for 2021–23). The IMF concludes that the outlook is highly uncertain and contingent on the evolution of the pandemic and its impact on oil prices.

Business Facilitation

Entrepreneurs obtain a unique tax identifying number when they open a company in Cameroon. This taxpayer’s identification number, known as the single identification number, is attributed to the business owners immediately when they start the registration procedure of their business. Any entity or sole proprietor starting a business in Cameroon is attributed this single identification number by the Directorate General of Taxation. The number is attributed on a permanent basis upon effective localization of the taxpayer and only after the taxpayer has filed an application to register the business with the competent tax authority within 15 working days following the commencement of activities.

According to the World Bank, it takes 14 procedures and 82 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city and economic capital.  This process is lengthier and more complex than regional and global averages.  For foreign investors, a declaration of foreign investment to the Ministry of Finance is mandatory 30 days prior to the beginning operations. In addition, if the company wants to engage in international trade, registration in the importers’ file is required to obtain an automated customs systems number (Système Douanier Automatisé, or “sydonia”).  This number facilitates the entry and exit of goods produced by the company.  The authentication of the parent company’s documentation abroad is required only to establish a subsidiary. Foreign-owned resident companies that wish to maintain foreign currency bank accounts must obtain prior approval.  The Minister of Finance issues such authorization, which is subject to approval from the Bank of Central African States (BEAC) as per Section 24 of the exchange control regulations.  This approval takes on average 38 days to obtain.  There is a minimum paid-in capital requirement of CFA 1,000,000 (~USD 1,800) for establishing LLCs.

In Cameroon, business registration remains manual after the failure of a registration portal launched by the Ministry of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises that was supposed to automate the process. To register, entrepreneurs must go to one of the regional centers for the creation of enterprises, which can complete the registration procedure within one week.

Outward Investment

The Cameroonian government does not promote or incentivize outward investment, nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Chad

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GOC’s policies towards foreign direct investment (FDI) are generally positive. Chad’s laws and regulations encourage FDI, and there are few formal restrictions on foreign trade and investment. Under Chadian law, foreign and domestic entities may establish and own business enterprises.

The National Investment Charter of 2008 permits full foreign ownership of companies in Chad. The only limit on foreign control is on ownership of companies deemed related to national security. The National Investment Charter guarantees both foreign companies and individuals equal standing with Chadian companies and individuals in the privatization process. In principle, tenders for foreign investment in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and for government contracts are conducted through open international bid procedures. The National Investment Charter also offers incentives to certain foreign companies establishing significant operations in Chad, including up to five years of tax-exempt status.

Chad’s National Agency for Investment and Exports (ANIE, Agence Nationale des Investissements et des Exports), an agency of the Ministry of Industrial and Commercial Development & Private Sector Promotion, facilitates foreign investment. ANIE’s mandate is to contribute to the creation of a business environment that meets international standing, promote investment and exports, support the development of SMEs, and inform GOC decision makers about economic policy. ANIE acts as a one-stop shop for new investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign ownership or control. There are no sector-specific restrictions that discriminate against market access for U.S. or other foreign investors, and no de facto anti-foreign discriminatory practices.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

UNCTAD published a French-language Investment Policy Review on Chad in July 2019 ( https://investmentpolicy.unctad.org/publications/1212/investment-policy-review-of-chad ).

The World Trade Organization (WTO) published a joint trade policy review for Chad, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, and Central African Republic in 2013 ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp385_e.htm ), and a standalone trade policy review for Chad in 2007 ( https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp275_e.htm ).

The OECD has not published any investment policy reviews of Chad.

Business Facilitation

Foreign businesses interested in investing in or establishing an office in Chad should contact ANIE, which offers a one-stop shop for filing the legal forms needed to start a business. The process officially takes 72 hours and is the most important legal requirement for investment. ANIE’s website ( www.anie-tchad.com ) provides additional information. Online business registration is not yet available via the Global Enterprise Registration web site ( www.GER.co ) or the Business Facilitation Program ( www.businessfacilitation.org ).

The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report ranked Chad 182 out of 190 countries for ease of starting a business, which included factors beyond registration such as permitting and access to office space, energy, and capital.

Contracts are tailored to each investment and often include additional incentives and concessions, such as permissions to import labor or agreements to work with specific local suppliers. Some contracts are confidential. Occasionally, government ministries attempt to change the terms of contracts or apply new laws broadly, even to companies that have pre-existing agreements that exempt them. Chad’s judicial system is weak, and rulings, including those relating to contract disputes, are susceptible to government interference. There is limited capacity within the judiciary to address commercial issues, including contract disputes. Parties usually settle disputes directly or through arbitration provided by the Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Agriculture, Mining, and Crafts (CCIAMA) or through an outside entity, such as the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Paris.

Outward Investment

The GOC does not offer any programs or incentives encouraging outward investment. The GOC does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Chile

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

For more than four decades, promoting inward FDI has been an essential part of the Chilean government’s national development strategy. The country’s market-oriented economic policy creates significant opportunities for foreign investors to participate. Laws and practices are not discriminatory against foreign investors, who receive treatment similar to Chilean nationals. Chile’s business climate is generally straightforward and transparent, and its policy framework has remained consistent despite developments such as civil unrest in 2019 and the COVID-19 pandemic starting in 2020. However, the permitting process for infrastructure, mining, and energy projects is contentious, especially regarding politically sensitive environmental impact assessments, water rights issues, and indigenous consultations.

InvestChile is the government agency in charge of facilitating the entry and retention of FDI into Chile. It provides services related to investment attraction (information about investment opportunities); pre-investment (sector-specific advisory services, including legal); landing (access to certificates, funds and networks); and after-care (including assistance for exporting and re-investment).

Regarding government-investor dialogue, in May 2018, the Ministry of Economy created the Sustainable Projects Management Office (GPS). This agency provides support to investment projects, both domestic and foreign, serving as a first point of contact with the government and coordinating with different agencies in charge of evaluating investment projects, which aims to help resolve issues that emerge during the permitting process.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors have access to all productive activities, except for the domestic maritime freight sector, in which foreign ownership of companies is capped at 49 percent. Maritime transportation between Chilean ports is open since 2019 to foreign cruise vessels with more than 400 passengers. Some international reciprocity restrictions exist for fishing.

Most enterprises in Chile may be 100 percent owned by foreigners. Chile only restricts the right to private ownership or establishment in what it defines as certain “strategic” sectors, such as nuclear energy and mining. The Constitution establishes the “absolute, exclusive, inalienable and permanent domain” of the Chilean state over all mineral, hydrocarbon, and fossil fuel deposits within Chilean territory. However, Chilean law allows the government to grant concession rights and lease agreements to individuals and companies for exploration and exploitation activities, and to assign contracts to private investors, without discrimination against foreign investors.

Chile has not implemented an investment screening mechanism for national security purposes. FDI is subject to pro forma screening by InvestChile. Businesses in general do not consider these screening mechanisms as barriers to investment because approval procedures are expeditious and investments are usually approved. Some transactions require an anti-trust review by the office of the national economic prosecutor (Fiscalía Nacional Económica) and/or sector-specific regulators.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has not conducted a Trade Policy Review for Chile since June 2015 (available here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp415_e.htm). The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has not conducted an Investment Policy Review for Chile since 1997 (available here: http://www.oecd.org/daf/inv/investment-policy/34384328.pdf), and the country is not part of the countries covered to date by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) Investment Policy Reviews.

Business Facilitation

The Chilean government took significant steps towards business facilitation during the past decade. Starting in 2018, the government introduced updated electronic and online systems for providing some tax information, complaints related to contract enforcement, and online registration of closed corporations (non-public corporations). In June 2019, the Ministry of Economy launched the Unified System for Permits (SUPER), a new online single-window platform that brings together 182 license and permit procedures, simplifying the process of obtaining permits for investment projects.

According to the World Bank, Chile has one of the shortest and smoothest processes among Latin American and Caribbean countries – 11 procedures and 29 days – to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC). Drafting statutes of a company and obtaining an authorization number can be done online at the platform https://www.registrodeempresasysociedades.cl/. Electronic signature and invoicing allow foreign investors to register a company, obtain a tax payer ID number and get legal receipts, invoices, credit and debit notes, and accountant registries. A company typically needs to register with Chile’s Internal Revenue Service, obtain a business license from a municipality, and register either with the Institute of Occupational Safety (public) or with one of three private nonprofit entities that provide work-related accident insurance, which is mandatory for employers. In addition to the steps required of a domestic company, a foreign company establishing a subsidiary in Chile must authenticate the parent company’s documents abroad and register the incoming capital with the Central Bank. This procedure, established under Chapter XIV of the Foreign Exchange Regulations, requires a notice of conversion of foreign currency into Chilean pesos when the investment exceeds $10,000 (USD). The registration process at the Registry of Commerce of Santiago is available online.

Outward Investment

The Government of Chile does not have an active policy of promotion or incentives for outward investment, nor does it impose restrictions on it.

Colombia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Colombian government actively encourages foreign direct investment (FDI). The economic liberalization reforms of the early 1990s provided for national treatment of foreign investors, lifted controls on remittance of profits and capital, and allowed foreign investment in most sectors. Colombia imposes the same investment restrictions on foreign investors that it does on national investors. Generally, foreign investors may participate in the privatization of state-owned enterprises without restrictions. All FDI involving the establishment of a commercial presence in Colombia requires registration with the Superintendence of Corporations and the local chamber of commerce. All conditions being equal during tender processes, national offers are preferred over foreign offers. Assuming equal conditions among foreign bidders, those with major Colombian national workforce resources, significant national capital, and/or better conditions to facilitate technology transfers are preferred.

ProColombia is the Colombian government entity that promotes international tourism, foreign investment, and non-traditional exports. ProColombia assists foreign companies that wish to enter the Colombian market by addressing specific needs, such as identifying contacts in the public and private sectors, organizing visit agendas, and accompanying companies during visits to Colombia. All services are free of charge and confidential. Priority sectors include business process outsourcing, software and IT services, cosmetics, health services, automotive manufacturing, textiles, graphic communications, and electric energy. ProColombia’s “Invest in Colombia” web portal offers detailed information about opportunities in agribusiness, manufacturing, and services in Colombia (www.investincolombia.com.co/sectors ). The Duque administration – including senior leaders at the Presidency, ProColombia, and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Trade – continue to stress Colombia’s openness to foreign investors and aggressively market Colombia as an investment destination.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investment in the financial, hydrocarbon, and mining sectors is subject to special regimes, such as investment registration and concession agreements with the Colombian government, but is not restricted in the amount of foreign capital. The following sectors require that foreign investors have a legal local representative and/or commercial presence in Colombia: travel and tourism agency services; money order operators; customs brokerage; postal and courier services; merchandise warehousing; merchandise transportation under customs control; international cargo agents; public service companies, including sewage and water works, waste disposal, electricity, gas and fuel distribution, and public telephone services; insurance firms; legal services; and special air services, including aerial fire-fighting, sightseeing, and surveying.

According to the Colombian constitution and foreign investment regulations, foreign investment in Colombia receives the same treatment as an investment made by Colombian nationals. Foreign investment is permitted in all sectors, except in activities related to defense, national security, and toxic waste handling and disposal. There are no performance requirements explicitly applicable to the entry and establishment of foreign investment in Colombia.

Foreign investors face specific exceptions and restrictions in the following sectors:

Media: Only Colombian nationals or legally constituted entities may provide radio or subscription-based television services. For National Open Television and Nationwide Private Television Operators, only Colombian nationals or legal entities may be granted concessions to provide television services. Foreign investment in national television is limited to a maximum of 40 percent ownership of an operator.

Accounting, Auditing, and Data Processing: To practice in Colombia, providers of accounting services must register with the Central Accountants Board and have uninterrupted domicile in Colombia for at least three years prior to registry. A legal commercial presence is required to provide data processing and information services in Colombia.

Banking: Foreign investors may own 100 percent of financial institutions in Colombia, but are required to obtain approval from the Financial Superintendent before making a direct investment of ten percent or more in any one entity. Foreign banks must establish a local commercial presence and comply with the same capital and other requirements as local financial institutions. Every investment of foreign capital in portfolios must be through a Colombian administrator company, including brokerage firms, trust companies, and investment management companies.

Fishing: A foreign vessel may engage in fishing activities in Colombian territorial waters only through association with a Colombian company holding a valid fishing permit. If a ship’s flag corresponds to a country with which Colombia has a complementary bilateral agreement, this agreement shall determine whether the association requirement applies for the process required to obtain a fishing license. The costs of fishing permits are greater for foreign flag vessels.

Private Security and Surveillance Companies: Companies constituted with foreign capital prior to February 11, 1994 cannot increase the share of foreign capital. Those constituted after that date can only have Colombian nationals as shareholders.

Transportation: Foreign companies can only provide multimodal freight services within or from Colombian territory if they have a domiciled agent or representative legally responsible for its activities in Colombia. International cabotage companies can provide cabotage services (i.e. between two points within Colombia) “only when there is no national capacity to provide the service.” Colombia prohibits foreign ownership of commercial ships licensed in Colombia. The owners of a concession providing port services must be legally constituted in Colombia, and only Colombian ships may provide port services within Colombian maritime jurisdiction, unless there are no capable Colombian-flag vessels.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The WTO most recently reviewed Colombia’s trade policy in June 2018. https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp472_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

New businesses must register with the chamber of commerce of the city in which the company will reside. Applicants also register using the Colombian tax authority’s (DIAN) portal at: www.dian.gov.co  to obtain a taxpayer ID (RUT). Business founders must visit DIAN offices to obtain an electronic signature for company legal representatives, and obtain – in-person or online – an authorization for company invoices from DIAN. In 2019, Colombia made starting a business a step easier by lifting a requirement of opening a local bank account to obtain invoice authorization. Companies must submit a unified electronic form to self-assess and pay social security and payroll contributions to the Governmental Learning Service (Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje, or SENA), the Colombian Family Welfare Institute (Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar, or ICBF), and the Family Compensation Fund (Caja de Compensación Familiar). After that, companies must register employees for public health coverage, affiliate the company to a public or private pension fund, affiliate the company and employees to an administrator of professional risks, and affiliate employees with a severance fund.

According to the World Bank’s “Doing Business 2020” report, recent reforms simplified starting a business, trading across borders, and resolving insolvency. According to the report, starting a company in Colombia requires seven procedures and takes an average of 10 days. Information on starting a company can be found at http://www.ccb.org.co/en/Creating-a-company/Company-start-up/Step-by-step-company-creation ; https://investincolombia.com.co/how-to-invest.html ; and http://www.dian.gov.co .

Outward Investment

Colombia does not incentivize outward investment nor does it restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Côte d’Ivoire

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The government actively encourages Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and is committed to increasing it. Foreign companies are free to invest and list on the regional stock exchange Bourse Régionale des Valeurs Mobilières (BRVM), which is based in Abidjan and covers the eight countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU). WAEMU members are part of the Regional Council for Savings and Investment, a regional securities regulatory body.

In most sectors, there are no laws that limit foreign investment. There are restrictions, however, on foreign investment in the health sector, law and accounting firms, and travel agencies.

Land tenure is a complicated and sensitive issue. Land tenure disputes exist all over the country owing to multiple forms of traditional collective tenure and the lack of formal private land ownership in most areas. Companies that wish to purchase land must have the property surveyed before obtaining title. Surveying is tightly controlled by a small group of companies and can often cost more than the value of the parcel of land. Freehold land tenure in rural areas is difficult to negotiate, however, and can inhibit foreign investment. Most businesses, including agribusinesses and forestry companies, circumvent the complicated land purchase process by acquiring long-term leases instead. There are regulations designed to control land speculation in urban areas, but they do not prevent foreigners from owning land.

The Ivoirian government’s investment promotion agency, the Center for the Promotion of Investment in Côte d’Ivoire (CEPICI), promotes and attracts national and foreign investment. Its services are available to all investors, provided through a one-stop shop intended to facilitate business creation, operation, and expansion. CEPICI ensures that investors receive incentives outlined in the investment code and facilitates access to industrial land. More information is available at http://www.cepici.gouv.ci/ .

Côte d’Ivoire maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors through various business networks and platforms, such as CEPICI, the Ivoirian Chamber of Commerce (CCI-CI), the association of large enterprises (CGECI), and the bankers’ association.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors generally have access to all forms of remunerative activity on terms equal to those enjoyed by Ivoirians. The government encourages foreign investment, including state-owned firms that the government is privatizing, although in most cases of privatization the state reserves an equity stake in the new company.

There are no general, economy-wide limits on foreign ownership or control, and few sector-specific restrictions. There are no laws specifically directing private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control in those firms, and no such practices have been reported.

Banks and insurance companies are subject to licensing requirements, but there are no restrictions designed to limit foreign ownership or to limit establishment of subsidiaries of foreign companies in this sector. Investments in health, law and accounting, and travel agencies are subject to prior approval and require appropriate licenses and association with an Ivoirian partner. The Ivoirian government has, on a case-by-case basis, mandated using local providers, hiring local employees, or arranging for eventual transfer to local control.

The government does not have an official policy to screen investments, and its overall economic and industrial strategy does not discriminate against foreign-owned firms. There are indications in some instances of preferential treatment for firms from countries with longstanding commercial ties to Côte d’Ivoire.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Côte d’Ivoire has not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) through the OECD. The WTO last conducted a Trade Policy Review in October 2017, which can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp462_e.htm .

UNCTAD published an Investment Policy Review for Côte d’Ivoire in February 2020, which can be found at https://unctad.org/webflyer/investment-policy-review-cote-divoire 

The Government of Côte d’Ivoire provides information about sector policies and business opportunities in publicly available reports. More information can be found at: https://www.cepici.gouv.ci/ .

Business Facilitation

The CEPICI manages Côte d’Ivoire’s online information portal containing all documents dedicated to business creation and registration ( https://cotedivoire.eregulations.org/ ). All the necessary documentation for registration is available online, however actual registration must be done in person. Further information on business registration is also available on CEPICI’s website ( http://www.cepici.gouv.ci/ ).

Businesses can register at the CEPICI’s One-Stop Shop (Guichet Unique) in Abidjan. The One-Stop Shop allows businesses to register with the commercial registrar (Registre du Commerce et du Crédit Immobilier), the tax authority (Direction Générale d’Impôts) and the social security institute (Caisse Nationale de Prévoyance Sociale). The One-Stop Shop also publishes the legal notice of incorporation on CEPICI’s website. All necessary documents for registration are also available on the website. Registration takes between one and three days. The business licensing process, controlled by sector-specific governing bodies, is separate from the registration process.

Women have equal access to the registration process. There have not been any reports of discrimination in that regard.

Outward Investment

Côte d’Ivoire does not promote or incentivize outward investment.

However, the government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The ascension of Felix Tshisekedi to the Presidency in January 2019 and his welcoming attitude toward foreign direct investment (FDI), particularly from the United States, have raised hopes that the DRC government (GDRC) can impose and follow through on favorable FDI policies.  Favorable FDI laws exist, but the judicial system is slow to protect investors’ rights and is susceptible to political pressure and corruption.  Investors hope Tshisekedi can create a more favorable enabling environment by business climate reform, better rule of law, and tackling corruption. The DRC’s rich endowment of natural resources, large population and generally open trading system provide significant potential opportunities for U.S. investors.

The major regulations governing FDI are found in the Investment Code Act (No. 004/2002 of 21 February 2002). Current regulations reserve the practice of small retail commerce in DRC to nationals and ban foreign majority-ownership of agricultural concerns.  The ordinance of August 8, 1990, clearly stipulates that “small business can only be carried out by Congolese.”  Foreign investors should limit themselves to import trade as well as wholesale and semi-wholesale trade. Investors have expressed concern that the ban on foreign agricultural ownership will stifle any attempts to kick-start the agrarian sector.

The National Investment Promotion Agency (ANAPI) is the official investment agency, which provides investment facilitation services for initial investments over USD 200,000.  It is mandated to promote the positive image of the DRC and specific investment opportunities; advocate for the improvement of the business climate in the country and provide administrative support to new foreign investors who decide to establish or expand their economic activities on the national territory.  More information is available at https://www.investindrc.cd/.

The GDRC maintains an ongoing dialogue with investors to hear their concerns. There are several public and private sector forums which speak to the government on the investment climate in specific sectors.  In 2019 President Tshisekedi created the business climate cell (CCA) to monitor the improvement of the economic environment and the business climate in the DRC, and to interface with the business community.  The CCA in June 2020 presented a roadmap for reform.  The public-private Financial and Technical Partners (PTF) mining group represents countries with significant mining investments in the DRC. The Federation of Congolese Enterprises (FEC), which is a privileged partner of the government and the workers’ unions, has a dialogue on business interests with the government.  The FEC has relayed information to the government about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the private sector.  The FEC is also tracking post-Covid-19 investment sectors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The GDRC provides the right for foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

The DRC law reserves small commerce exclusively for Congolese nationals and does not allow foreign investors to own more than 49 percent of an agribusiness.  Many investors note that in practice the GDRC requires foreign investors to hire local agents and participate in a joint venture with the government or local partners.

The GDRC promulgated a mining code in 2018 which increased royalty rates from two to ten percent, raised tax rates on “strategic” metals, and imposed a surcharge on “super profits” of mining companies.  The government unilaterally removed a stability clause contained in the previous mining code protecting investors from any new fees or taxes for ten years.  Removal of the stability clause may deter future investment in the mining sector.  The Tshisekedi government has indicated that it is willing to reopen discussions on the new mining code.

The GDRC does not maintain an organization to screen inbound investment.  The Presidency and the ministries serve this purpose de facto.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The DRC has not undergone a World Trade Organization (WTO), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), or a United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Investment Policy Review in the last three years.  Cities with high custom clearance traffic use Sydonia https://asycuda.org/wp-content/uploads/Etude-de-Cas-SYDONIA-Contr%C3%B4le-de-la-Valeur-RDC.pdf, which is an advanced software system for custom administrations in compliance with ASYCUDA WORLD. (ASYCUDA is a large technical assistance software program recommended by UNCTAD for custom clearance management.)

Business Facilitation

The GDRC operates a “one-stop-shop” for Business Creation (GUCE) that brings together all the government entities involved in the registration of a company in the DRC.  The goal is to permit the quick and simple registration of companies through one office in one location.  In October 2020, President Tshisekedi instructed the government to restructure GUCE in order to ease its work with the various state organizations involved in its operation.  More information is available at https://guichetunique.cd/.

At the one-stop-shop, companies fill in a “formulaire unique” in order to register with the: Commercial Registry (GUCE); tax administration (Direction Générale des Impots); Ministry of Labor; and National Institute for Social Security (Institut National de Sécurité Sociale (“INSS”)).  The Labor Inspection Department and the National Office of Employment (l’Office National de l’Emploi (“ONEM”)) are also to be notified of the establishment of the company.  Companies may also need to obtain an operating permit, as required from some municipal councils.  The registration process now officially takes three days, but in practice it can take much longer.  Some businesses have reported that the GUCE has considerably shortened and simplified the overall process of business registration.

Outward Investment

The GDRC does not prohibit outward investment, nor does it particularly promote or incentivize it.

There are no current government restrictions preventing domestic investors from investing abroad, and there are no currently blacklisted countries with which domestic investors are precluded from doing business.

Djibouti

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Djibouti’s laws encourage FDI, with state-run media providing favorable coverage of projects funded by foreign entities. The government sees FDI as a driving force behind Djibouti’s economic growth. Faced with a high unemployment rate of over 47%, FDI is expected to generate jobs.

There are no laws, practices, or mechanisms that discriminate against foreign investors. Navigating the bureaucracy, however, can be complicated. Certain sectors, most notably public utilities, are state-owned and are not open to investors. The state-owned enterprise (SOE) Djibouti Electricity (EDD) had a monopoly on electricity production for decades, however in July 2015, the Djiboutian government approved a bill liberalizing the production of electricity. The energy sector is now open to competition through Power Purchase Agreements, however EDD retains all rights to the transmission and distribution of electricity. The liberalization of production has resulted in the private development of wind, solar, and waste to energy resources.

Djibouti’s National Investment Promotion Agency (NIPA), created in 2001 under the Ministry of Finance, promotes private-sector investment, facilitates investment operations, and works to modernize the country’s regulatory framework. NIPA assists foreign and domestic investors by disseminating information and streamlining administrative procedures. In March 2017, NIPA’s one-stop-shop was officially inaugurated. The NIPA is the main coordinator of the one-stop-shop which houses several agencies. NIPA has identified several priority sectors for investment, including infrastructure and renewable energy.

A new Minister of Investment position was created in 2016 to further attract and reach out to potential investors. The Minister reports directly to the presidency.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have equal rights in establishing and owning business enterprises and engaging in all forms of remunerative activity. Furthermore, foreign investors are not required by law to have a local partner except in the insurance industry, and there, only if the company is registered as a local company and not a branch of an existing foreign company. There is no established screening process for FDI; it is encouraged and given favorable tax status. Specific terms are negotiated on a case-by-case basis. Many companies therefore have a unique status created by agreement with varying preferences and advantages. Some foreign companies choose to have a local partner to help them better navigate the local bureaucracy and cultural sensitivities.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECD, WTO, and the UNCTAD have not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) for Djibouti in the last three years. Post is not aware of any other multilateral organization having an IPR for Djibouti in the last three years.

Business Facilitation

The government of Djibouti has facilitated the registration of business by reducing the capital needed for investment, simplifying the formalities needed to register with the Intellectual Property office, and simplifying certain tax procedures. The most important result is the finalization of a one-stop shop, called Guichet Unique, managed by NIPA. The Guichet Unique ( http://www.guichet-unique.dj ) brings together all the agencies with which a company must register.

Typically, a company registers with the following Djiboutian offices: Office of Intellectual Property, Tax office, and the Social Security office. Online registration is not possible; the normal registration process takes 14 days, according to the World Bank. In Djibouti, new businesses must have every document notarized to begin operations.

Outward Investment

The government neither promotes nor restricts outward investment.

Dominica

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Dominica strongly encourages foreign direct investment, particularly in industries that create jobs, earn foreign currency, and have a positive impact on local citizens.

Through the Invest Dominica Authority (IDA), the government instituted a number of investment incentives for businesses considering locating in Dominica.  Government policies provide liberal tax holidays, duty-free import of equipment and materials, exemption from value added tax on some capital investments, and withholding tax exemptions on dividends, interest payments, and some external payments and income.  The IDA additionally provides support to approved citizenship by investment (CBI) projects.

In late December 2020, the IDA announced plans to launch a new Investment Promotion Strategy in 2021.  The new strategy will focus on four broad areas: agriculture and agri-business, renewable energy, tourism and knowledge services such as business processing operations.  Other sectors include film, music, and video production, manufacturing, bulk water export and bottled water operations, medical and nursing schools, and English language training services.  The government continuously reviews these sectors and has signaled that it is also willing to consider additional sectors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no limits on foreign control in Dominica.  Foreign investment in Dominica is not subject to any restrictions, and foreign investors are entitled to receive the same treatment as nationals of Dominica.  Foreign investors are entitled to hold up to 100 percent of their investment.  The only restriction is the requirement to obtain an Alien Landholders License for foreign investors seeking to purchase property for residential or commercial purposes.  Local enterprises generally welcome joint ventures with foreign investors in order to access technology, expertise, markets, and capital.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The OECS, of which Dominica is a member, has not conducted a World Trade Organization (WTO) trade policy review since 2014.

Business Facilitation

The IDA is Dominica’s main business facilitation unit.  It facilitates foreign direct investment into priority sectors and advises the government on the formation and implementation of policies and programs to attract investment in Dominica.  The IDA provides business support services and market intelligence to all investors.  It offers an online tool useful for navigating laws, rules, procedures, and registration requirements for foreign investors.  Its website is http://investdominica.com.

All potential investors applying for government incentives must submit their proposals for review by the IDA to ensure the project is consistent with the national interest and provides economic benefits to the country.

The Companies and Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) maintains an e-filing portal for most of its services, including company registration on its website.  However, this only allows for the preliminary processing of applications prior to the investor physically making a payment at the Supreme Court office.  Investors are advised to seek the advice of a local attorney prior to starting the process.  Further information is available at http://www.cipo.gov.dm.

The World Bank’s Doing Business Report for 2020 ranks Dominica 71st out of 190 countries in the ease of starting a business.  It takes five procedures and about 12 days to complete the process.  The general practice is to retain an attorney who prepares all the relevant incorporation documents.  A business must register with CIPO, the Tax Authority, and the Social Services Institute.

Outward Investment

There is no restriction on domestic investors seeking to do business abroad.  Local companies in Dominica are actively encouraged to take advantage of export opportunities specifically related to the country’s membership in the OECS Economic Union and the Caribbean Community Single Market and Economy (CSME), which enhance the competitiveness of the local and regional private sectors across traditional and emerging high-potential markets.

Dominican Republic

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Dominican Republic presents both opportunities and challenges for foreign investment. The government strongly promotes inward FDI and has prioritized creating a sound enabling environment for foreign investors. While the government has established formal programs to attract FDI, a lack of clear rules and uneven enforcement of existing rules can lead to difficulties.

The Dominican Republic provides tax incentives for investment in tourism, renewable energy, film production, Haiti-Dominican Republic border development, and the industrial sector. The country is also a signatory of CAFTA-DR, which mandates non-discriminatory treatment, free transferability of funds, protection against expropriation, and procedures for the resolution of investment disputes. However, some foreign investors indicate that the uneven enforcement of regulations and laws, or political interference in legal processes, creates difficulties for investment.

There are two main government agencies responsible for attracting foreign investment, the Export and Investment Center of the Dominican Republic (CEI-RD) and the National Council of Free Trade Zones for Export (CNZFE). CEI-RD promotes foreign investment and aids prospective foreign investors with business registration, matching services, and identification of investment opportunities. It publishes an annual “Investment Guide of the Dominican Republic,” highlighting many of the tools, incentives, and opportunities available for prospective investors. The CEI-RD also oversees “ProDominicana,” a branding and marketing program for the country launched in 2017 that promotes the DR as an investment destination and exporter. CNZFE aids foreign companies looking to establish operations in the country’s 75 free trade zones for export outside Dominican territory.

There are a variety of business associations that promote dialogue between the government and private sector, including the Association of Foreign Investor Businesses (ASIEX).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign Investment Law No. 16-95 states that unlimited foreign investment is permitted in all sectors, with a few exceptions for hazardous materials or materials linked to national security. Private entities, both foreign and domestic, have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all legal remunerative activity. Foreign companies are not restricted in their access to foreign exchange, there are no requirements that foreign equity be reduced over time or that technology be transferred according to defined terms, and the government imposes no conditions on foreign investors concerning location, local ownership, local content, or export requirements. See Section 3 Legal Regime for more information.

The Dominican Republic does not maintain a formalized investment screening and approval mechanism for inbound foreign investment. Details on the established mechanisms for registering a business or investment are elaborated in the Business Facilitations section below.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Dominican Republic has not been reviewed recently by multilateral organizations regarding investment policy. The most recent reviews occurred in 2015. This included a trade policy review by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and a follow-up review by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) regarding its 2009 investment policy recommendations.

2009 UNCTAD – https://unctad.org/en/pages/PublicationArchive.aspx?publicationid=6343 

2015 WTO – https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s319_e.pdf

2015 UNCTAD – https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/diaepcb2016d2_en.pdf

Business Facilitation

Foreign investment does not require any prior approval in the Dominican Republic, but once made it must be registered with the CEI-RD. Investments in free zones must be registered with the CNZFE, which will notify the CEI-RD.  Foreign investment registration is compulsory, but failure to do so is not subject to any sanction.  In the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report, the Dominican Republic’s overall ranking for ease of doing business fell from 102 in 2019 to 115 in 2020, reflecting stagnant performance in several of the indicator categories.

Law No. 16-95 Foreign Investment, Law No. 98-03 on the Creation of the CEI-RD, and Regulation 214-04 govern foreign investment in the Dominican Republic and require an interested foreign investor to file an application form at the offices of CEI-RD within 180 calendar days from the date on which the foreign investment took place. The required documents include the application for registration, containing information on the invested capital and the area of the investment; proof of entry into the country of the foreign capital or physical or tangible goods; and documents of commercial incorporation or the authorization of operation of a branch office through the setting up of legal domicile in the country.  The reinvestment of profits (in the same or a different firm) must be registered within 90 days. Once the documents have been approved, the CEI-RD issues a certificate of registration within 15 business days subject to the payment of a fee which varies depending on the amount of the investment.

Lack of registration does not affect the validity of the foreign investment; but the fact that it is needed to fulfil various types of procedures, makes registration necessary in practice. For example, the registration certificate has to be presented to repatriate profits or investment in the event of sale or liquidation and to purchase foreign exchange from the authorized agencies for transfers abroad, as well as to process the residency of the investor.  In April 2021, CEI-RD launched an online Registry of Foreign Direct Investment, which aims to streamline and make the registration processes more transparent to investors. For more information on becoming an investor or exporter, visit the CEI-RD ProDominicana website at https://prodominicana.gob.do .

The Dominican Republic has a single-window registration website for registering a limited liability company (SRL by its Spanish acronym) that offers a one-stop shop for registration needs ( https://www.formalizate.gob.do/ ). Foreign companies may use the registration website. However, this electronic method of registration is not widely used in practice and consultation with a local lawyer is recommended for company registrations. According to the “Doing Business” report, starting a SRL in the Dominican Republic is a seven-step process that requires 16.5 days. However, some businesses advise the full incorporation process can take two to three times longer than the advertised process.

In order to set up a business in a free trade zone, a formal request must be made to the CNZFE, the entity responsible for issuing the operating licenses needed to be a free zone company or operator. CNZFE assesses the application and determines its feasibility. For more information on the procedure to apply for an operating license, visit the website of the CNZFE at http://www.cnzfe.gov.do .

Outward Investment

There are no legal or government restrictions on Dominican investment abroad, although the government does little to promote it. Outbound foreign investment is significantly lower than inbound investment. The largest recipient of Dominican outward investment is the United States.

Ecuador

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Ecuador is open to FDI in most sectors. The 2008 Constitution established that the state reserves the right to manage strategic sectors through state-owned or -controlled companies. The sectors identified are energy, telecommunications, non-renewable natural resources, transportation, hydrocarbon refining, water, biodiversity, and genetic patrimony (i.e. flora, fauna and ancestral knowledge). Although in recent years Ecuador took steps to attract FDI, its overall investment climate remains challenging as economic, commercial, and investment policies are subject to frequent change. From January to September 2020 (latest information available), FDI flows to Ecuador amounted to USD 897 million, 45 percent more than 2019 levels (USD 619 million) but still 36 percent lower than 2018 levels (USD 1.4 billion). FDI continues to be lower compared to other countries in the region.

There are no laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors, but the legal complexity resulting from the inconsistent application and interpretation of existing laws and regulations increases the risks and costs of doing business in Ecuador. Under the prior Correa administration, disputes involving U.S. companies were politicized, especially in sensitive areas such as the energy sector. This resulted in several high-profile international investment dispute cases, with companies awarded damages in international arbitral rulings against Ecuador in the last few years. In addition, several cases are pending final arbitral rulings.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities are allowed to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity, with limitations in strategic sectors as enumerated in the Constitution. There are no investment screening mechanisms for inbound investment, and the Ecuadorian government actively seeks international investors. One hundred percent foreign equity ownership is allowed.

For license and franchise transactions, no limits exist on royalties that may be remitted, although financial outflows are subject to a five percent capital exit tax. All license and franchise agreements must be registered with the National Service for Intellectual Property Rights (SENADI). In addition to registering with the Superintendence of Companies, Securities, and Insurance, foreign investors must register investments with Ecuador’s Central Bank for statistical purposes.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Ecuador conducted a trade policy review with the World Trade Organization in March 2019; information can be found at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp483_e.htm.

In the past three years, Ecuador has not conducted an investment policy review with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

Business Facilitation

In 2018, Ecuador folded ProEcuador (https://www.proecuador.gob.ec/), the entity that is responsible for promoting economic development through exports, imports, and investment in Ecuador, into the Ministry of Production, Foreign Trade, Investments and Fisheries (MPCIEP). ProEcuador is now a Vice Ministry within MPCIEP and has 27 offices in 23 countries, including three in the United States. Ecuador is ranked 129th out of 190 countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report for 2020, with particularly low rankings for Starting a Business (177), Resolving Insolvency (160), and Paying Taxes (147).

A newly created company will at a minimum be required to register with the Superintendence of Companies, Securities, and Insurance (http://www.supercias.gob.ec/), the municipal government, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Social Security Institute. The registry with the Superintendence of Companies is a completely online process as of April 2019. The incorporation of companies in Ecuador grew almost eight percent in 2020 (10,800 new companies), propelled by the introduction of the simplified joint-stock company (SAS). The SAS came into effect in May 2020 following the enactment of the Organic Law on Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Outward Investment

Ecuador does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad. ProEcuador (see above) is responsible for promotion of outward investment from Ecuador. Foreign investments are subject to a currency exit tax of five percent.

In February 2017, voters passed a government-backed referendum prohibiting elected officials and public servants from having financial dealings in tax havens and other suspect jurisdictions. The list includes several U.S. states and territories that do not have state income taxes. The prohibition entered into force in September 2017.

The United States and Ecuador signed the Protocol on Trade Rules and Transparency in December 2020 under the Ecuador-U.S. Trade and Investment Council Agreement (TIC). The agreement updates the TIC with new annexes in four areas: Trade Facilitation and Customs Administration, Good Regulatory Practices, Anti-Corruption, and SMEs. The Protocol awaits legislative ratification (as of April 2021).

Egypt

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Egypt’s completion of the three-year, $12-billion IMF Extended Fund Facility between 2016 and 2019, and its associated reform package, helped stabilize Egypt’s macroeconomy, introduced important subsidy and social spending reforms, and helped restore investor confidence in the Egyptian economy.  The flotation of the Egyptian Pound (EGP) in November 2016 and the restart of Egypt’s interbank foreign exchange (FX) market as part of this program was the first major step in restoring investor confidence that immediately led to increased portfolio investment and should lead to increased FDI over the long term.  Other important reforms have included a new investment law and an industrial licensing law in 2017, a new bankruptcy law in 2018, a new customs law in 2020, and other reforms aimed at reducing regulatory overhang and improving the ease of doing business. Egypt’s government has announced plans to improve its business climate further through investment promotion, facilitation, more efficient business services, and the implementation of investor-friendly policies.

With few exceptions, Egypt does not legally discriminate between Egyptian nationals and foreigners in the formation and operation of private companies. The 1997 Investment Incentives Law was designed to encourage domestic and foreign investment in targeted economic sectors and to promote decentralization of industry away from the Nile Valley. The law allows 100 percent foreign ownership of investment projects and guarantees the right to remit income earned in Egypt and to repatriate capital.

The Tenders Law (Law 89 of 1998) requires the government to consider both price and best value in awarding contracts and to issue an explanation for refusal of a bid. However, the law contains preferences for Egyptian domestic contractors, who are accorded priority if their bids do not exceed the lowest foreign bid by more than 15 percent.

The Capital Markets Law (Law 95 of 1992) and its amendments, including the most recent in February 2018, and relevant regulations govern Egypt’s capital markets.  Foreign investors are able to buy shares on the Egyptian Stock Exchange on the same basis as local investors.

The General Authority for Investment and Free Zones (GAFI, http://gafi.gov.eg) is the principal government body that regulates and facilitates foreign investment in Egypt, and reports directly to the Prime Minister.

The Investor Service Center (ISC) is an administrative unit within GAFI that provides “one-stop-shop” services, easing the way for global investors looking for opportunities presented by Egypt’s domestic economy and the nation’s competitive advantages as an export hub for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This is in addition to promoting Egypt’s investment opportunities in various sectors.

The ISC provides a start-to-end service to the investor, including assistance related to company incorporation, establishment of company branches, approval of minutes of Board of Directors and General Assemblies, increases of capital, changes of activity, liquidation procedures, and other corporate-related matters. The Center also aims to issue licenses, approvals, and permits required for investment activities within 60 days from the date of request. Other services GAFI provides include:

Advice and support to help in the evaluation of Egypt as a potential investment location;

Identification of suitable locations and site selection options within Egypt;

Assistance in identifying suitable Egyptian partners; and

Aftercare and dispute settlement services. ​

The ISC plans to establish branches in each of Egypt’s Governorates by the end of 2021.  Egypt maintains ongoing communication with investors through formal business roundtables, investment promotion events (conferences and seminars), and one-on-one investment meetings.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Egyptian Companies Law does not set any limitation on the number of foreigners, neither as shareholders nor as managers/board members, except for Limited Liability Companies where the only restriction is that one of the managers must be an Egyptian national. In addition, companies are required to obtain a commercial and tax license, and pass a security clearance process.  Companies are able to operate while undergoing the often lengthy security screening process.  However, if the firm is rejected, it must cease operations and may undergo a lengthy appeals process.  Businesses have cited instances where Egyptian clients were hesitant to conclude long-term business contracts with foreign businesses that have yet to receive a security clearance. They have also expressed concern about seemingly arbitrary refusals, a lack of explanation when a security clearance is not issued, and the lengthy appeals process. Although the Government of Egypt has made progress streamlining the business registration process at GAFI, inconsistent treatment by banks and other government officials has in some cases led to registration delays.

Sector-specific limitations to investment include restrictions on foreign shareholding of companies owning lands in the Sinai Peninsula. Likewise, the Import-Export Law requires companies wishing to register in the Import Registry to be 51 percent owned and managed by Egyptians. Nevertheless, the new Investment Law does allow wholly foreign companies investing in Egypt to import goods and materials. In January 2021 the Egyptian government removed the 20-percent foreign ownership cap for international and private schools in Egypt.

The ownership of land by foreigners is complicated, in that it is governed by three laws: Law 15 of 1963, Law 143 of 1981, and Law 230 of 1996.  Land/Real Estate Law 15 of 1963 explicitly prohibits foreign individual or corporation ownership of agricultural land (defined as traditional agricultural land in the Nile Valley, Delta and Oases). Law 15/1963 stipulates that no foreigners, whether natural or juristic persons, may acquire agricultural land.  Law 143/1981 governs the acquisition and ownership of desert land. Certain limits are placed on the number of feddans (one feddan is approximately equal to one acre) that may be owned by individuals, families, cooperatives, partnerships, and corporations regardless of nationality. Partnerships are permitted to own 10,000 feddans. Joint stock companies are permitted to own 50,000 feddans.

Under Law 230/1986, non-Egyptians are allowed to own real estate (vacant or built) only under the following conditions:

  • Ownership is limited to two real estate properties in Egypt that serve as accommodation for the owner and his family (spouses and minors) in addition to the right to own real estate needed for activities licensed by the Egyptian Government.
  • The area of each real estate property does not exceed 4,000 m².
  • The real estate is not considered a historical site.

Exemption from the first and second conditions is subject to the approval of the Prime Minister. Ownership in tourist areas and new communities is subject to conditions established by the Cabinet of Ministers. Non-Egyptians owning vacant real estate in Egypt must build within a period of five years from the date their ownership is registered by a notary public. Non-Egyptians cannot sell their real estate for five years after registration of ownership, unless the Prime Minister consents to an exemption.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In December 2020, the World Bank published a Country Private Sector Diagnostic report for Egypt, which analyzed key structural economic reforms that the Egyptian government should adopt in order to encourage private-sector-led economic growth. The report also included recommendations for the agribusiness, manufacturing, information technology, education, and healthcare sectors. https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/publications_ext_content/ifc_external_publication_site/publications_listing_page/cpsd-egypt

https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/publications_ext_content/ifc_external_publication_site/publications_listing_page/cpsd-egypt

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) signed a declaration with Egypt on International Investment and Multinational Enterprises on July 11, 2007, at which time Egypt became the first Arab and African country to sign the OECD Declaration, marking a new stage in Egypt’s drive to attract more foreign direct investment (FDI).  On July 8, 2020, the OECD released an Investment Policy Review for Egypt that highlighted the government’s progress implementing a proactive reform agenda to improve the business climate, attract more foreign and domestic investment, and reap the benefits of openness to FDI and participation in global value chains. https://www.oecd.org/countries/egypt/egypt-continues-to-strengthen-its-institutional-and-legal-framework-for-investment.htm  

https://www.oecd.org/countries/egypt/egypt-continues-to-strengthen-its-institutional-and-legal-framework-for-investment.htm  

In January 2018 the World Trade Organization (WTO) published a comprehensive review of the Egyptian Government’s trade policies, including details of the Investment Law’s (Law 72 of 2017) main provisions. https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s367_e.pdf 

https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/s367_e.pdf 

The United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) published an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Policy Review for Egypt in 2017, in which it highlighted the potential for investments in the ICT sector to help drive economic growth and recommended specific reforms aimed at strengthening Egypt’s performance in key ICT policy areas.   https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/dtlstict2017d3_en.pdf 

https://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/dtlstict2017d3_en.pdf   

Business Facilitation

GAFI’s ISC ( https://gafi.gov.eg/English/Howcanwehelp/OneStopShop/Pages/default.aspx ) was launched in February 2018 and provides start-to-end service to the investor, as described above.  The Investment Law (Law 72 of 2017) also introduces “Ratification Offices” to facilitate obtaining necessary approvals, permits, and licenses within 10 days of issuing a Ratification Certificate.

Investors may fulfill the technical requirements of obtaining the required licenses through these Ratification Offices, directly through the concerned authority, or through its representatives at the Investment Window at GAFI.  The Investor Service Center is required to issue licenses within 60 days from submission. Companies can also register online.  GAFI has also launched e-establishment, e-signature, and e-payment services to facilitate establishing companies.

Outward Investment

Egypt promotes and incentivizes outward investment. According to the Egyptian government’s FDI Markets database for the period from January 2003 to January 2021, outward investment featured the following:

  • Egyptian companies implemented 278 Egyptian FDI projects. The estimated total value of the projects, which employed about 49,000 workers, was $24.26 billion.
  • The following countries respectively received the largest amount of Egyptian outward investment in terms of total project value: The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Kenya, Jordan, Ethiopia, Germany, Libya, Morocco, and Nigeria.
  • The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Algeria accounted for about 28 percent of the total amount.
  • Elsewedy Electric was the largest Egyptian company investing abroad, implementing 21 projects with a total investment estimated to be $2.1 billion.

Egypt does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

El Salvador

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Toward Foreign Direct Investment

The GOES recognizes the benefits of attracting FDI. El Salvador does not have laws or practices that discriminate against foreign investors. The GOES does not screen or prohibit FDI. However, FDI levels still lag behind regional neighbors, except for Nicaragua. The Central Bank reported net FDI inflows of $232.95 million at the end of September 2020.

The Exports and Investment Promotion Agency of El Salvador (PROESA) supports investment in seven main sectors: textiles and apparel; business services; tourism; aeronautics; agro-industry; light manufacturing; and energy. PROESA provides information for potential investors about applicable laws, regulations, procedures, and available incentives for doing business in El Salvador. Websites: https://investelsalvador.com/  and http://www.proesa.gob.sv/investment/sector-opportunities .

The National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP), El Salvador’s umbrella business chamber, serves as the primary private sector representative in dialogues with GOES ministries. http://www.anep.org.sv/ .

In 2019, the Bukele administration created the Secretariat of Commerce and Investment, a position within the President’s Office responsible for the formulation of trade and investment policies, as well as coordinating the Economic Cabinet. In addition, the Bukele administration created the Presidential Commission for Strategic Projects to lead the GOES major projects.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign citizens and private companies can freely establish businesses in El Salvador.

No single natural or legal person – whether national or foreign – can own more than 245 hectares (605 acres) of land. The Salvadoran Constitution stipulates there is no restriction on foreign ownership of rural land in El Salvador, unless Salvadoran nationals face restrictions in the corresponding country. Rural land to be used for industrial purposes is not subject to the reciprocity requirement.

The 1999 Investments Law grants equal treatment to foreign and domestic investors. With the exception of limitations imposed on micro businesses, which are defined as having 10 or fewer employees and yearly sales of $121,319.40 or less, foreign investors may freely establish any type of domestic business. Investors who begin operations with 10 or fewer employees must present plans to increase employment to the Ministry of Economy’s National Investment Office.

The Investment Law provides that extractive resources are the exclusive property of the state. The GOES may grant private concessions for resource extraction, though concessions are infrequently granted.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

El Salvador has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. The latest trade policy review performed by the WTO was published in 2016 (document: WT/TPR/S/344/Rev.1). https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/FE_S_S006.aspx?Query=(@Symbol=%20wt/tpr/s/*)%20and%20((%20@Title=%20el%20salvador%20)%20or%20(@CountryConcerned=%20el%20salvador))&Language=ENGLISH&Context=FomerScriptedSearch&languageUIChanged=true# 

https://docs.wto.org/dol2fe/Pages/FE_Search/FE_S_S006.aspx?Query=(@Symbol=%20wt/tpr/s/*)%20and%20((%20@Title=%20el%20salvador%20)%20or%20(@CountryConcerned=%20el%20salvador))&Language=ENGLISH&Context=FomerScriptedSearch&languageUIChanged=true# 

The latest investment policy review performed by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) was in 2010. http://unctad.org/en/Docs/diaepcb200920_en.pdf

Business Facilitation

El Salvador has various laws that promote and protect investments, as well as providing benefits to local and foreign investors. These include: the Investments Law, the International Services Law; the Free Trade Zones Law; the Tourism Law, the Renewable Energy Incentives Law; the Law on Public Private Partnerships; the Special Law for Streamlining Procedures for the Promotion of Construction Projects; and the Legal Stability Law for Investments.

Business Registration

Per the World Bank, registering a new business in El Salvador requires nine steps taking an average of 16.5 days. According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, El Salvador ranks 148 in the “Starting a Business” indicator. El Salvador launched an online business registration portal in 2017 designed as a one-stop shop for registering new companies. The online portal allows new businesses the ability to formalize registration within three days and conduct administrative operations online. The portal ( https://miempresa.gob.sv/ ) is available to all, though services are available only in Spanish.

The GOES’ Business Services Office (Oficina de Atención Empresarial) caters to entrepreneurs and investors. The office has two divisions: “Growing Your Business” (Crecemos Tu Empresa) and the National Investment Office (Dirección Nacional de Inversiones, DNI). “Growing Your Businesses” provides business advice, especially for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises. The DNI administers investment incentives and facilitates business registration.

Contact information:

Business Services Office
Telephone: (503) 2590-5107
Address: Boulevard Del Hipódromo, Colonia San Benito, Century Tower, 7th Floor , San Salvador. Schedule: Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Crecemos Tu Empresa
E-mail: crecemostuempresa@minec.gob.sv
Website: http://www.minec.gob.sv/ 

The National Investment Office:

Stephanie Argueta de Rengifo , National Director of Investments, sargueta@minec.gob.sv;
Sandra Llirina Sagastume de Sandoval, Deputy Director of Special Investments , llirina.sagastume@minec.gob.sv Christel Schulz, Business Climate Deputy, cdearce@minec.gob.sv 
Laura Rosales de Valiente, Deputy Director of Investment Facilitation, lrosales@minec.gob.sv
Telephone: (503) 2590-5116/ (503) 2590-5264.

The Productive Development Fund (FONDEPRO) provides grants to small enterprises to strengthen competitiveness. Website: http://www.fondepro.gob.sv/ 

The National Commission for Micro and Small Businesses (CONAMYPE) supports micro and small businesses by providing training, technical assistance, financing, venture capital, and loan guarantee programs. CONAMYPE also provides assistance on market access and export promotion, marketing, business registration, and the promotion of business ventures led by women and youth. Website: https://www.conamype.gob.sv/ 

The Micro and Small Businesses Promotion Law defines a microenterprise as a natural or legal person with annual gross sales up to 482 minimum monthly wages, equivalent to $146,609.94 and up to ten workers. A small business is defined as a natural or legal person with annual gross sales between 482 minimum monthly wages ($146,609.94) and 4,817 minimum monthly wages ($1,465,186.89) and up to 50 employees. To facilitate credit to small businesses, Salvadoran law allows for inventories, receivables, intellectual property rights, consumables, or any good with economic value to be used as collateral for loans.

El Salvador provides equitable treatment for women and under-represented minorities. The GOES does not provide targeted assistance to under-represented minorities. CONAMYPE provides specialized counseling to female entrepreneurs and women-owned small businesses.

Outward Investment

While the government encourages Salvadoran investors to invest in El Salvador, it neither promotes nor restricts investment abroad.

Equatorial Guinea

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea is still actively soliciting foreign investments. The government considered 2019 to be the “Year of Energy,” with new licensing rounds for hydrocarbons fields and various events to encourage investment. This was supposed to continue into the 2020 “Year of Investment,” focusing on hydrocarbons, mining exploration, and petrochemicals, which was disrupted by the pandemic. In 2017, the Government started the donor facilitation initiative with the World Bank, as part of a strategy towards membership in the World Trade Organization. The government also passed a law to establish a “Single Window” for investors and simplify the process to register a business, which launched in Malabo in January 2019 but was generally moribund pending identification of priority investment areas from the April 2019 third national economic conference, the final report for which has yet to be published. The government continued to partner with the World Bank on reviewing improvements to the process. A second office was expected to open in Bata in 2020 but was put on hold due to COVID-19

Statutorily, the Minister of Economy, Finance, and Planning approves investment permits. A new state entity, Holdings Equatorial Guinea 2020, was created to help guide diversification efforts. This entity was expected to serve as a hub for foreign investors. For now, however, investors still work with the relevant government ministries to negotiate contracts. The government, including at the highest levels, has regular meetings and conferences with business leaders and investors, though we are unaware of any formal business roundtable. For example, in November 2018, the World Bank and the Singapore Cooperation Programs led a conference in Equatorial Guinea on improving the business climate.

The country’s Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons, Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, has been leading a campaign to increase investment. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on oil prices and African economies, the Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons granted oil and gas companies a two-year extension on their exploration programs. The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons will also encourage flexibility on the work programs of producing companies to ensure growth and stability in the market. The measure reflects broader efforts to drive global investment into Equatorial Guinea in line with its 2020 Year of Investment campaign. The extensions may particularly aid U.S. companies, which represent the majority of investment in Equatorial Guinea’s energy sector and are currently in the early stages of exploration and seismic interpretation of several new areas in existing offshore blocks. The Year of Investment, which was to include several in-country conferences and a global investment roadshow, was adapted to COVID-19 restrictions by using webinars and video conferencing to connect with investors. In February 2021, a consortium led by Noble Energy/Chevron, Marathon Oil, and EGLNG achieved the first gas flow from the successful execution of the Alen Gas Monetization project, a $475-million investment representing the first phase of Equatorial Guinea’s Gas Mega Hub plan. The Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons is currently promoting several capital-intensive projects – including the construction of modular oil refineries, a gold refinery, liquefied petroleum gas strategic tanks, a urea plant, and the expansion of a compressed natural gas project – which are open for investment. In December 2020, the Ministry announced a forecast of $1.1 billion in foreign direct investment in oil and gas activities in 2021.

The government also took several steps to support small and medium enterprises suffering during the pandemic, such as delaying and lowering tax payments, temporarily reducing the cost of electricity, and providing some small grants for micro-enterprises.

The Equatoguinean authorities have been willing to receive and protect all Foreign Direct Investment, including through changes in the country’s legal framework in recent years.

Currently there is no law or practice that discriminates against investors based on their origin, sex, age, race, political creed, or religion. The Law on the Investment Regime of the country establishes in Article 12 that the State commits itself to fair and equitable treatment for all investors. Decree No. 72/2018, dated April 18, 2018, and amended Article 2 of Decree No. 127/2004, dated September 14, 2004, eliminates the requirement of having an Equatoguinean partner to invest in the country’s non-oil sector.

Law 7/1992 and Law 54/1994 provide for the creation of an Investment Promotion Center, which must advise the government on investment policies, promote investments and support investors with information and in the resolution of conflicts. These Laws also provide for the creation of a National Investment Commission. Neither the Center nor the Commission is currently operational. Given the need for these types of organizations, in 2015, through Decree No. 134/2015, the Government mandated the Ministry of Commerce and Business Promotion to create and start up an agency to promote, integrate and coordinate the national policy of attraction of investors. In April 2021, this task was still in process and expected to start operating in 2023.

In November 2018, the Government organized a high-level seminar on the business climate in Equatorial Guinea with participation of the public and private sectors and development partners. For three days, they reflected on the position of Equatorial Guinea in each of the parameters of the Ease of Doing Business Ranking and the International Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum. As a result of the recommendations of this seminar, the government issued Decree 109/2019, creating a committee in charge of improving the national business environment, bringing together representatives of the government, private sector, and civil society to debate and propose reforms. The World Bank has subsequently partnered with the government to create and implement a plan to improve the business climate.

Even though the country does not currently have an investment promotion agency, the Ministry of Commerce has prioritized the implementation of a national agency for investment promotion within its Enhanced Integrated Framework program with World Trade Organization. The ministry has plans to establish a Foreign Trade Single Window to complement the existing one for domestic businesses.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The government is generally supportive of foreign direct investment. The Foreign Investment Law (Decree 72/2018 of April 2018) modified the provisions of Decree 127/2004 stipulating that shareholder capital firms and companies operating in the petroleum sector must have Equatoguinean shareholders. The government requires that Equatoguinean partners hold at least 35 percent of share capital of foreign companies or companies created by foreigners in the hydrocarbons sector only. Equatoguinean partners must also account for one third of the representatives on the Board of Directors. Apart from the hydrocarbons sector, investments must not be part of public-private partnerships with a government entity. The Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons generally approves any major deal in the hydrocarbons sector. Decisions regarding larger investment deals may rise to the presidential level. U.S. investors may reach out to the Equatoguinean Embassy in the United States for guidance regarding connection to the appropriate ministry for outreach efforts.

The Hydrocarbons Law and the National Content Regulation establish various requirements for international oil and gas companies that wish to operate in Equatorial Guinea. These include a minority partner stake for either the state oil company (GE Petrol) or the state gas company (Sonagas). In addition, there are national content requirements, many established in 2014 by the then-Ministry of Mines, Industry, and Energy, which apply to both producers and service companies, including that 70% of staff must be Equatoguinean, 50-100% of services (depending on category) must be procured from national company partners, and a percentage of the company’s revenue must be allocated to corporate social responsibility projects approved by the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons (the Ministry was divided into two in 2017, including a separate Ministry of Industry and Energy). Ministerial Order 1/2020 (April 2020) established that companies can employ foreign laborers in the oil and gas sector for a maximum period of three years, though companies may apply for extensions in exceptional cases, with compliance overseen by the Ministry’s Director General of National Content. Minister of Mines Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima was quoted as saying, “With the release of this new order, the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons intends to enhance the capacity of local service companies while guaranteeing the creation of local jobs for our trained and educated youth.” While Equatorial Guinea sought foreign direct investment in several of its capital-intensive energy and petrochemicals projects through its 2020 Year of Investment campaign, the country simultaneously prioritized the procurement of local goods and services and the stimulation of local jobs. The legislation follows the completion of capacity building and training programs, particularly at the gas and oil industry-supported National Technological Institute for Hydrocarbons in Mongomo. Given the generally low quality of education in the country, international companies complain about the difficulty of recruiting qualified locals.

Equatorial Guinea belongs to the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Laws in Africa (OHADA) and falls under the OHADA Uniform Act on the law of commercial companies and economic interest groups of January 30, 2014.

Law 4/2009 on the Land Ownership Regime in Equatorial Guinea establishes that foreigners cannot own land but rather purchase a lease with a maximum duration of 99 years.

The foreign investor is required to justify the origin of the funds used for the creation of a company in Equatorial Guinea.

In 2019, the government began its second attempt to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), submitting an incomplete application and meeting with civil society and other interested organizations. By 2020, the government established two EITI commission offices in Malabo and Bata — the largest cities — and published gas and oil contracts on its EITI website.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In the past three years, the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea has not conducted an investment policy review through any institutions, such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Trade Organization, or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. In October 2019, the World Bank presented its Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS) that analyzed various sectors of the Equatoguinean economy and prospects for increased economic development and trade.

Business Facilitation

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020, starting a business in Equatorial Guinea requires 16 procedures and usually takes 33 days, the same as in 2019. Equatorial Guinea was ranked 183 of 190 in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 for ease of “starting a business.” In 2017, the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea passed Decree No. 67/2017, published in September 2017, to establish a “Single Window” or “single window” to simplify the process to register a business and speed the process to seven business days. The “single window” was launched in January 2019, after the Government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea equipped facilities for processing applications, and trained staff. There is a webpage with information, https://www.ventanillaempresarialge.com/en/welcome/ , but businesses cannot yet register online. Generally, business must register with various agencies at the national level and some local offices. The Single Window does not eliminate steps, but it does consolidate visits to five offices into one. The below chart illustrates the steps that an entrepreneur can complete at the Single Window:

BEFORE NOW
Public Notary Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Trade register Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Finance, the Economy, and Planning Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Commerce – General Direction of Commerce Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Commerce – Department of Business Promotion Single Window, Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Labor Ministry of Labor
Social Security Administration (INSESO) Social Security Administration (INSESO)
Chamber of Commerce Chamber of Commerce
City Hall City Hall
Sectoral ministries according to the activity of the company Sectoral ministries according to the activity of the company

The country does not have a business facilitation mechanism for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy. There are laws that make it illegal to discriminate against women. There is an ongoing effort from the government to include people with disabilities in public administration, including with internship programs and contracts.

By Presidential Decree No 45/2020 from April 24, 2020, the government reduced the paid-in minimum capital requirement for Limited Liability Companies to operate in the country from 1,000,000 XAF to 100,000 XAF. In 2019, the Government established a committee to monitor the country’s performance on the main indicators of ease of doing business, as well as to propose reforms to improve the national business climate. The committee — comprised of several CEOs, the private sector, business organizations and civil society — developed a roadmap with actions to be implemented to facilitate the establishment of companies in the country. While not possible to register online, the government is exploring the option for a business to register by phone.

In February 2020, registration of trade certificates and businesses were included in the Single Window. Currently, would-be investors can access government websites for information on setting up businesses in the country. This includes websites for:

  • Single Window [I https://www.ventanillaempresarialge.com/en/welcome/]
  • Ministry of Finance, the Economy and Planning [https://minhacienda-gob.com /]

Currently, work is being done to include records from the Single Window in the Ministry of Labor and in the National Institute of Social Security. A Ministerial Order is under discussion to include data of the Ministry of Labor in the Single Window.

The National Institute for Business Promotion and Development launched an entrepreneurship training program with financing available. The program teaches entrepreneurs – with a focus on microbusinesses — how to develop business plans around their ideas, with the best project selected for investment. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is one of the donors, with an emphasis on supporting female entrepreneurship.

Outward Investment

Although Equatoguinean citizens may legally invest outside the country, the government of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea does not promote foreign investment. The government and media do not praise or showcase Equatoguineans with business interests abroad. While there are no known restrictions on foreign investment, some individuals and companies have faced delays when transferring money overseas or converting local currency into foreign exchange, exacerbated by new CEMAC rules on foreign currency reserves enacted in 2019.

With technical assistance from UNDP, Equatorial Guinea is currently implementing the WTO Enhanced Integrated Framework program. This multilateral partnership is dedicated to assisting least developed countries (LDCs) use trade as an engine for growth, sustainable development, and poverty reduction. EG’s Action Plan through the Ministry of Commerce prioritizes promoting national products in the subregional and international markets. To encourage agricultural production, the Ministry plans to establish a national food certification institute within the Chamber of Commerce, pending funding from the government. The project was delayed by the pandemic.

After pausing all timber exports and firing the Minister of Agriculture, Timber, Livestock, and the Environment in the fall of 2020, the government lifted the export ban in October via Decree 93/2020. This authorized export of round wood, an industry dominated by Chinese companies. The previous decree had authorized only exports of transformed wood, with the goal of promoting the wood transformation industry in the local economy.

Eritrea

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Eritrean government professes a desire for more and more diversified FDI.  However, governmental control of the economy and the lack of robust business and investment legal code makes private investment difficult and financially risky.

The official 1994 Investment Proclamation No. 59/1994 states that all sectors (excluding domestic retail, domestic wholesale, import, and commission agency companies without a bilateral agreement of reciprocity) are open to any investors.  In practice, this law has been suspended and the ruling Popular Front for Democracy and Justice determines those sectors in which – and defines the terms under which – private investment is accepted.

The Investment Center, established in 1998, operates directly under the Office of the President; it does not publish any information related to its activities. In the past, the Center conducted public outreach to encourage members of the Eritrean diaspora to invest in Eritrea.  The Center has not conducted a large public event since 2012; senior Center officials have stated that the time for investments is not appropriate because investment developments must follow political developments.

There is no business ombudsman in Eritrea or other mechanisms to prioritize retention or maintain dialogue with existing investors.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

In practice, there is no fundamental “right” for either foreign or domestic private entities to establish or run business enterprises free from government interference.  All sectors of the economy are tightly controlled by the GSE, most large enterprises are either entirely or partially owned by the government or the PFDJ, and the government can order a business to close without explanation or legal recourse.

There are both statutory and de facto limits on foreign ownership and control of enterprises.  All foreign-owned mines must give a 10% stake to the Eritrean National Mining Corporation (ENAMCO), and ENAMCO has the option to buy another 30% equity in the project.  Regulations in other fields are not well established.

With some exceptions, such as mining, investment is de facto prohibited in most sectors of the economy.  The government has encouraged investment in the mining sector, and mining-specific regulations were adopted in 2011.  There are few other large foreign investments in the country.  The few foreign enterprises operating in Eritrea do so under non-public agreements negotiated directly between the companies or countries and a small group of officials from the GSE and the ruling political party.

There is no transparent GSE screening mechanism for approving inbound foreign investment.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The GSE has undergone no recent third-party investment policy review.

Business Facilitation

The government has made no known efforts to facilitate business in Eritrea.  The government does not have a business registration website.  Businesses are required to register with six government offices (the Business License Office, the Ministry of Information, the Inland Revenue Department, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, and the local municipality), and the registration process usually takes 84 days, according to the World Bank’s Doing Business report.

Outward Investment

Given the low level of capital accumulation in the economy, Eritrea is not a likely provider of foreign capital.  As part of its efforts to direct capital towards development, the GSE’s laws strictly control capital flows, currency exchange, and restricts domestic investors from making large investments abroad.  For example, monthly bank withdrawals are limited to 5,000 Nakfa, and dollars are generally unavailable for withdrawal.

Eswatini

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini (GKoE) regards foreign direct investment (FDI) as one of the five pillars of its Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth (SDIG) Program, and a means to drive the country’s economic growth, obtain access to foreign markets for its exports, and improve international competitiveness. While the government has strongly encouraged foreign investment over the past 15 years, it only recently adopted a formal strategy for achieving measurable progress. Eswatini does not have a unified policy on investment. Instead, individual ministries have their own investment facilitation policies, which include policies on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), agriculture, energy, transportation, mining, education, and telecommunications. The Finance Minister in his annual state of budget address stated that the government aspires to have a one stop shop for business startups to streamline government processes to less than two weeks.

The Swati constitution states, generally, that non-citizens and/or companies with a majority of non-citizen shareholders may not own land unless they were vested in their ownership rights before the constitution entered into force in 2006. On the other hand, the constitution’s general prohibition “may not be used to undermine or frustrate an existing or new legitimate business undertaking of which land is a significant factor or base.” Furthermore, non-citizens and non-citizen majority-owned companies may hold long-term (up to 99 years) leases on Title and Swati Nation Land. Besides land ownership laws, there are no laws that discriminate against foreign investors. In 2019, the government listed some of its title deed land to make it available for long-term leasing for commercial purposes.

In practice, most successful foreign investors work with local partners to navigate Eswatini’s complex bureaucracy. Most of the country’s land is Swati Nation Land held by the king and cannot be purchased by foreign investors. Foreign investors that require significant land for their enterprise must engage the Land Management Board to negotiate long-term leases.

The Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) is the state-owned enterprise (SOE) charged with designing and implementing strategies for attracting desired foreign investors.

Eswatini’s Investment Policy and policies that support the business environment are online at https://investeswatini.org.sz/legal-and-regulatory-framework/ . EIPA services include: – Attract and promote local and foreign direct investments

  • Attract and promote local and foreign direct investments
  • Identify and disseminate trade and investment opportunities
  • Provide investor facilitation and aftercare services
  • Promote internal and external trade
  • Undertake research and policy analysis
  • Facilitate company registration and business licenses/permits
  • Facilitate work permits and visas for investors
  • Provide a one stop shop information and support facility for businesses
  • Export product development
  • Facilitation of participation in external trade fairs
  • BuyerSeller Missions

The GKoE continues its attempts to improve the ease of doing business in the country through the Investor Roadmap Unit (IRU). The IRU engages with businesses and government to review and report on the progress and implementation of the investor roadmap reforms.

EIPA has an aftercare division for purposes of investment retention, which is a direct avenue for investors to communicate concerns they may have. Most investors who stay beyond the initial period during which the GKoE offers investment incentives have opted to remain long-term.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Both foreign and domestic private entities have a right to establish businesses and acquire and dispose of interest in business enterprises. Foreign investors own several of Eswatini’s largest private businesses, either fully or with minority participation by Swati institutions.

There are no general limits on foreign ownership and control of companies, which can be 100 percent foreign owned and controlled. The only exceptions on foreign ownership and control are in the mining sector and in relation to land ownership. The Mines and Minerals Act of 2011 requires that the King (in trust for the Swati Nation) be granted a 25-percent equity stake in all mining ventures, with another 25 percent equity stake granted to the GKoE. There are also sector-specific trade exclusions that prohibit foreign control, which include business dealings in firearms, radioactive material, explosives, hazardous waste, and the printing of currency.

Foreign investments are screened only through standard background and credit checks. Under the Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (Prevention) Act of 2011, investors must submit certain documents including proof of residence and source of income for deposits. EIPA also conducts general screening of FDI monies through credit bureau checks and Interpol. This screening is not a barrier to investing in Eswatini. There are no discriminatory mechanisms applied against U.S. foreign direct investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

There have been no Investment policy reviews for Eswatini in the last 3 years. Through its membership in the Southern African Customs Union, its ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and its participation in the work of the WTO, Eswatini continues to pursue the importance of trade to development In 2015, the WTO performed a Trade Policy Review of the Southern African Customs Union, which includes Namibia, Botswana, Eswatini, South Africa, and Lesotho. In 2016, the Trade facilitation agreement was ratified; Eswatini’s portion of that review is available online: https://www.wto.org/english/news_e/archive_e/country_arc_e.htm?country1=SWZ 

Business Facilitation

Eswatini does not have a single overarching business facilitation policy. Policies that address business facilitation are spread across the spectrum of relevant ministries. The Investor Road Map Unit (IRMU) is the public entity responsible for the review and monitoring of business environment reforms. EIPA facilitates foreign and domestic investment opportunities and has a fairly modern, up-to-date website: https://investeswatini.org.sz  / . Certain GKoE application forms are available online at the EIPA website. Recent developments in the business facilitation space include the online registration of companies via the link www.online.gov.sz . As of 2020, the final steps (payment of statutory fees and registration fee) are now available online. According to the Doing Business Report, the process of registering a company in Eswatini takes approximately 10 days. In practice, the process can take much longer for foreign investors.

The main organization representing the private sector is Business Eswatini ( www.business-eswatini.co.sz ), which represents more than 80 percent of large businesses in Eswatini, works on a wide range of issues of interest to the private sector, and seeks to build partnerships with the government to promote commercial development. Through Business Eswatini, the private sector is represented in a number of national working committees, including the National Trade Negotiations Team (NTNT).

Outward Investment

Ethiopia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Ethiopia needs significant inflows of FDI to meet its ambitious growth goals. Over the past year, in an effort to attract more foreign investment, the government has passed a new investment law, acceded to the New York Convention on Arbitration, amended its six-decade old commercial code, and digitized commercial registration and business licensing processes. The government has also begun implementing the Public Private Partnership (PPP) proclamation, in an attempt to allow for private investment in the power generation and road construction sectors.

The Ethiopian Investment Commission (EIC) has the mandate to promote and facilitate foreign investments in Ethiopia. To accomplish this task, the EIC is charged with 1) promoting the country’s investment opportunities to attract and retain investment; 2) issuing investment permits, business licenses, and construction permits; 3) issuing commercial registration certificates and renewals; 4) negotiating and signing bilateral investment agreements; 5) issuing work permits; and 6) registering technology transfer agreements. In addition, the EIC has the mandate to advise the government on policies to improve the investment climate and hold regular and structured public-private dialogues with investors and their associations. At the local level, regional investment agencies facilitate regional investment. On the 2020 World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index Ethiopia ranks 159 out of 190 countries, which is the exact same ranking it held in both 2018 and 2019. To improve the investment climate, attract more FDI, and tackle unemployment challenges, the Prime Minister’s Office formed a committee to systematically examine each indicator on the Doing Business Index and identify factors that inhibit the private sector.

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) works on voicing the concerns of U.S. businesses in Ethiopia. AmCham provides a mechanism for coordination among American companies and facilitates regular meetings with government officials to discuss issues that hinder operations in Ethiopia. The Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce also organizes a monthly business forum that enables the business community to discuss issues related to the investment climate with government officials.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish, acquire, own, and dispose of most forms of business enterprises. The new Investment Proclamation and associated regulations outline the areas of investment reserved for government and local investors. There is no private ownership of land in Ethiopia. All land is technically owned by the state but can be leased for up to 99 years. Small-scale rural landholders have indefinite use rights, but cannot lease out holdings for extended periods, except in the Amhara Region. The 2011 Urban Land Lease Proclamation allows the government to determine the value of land in transfers of leasehold rights, in an attempt to curb speculation by investors.

A foreign investor intending to buy an existing private enterprise or shares in an existing enterprise needs to obtain prior approval from the EIC. While foreign investors have complained about inconsistent interpretation of the regulations governing investment registration (particularly relating to accounting for in-kind investments), they generally do not face undue screening of FDI, unfavorable tax treatment, denial of licenses, discriminatory import or export policies, or inequitable tariff and non-tariff barriers.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Over the past three years, the government has not undertaken any third-party investment policy review by a multilateral or non-governmental organization. The government has worked closely with some international stakeholders, such as the International Finance Corporation, in its attempt to modernize and streamline its investment regulations.

Business Facilitation

The EIC has attempted to establish itself as a “one-stop shop” for foreign investors by acting as a centralized location where investors can obtain the visas, permits, and paperwork they need, thereby reducing the time and cost of investing and acquiring business licenses. The EIC has worked with international consultants to modernize its operations, and as part of its work plan has adopted a customer manager system to build lasting relationships and provide post-investment assistance to investors. Despite progress, the EIC readily admits that many bureaucratic barriers to investment remain. In particular, U.S. investors report that the EIC, as a federal organization, has little influence at regional and local levels. According to the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Report, on average, it takes 32 days to start a business in Ethiopia.

Currently, more than 95 percent of Ethiopia’s trade passes through the Port of Djibouti, with residual trade passing through the Somaliland Port of Berbera or Port Sudan. Ethiopia concluded an agreement in March of 2018 with the Somaliland Ports Authority and DP World to acquire a 19 percent stake in the joint venture developing the Port of Berbera. The agreement will help Ethiopia secure an additional logistical gateway for its increasing import and export trade. Following the July 2018 rapprochement with Eritrea, the Ethiopian government has the opportunity of accessing an alternative port at either Massawa or Assab. At present, however, land borders with Eritrea remain closed, and little progress is being made to operationalize alternative logistics corridors in Eritrea.

The Government of Ethiopia is working to improve business facilitation services by making the licensing and registration of businesses easier and faster. In February of 2021, the Ministry of Trade and Industry launched an eTrade platform ( etrade.gov.et ) for business registration licensing to enable individuals to register their companies and acquire business licenses online. The amended commercial registration and licensing law eliminates the requirement to publicize business registrations in local newspapers, allows business registration without a physical address, and reduces some other paperwork burdens associated with business registration. U.S. companies can obtain detailed information for the registration of their business in Ethiopia from an online investment guide to Ethiopia: ( https://www.theiguides.org/public-docs/guides/ethiopia ) and the EIC’s website: ( http://www.investethiopia.gov.et/index.php/investment-process/starting-a-business.html ). Though the government is taking positive steps to socially empower women (approximately half of cabinet members are women), there is no special treatment provided to women who wish to engage in business.

The full Doing Business Report is available here: http://www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/ethiopia 

Outward Investment

There is no officially recorded outward investment by domestic investors from Ethiopia as citizens/local investors are not allowed to hold foreign accounts.

Fiji

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Due to COVID-19 health crisis, the government’s COVID Safe Economic Recovery Framework creates significant hurdles for foreign investors who intend to travel to Fiji.  One measure within the framework calls for an additional assessment by the government’s COVID-19 Risk Mitigation Taskforce of all new investment ventures.  The Fiji government continues to review its investment policies to improve efficiency of doing business in Fiji.  Investment Fiji is responsible for the promotion of foreign investment in the interest of national development (its previous powers as a regulator were removed in 2020).  In addition to registering and assisting with the implementation of foreign investment projects, Investment Fiji hosts information seminars for visiting foreign business delegations and participates at investment missions overseas.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Foreign Investment Act (FIA) and the 2009 Foreign Investment Regulation regulate foreign investment in Fiji.  All businesses with a foreign investment component in their ownership are required to register and obtain a Foreign Investment Registration Certificate (FIRC) from Investment Fiji.

Some investment activities are reserved for Fiji nationals or are subject to restrictions.  There is no minimum investment requirement.  There are 17 reserved activities exclusively for Fiji citizens, mainly in the services sector, and eight restricted activities.  Full listings of reserved and restricted areas can be found at:  http://www.investmentfiji.org.fj/pages.cfm/for-investors/doing-business-in-fiji/foreign-investment-act-foreign-investment-regulations.html.  Restricted activities in forestry, tobacco production, tourism (cultural heritage), real estate development, construction, earthmoving, and inter-island shipping or passenger service require minimum investments ranging from USD 250,000 – 2.5 million (FJD 500,00 – 5 million).  Investment in the fisheries sector also requires a 30 percent local equity in the project.  Investment Fiji helps vet foreign investment proposals to ensure that the projects are in the interest of national development and to support implementation of projects.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Fiji has not undergone any third-party investment policy reviews in the past three years.  In 2016, Fiji completed its second WTO trade policy review (https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp430_e.htm) and ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2017.  In 2015, UNCTAD undertook a voluntary peer review of Fiji’s competition law and policy, available at http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/ditcclp2015d5_en.pdf.

Business Facilitation

The Fiji government’s bizFiji website (www.business-fiji.com) is an information portal for new and existing businesses, as well as foreign investors.  The portal provides information on the business registration process, how to obtain construction permits, and included application forms and links to all the required agencies, including the Registrar of Companies, Fiji Revenue and Customs Services (FRCS), Fiji National Provident Fund, National Occupational Health and Safety Services, and the Fiji National University.  The government’s reforms to improve the ease and reduce the cost of doing business include eliminating the business license requirement for low-risk businesses, reducing processing times for business licenses to 48 hours, and removing several requirements for existing businesses.  Since the launch of bizFiji in 2019, the government has worked to develop a single online clearance system to improve registration processes, but inefficiencies remain.

For foreign investors, the bizFiji website is also linked to the Investment Fiji website.  The registration form and procedures, and regulations for foreign investment is available at the Investment Fiji issue of the Foreign Investment Registration Certificate (FIRC).  Applications for a FIRC and payment of the requisite application fee of USD 1,336 (FJD 2,725) needs to be submitted to Investment Fiji.  Investors need to meet the requirements listed under the Foreign Investment Act (FIA) and the 2009 Foreign Investment Regulation as well as ensure that the investment activity does not fall under the reserved and restricted activities lists.  The registration process for investment applications takes at least five working days and sometimes longer if the paperwork is incomplete.

Investors are also required to obtain the necessary permits and licenses from other relevant authorities and should be prepared for delays.  There are no special services or preferences to facilitate investment and business operations by micro, small and medium sized enterprises, or by women.

Contact: Ministry of Commerce, Trade, Tourism and Transport, Level 2 and 3, Civic Tower, Victoria Parade, Suva; Telephone: (679) 330 5411; Website:  www.mcttt.gov.fj

Outward Investment

The Reserve Bank of Fiji (RBF) tightened exchange controls and any outward investment by individuals, companies, and non-bank financial institutions, including the Fiji National Provident Fund, require clearance from the RBF.

Gabon

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Gabon’s 1998 investment code conforms to the Central African Economic and Monetary Community’s (CEMAC) investment regulations and provides the same rights to foreign companies operating in Gabon as to domestic firms.

Gabon’s domestic and foreign investors are protected from expropriation or nationalization without appropriate compensation, as determined by an independent third party. Certain sectors, such as mining, forestry, petroleum, agriculture, and tourism, have specific investment codes, which encourage investment through customs and tax incentives.

Gabon established the Investment Promotion Agency (ANPI-Gabon) with the assistance of the World Bank in 2014. Its mission is to promote investment and exports, support SMEs, manage public-private partnerships (PPPs), and help companies establish themselves. It is designed to act as the gateway for investment into the country and to reduce administrative procedures, costs, and waiting periods.

Gabonese authorities have made efforts to prioritize investment. In 2017, the High Council for Investment was established to promote investment and boost the economy. This body provides a platform for dialogue between the public and private sectors, and its main objectives are to improve the economy and create jobs.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors are largely treated in the same manner as their Gabonese counterparts regarding the purchase of real estate, negotiation of licenses, and entering into commercial agreements. There is no general requirement for local participation in investments (see local labor requirements below). Many businesses find it useful to have a local partner who can help navigate the subjective aspects of the business environment.

There are no limits on foreign ownership or control. However, Gabon Oil Company, a state-owned enterprise (SOE) created in 2011, has an automatic right to purchase up to a 15 percent share in any hydrocarbon contract at market price. The standard practice is for the Gabonese President to review foreign investment contracts after ministerial-level negotiations are completed. In certain cases, the President has appeared to intervene to keep negotiations stalled at the ministerial level, even when the deal was on track to a mutually satisfactory solution.

The President takes an active interest in meeting with investors. The lack of a standardized procedure for new entrants to negotiate deals with the government can lead to confusion and time-consuming negotiations. Moreover, the centralization of decision-making by a few senior officials who are exceedingly busy can delay the process. As a result, new entrants often find the process of finalizing deals time-consuming and difficult to navigate.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Gabon has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. In June 2013, Gabon conducted an investment policy review with the WTO. The government has not conducted any investment policy reviews through the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) since 2017.

Business Facilitation

The government encourages investments in those economic sectors that contribute the greatest share to gross national product (GNP), including oil and gas, mining, and wood harvesting and transformation through customs and tax incentives. For example, oil and mining companies are exempt from customs duties on imported machinery and equipment specific to their industries. The Tourism Investment Code, enacted in 2000, provides tax incentives to foreign tourism investors during the first eight years of operation. The SEZ at Nkok offers tax incentives to industrial investors; the government has mused on the possibility of increasing the number of SEZs in a move to attract further investment.

ANPI-Gabon covers more than 20 public and private agencies, including the Chamber of Commerce, National Social Security Fund (CNSS), and National Health Insurance and Social Security (CNAMGS). It aims to attract domestic and international investors through improved methods of approving and licensing new companies and to support public-private dialogue. It has a single window registration process that allows domestic and foreign investors to register their businesses in 48 hours. There are, however, no special mechanisms for equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in Gabon.

ANPI-Gabon’s website address is: https://www.investingabon.ga/

Outward Investment

One of ANPI-Gabon’s primary goals is to promote outward investments and exports. The Gabonese government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Gambia

1. Openness to and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoTG has made increasing foreign direct investment a priority. It also aims to create a business environment that allows the private sector to be the engine of growth, transformation, and job creation. FDI is welcomed in almost every sector of the Gambian economy. There is no restriction on ownership of businesses by foreign investors in most sectors and local companies are not prioritized over local companies. While restrictions are limited, foreign investors and companies often complain about the excessive and inconsistently applied bureaucratic procedures and the decision-making process – and often lack of transparency – for public tenders and contracts.

The Gambia Investment & Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA) is the national agency responsible for the promotion and facilitation of private sector investments in The Gambia. Through the GIEPA, eight areas are identified as “priority sectors” which qualify for a Special Investment Certificate (SIC) that provides several incentives, including duty waivers and tax holidays. The Investment Section at Office of The President plans to start handling foreign direct investment matters.

To maintain dialogue with investors, The Gambia Competitiveness Improvement Forum was created as part of the 2015 GIEPA Act, which hosts sector-based forums to maintain dialogue with investors. GIEPA normally hosts forums at which investors comment on the government’s policies and action.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign and domestic private entities have a right to own business enterprises and engage in in all forms of remunerative activities in The Gambia. There are no limits on foreign ownership or control of businesses except in the operations of defense industries, which are closed to all private sector participation, irrespective of nationality. Apart from defense related activities, there are no sector-specific restrictions, limitations, or requirements were legally applied to foreign ownership and control.

Foreign investors are not denied national treatment (i.e. the same treatment as domestic firms) or MFN treatment (i.e. the same treatment as the most favored foreign investor) in any sector. There is no mandatory screening of foreign direct investment, but such screening may be conducted if there is suspicion of money laundering or terrorism financing. Investors subjected to such a screening may be asked for business registration documents and bank statements. As part of the country’s privatization program, foreign investors are treated equal to local investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The WTO last conducted a Trade Policy Review (TPR) in January 2018. The Gambia has maintained its generally open trade and investment regime since the last TPR in 2010. The main trade policy reform has been the adoption of the five-band ECOWAS Common External Tariff (CET) from 1 January 2017. An executive summary of the findings can be found at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp465_e.htm . The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conducted an Investment Policy Review in 2017. The review shows The Gambia has adopted an open regime for investment and a range of modern business regulation tools. However, supply-side constraints, vulnerability to exogenous shocks and remaining regulatory and institutional bottlenecks have negatively affected the development of the private sector and the country’s performance in attracting FDI. The report can be downloaded at: https://unctad.org/webflyer/investment-policy-review-gambia .

Business Facilitation

The Ministry of Justice, which offers a range of administrative services to foreign investors, is the point of entry for company registration. The government has drastically reduced the average number of days it takes to start a business in recent years, from 25 to two.

According to the 2020 Doing Business report, it takes six procedures and, an average of one to two days to start a business in the country. These procedures include registering a unique company name, notarizing company status, obtaining a tax identification number (TIN), registering employees with the Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation, registering with the Commercial Registry, and obtaining an operational license. While this can be done by anyone in theory, a local attorney who is familiar with the system can facilitate the process. In 2010, a Single Window Business Registration Desk was established at the Ministry of Justice. This initiative has reduced the number of days it takes to register a business in the country to one day.

Outward Investment

Foreign investment in The Gambia is facilitated by the GIEPA and the Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). The two organizations’ mandate includes export promotion and support for small and micro enterprise (SME) development. Domestic investors have no limitations when it comes to investing abroad. Post has been working with the American Chamber of Commerce to expand its role in facilitating trade between The Gambia and the United States.

Georgia

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Georgia is open to foreign investment. Legislation establishes favorable conditions for foreign investment, but not preferential treatment for foreign investors. The Law on Promotion and Guarantee of Investment Activity protects foreign investors from subsequent legislation that alters the condition of their investments for a period of ten years. Investment promotion authority is vested in the Investment Division of Enterprise Georgia, a legal entity of public law under the Ministry of Economic and Sustainable Development. The Investment Division’s primary role is to attract, promote, and develop foreign direct investment in Georgia. For this purpose, it acts as the moderator between foreign investors and the Georgian government, ensures access to updated information, provides a means of communication with government bodies, and serves as a “one-stop-shop” to support investors throughout the investment process. ( http://www.enterprisegeorgia.gov.ge/en/about ). Enterprise Georgia also operated the website for foreign investors: www.investingeorgia.org .

To enhance relations with investors, in 2015 Georgia’s then-Prime Minister created an Investors Council, an independent advisory body aimed at promoting dialogue among the private business community, international organizations, donors, and the Georgian government for the development of a favorable, non-discriminatory, transparent, and fair business and investment climate in Georgia ( http://ics.ge ). The Business Ombudsman, who is a member of the Investors Council, is another tool for protecting investors’ rights in Georgia ( http://businessombudsman.ge ).

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Georgia does not have an established interagency process to screen foreign investment, but relevant ministries or agencies may have the right to review investments for national security concerns in certain circumstances, as outlined below. Foreign investors have participated in most major privatizations of state-owned property. Transparency of privatization has been an issue at times. No law or regulation authorizes private firms to adopt articles of incorporation or association that limit or prohibit foreign investment, participation, or control. Cross-shareholder or stable-shareholder arrangements are not used by private firms in Georgia. Georgian legislation does not protect private firms from takeovers. There are no regulations authorizing private firms to restrict foreign partners’ investment activity or limit foreign partners’ ability to gain control over domestic enterprises.

There are no specific licensing requirements for foreign investment other than those that apply to all companies. The government requires licenses for activities that affect public health, national security, and the financial sector: weapons and explosives production, narcotics, poisonous and pharmaceutical substances, exploration and exploitation of renewable or non-renewable substances, exploitation of natural resource deposits, establishment of casinos and gambling houses and the organization of games and lotteries, banking, insurance, securities trading, wireless communication services, and the establishment of radio and television channels. The law requires the state to retain a controlling interest in air traffic control, shipping traffic control, railroad control systems, defense and weapons industries, and nuclear energy. For investment projects requiring licenses or permits, the relevant government ministries and agencies have the right to review the project for national security concerns.  By law, the government has 30 days to make a decision on licenses, and if the licensing authority does not state a reasonable ground for rejection within that period, the government must approve the license or permit for issuance. Per Georgian law, it is illegal to undertake any type of economic activity in Abkhazia or South Ossetia if such activities require permits, licenses, or registration in accordance with Georgian legislation. Laws also ban mineral exploration, money transfers, and international transit via Abkhazia or South Ossetia. Only the state may issue currency, banknotes, and certificates for goods made from precious metals, import narcotics for medical purposes, and produce control systems for the energy sector.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published an Investment Policy Review in December 2020 ( http://www.oecd.org/investment/oecd-investment-policy-reviews-georgia-0d33d7b7-en.htm ). The most recent WTO Investment Policy Review on Georgia was done in 2016, and by UNCTAD in 2014.

Business Facilitation

Registering a business in Georgia is relatively quick and streamlined, and Georgia ranks second in registering property among countries assessed in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report. Registration takes one day to complete through Georgia’s single window registration process. The National Agency of Public Registry (NAPR) ( www.napr.gov.ge  – webpage is in Georgian only), located in Public Service Halls (PSH) under the Ministry of Justice of Georgia, carries out company registration. The web page of the PSH ( http://www.psh.gov.ge/main/page/2/85 ) outlines procedures and requirements for business registration in English. For registration purposes, the law does not require a document verifying the amount or existence of charter capital. A company is not required to complete a separate tax registration as the initial registration includes both the revenue service and national business registration. The following information is required to register a business in Georgia: bio data for the founder and principal officers, articles of incorporation, and the company’s area of business activity. Other required documents depend on the type of entity to be established.

To register a business, the potential owner must first pay the registration fee, register the company with the Entrepreneurial Register, and obtain an identification number and certificate of state and tax registration. Registration fees are: GEL100 (around USD30) for a regular registration, GEL200 (USD60) for an expedited registration, plus GEL1 (bank processing fees). Second, the owner must open a bank account (free).

Georgia’s business facilitation mechanism provides for equitable treatment of women and men. There are a variety of state-run and donor-supported projects that aim to promote women entrepreneurs through specific training or other programs, including access to financing and business training.

Outward Investment

The Georgian government does not have any specific policy on promoting or restricting domestic investors from investing abroad and Georgia’s outward investment is insignificant.

Ghana

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Ghana has made increasing FDI a priority and acknowledges the importance of having an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. Officials are implementing some regulatory and other reforms to improve the ease of doing business and make investing in Ghana more attractive.

The 2013 Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC) Act requires the GIPC to register, monitor, and keep records of all business enterprises in Ghana. Sector-specific laws further regulate investments in minerals and mining, oil and gas, industries within Free Zones, banking, non-bank financial institutions, insurance, fishing, securities, telecommunications, energy, and real estate. Some sector-specific laws, such as in the oil and gas sector and the power sector, include local content requirements that could discourage international investment. Foreign investors are required to satisfy the provisions of the GIPC Act as well as the provisions of sector-specific laws. GIPC leadership has pledged to collaborate more closely with the private sector to address investor concerns, but there have been no significant changes to the laws. More information on investing in Ghana can be obtained from GIPC’s website, www.gipcghana.com .

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Most of Ghana’s major sectors are fully open to foreign capital participation.

U.S. investors in Ghana are treated the same as other foreign investors. All foreign investment projects must register with the GIPC. Foreign investments are subject to the following minimum capital requirements: USD 200,000 for joint ventures with a Ghanaian partner, who should have at least 10 percent of the equity; USD 500,000 for enterprises wholly owned by a non-Ghanaian; and USD 1 million for trading companies (firms that buy or sell imported goods or services) wholly owned by non-Ghanaian entities. The minimum capital requirement may be met in cash or capital goods relevant to the investment. Trading companies are also required to employ at least 20 skilled Ghanaian nationals.

Ghana’s investment code excludes foreign investors from participating in eight economic sectors: petty trading; the operation of taxi and car rental services with fleets of fewer than 25 vehicles; lotteries (excluding soccer pools); the operation of beauty salons and barber shops; printing of recharge scratch cards for subscribers to telecommunications services; production of exercise books and stationery; retail of finished pharmaceutical products; and the production, supply, and retail of drinking water in sealed pouches. Sectors where foreign investors are allowed limited market access include: telecommunications, banking, fishing, mining, petroleum, and real estate.

Real Estate

The 1992 Constitution recognized existing private and traditional titles to land. Given this mix of private and traditional land titles, land rights to any specific area of land can be opaque. Freehold acquisition of land is not permitted. There is an exception, however, for transfer of freehold title between family members for land held under the traditional system. Foreigners are allowed to enter into long-term leases of up to 50 years and the lease may be bought, sold, or renewed for consecutive terms. Ghanaian nationals are allowed to enter into 99-year leases. The Ghanaian government has been working since 2017 on developing a digital property address and land registration system to reduce land disputes and improve efficiency. (See “Protection of Property Rights p. 14)

Oil and Gas

The oil and gas sector is subject to a variety of state ownership and local content requirements. The Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 2016 (Act 919) mandates local participation. All entities seeking petroleum exploration licenses in Ghana must create a consortium in which the state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) holds a minimum 15 percent carried interest, and a local equity partner holds a minimum interest of five percent. The Petroleum Commission issues all licenses. Exploration licenses must also be approved by Parliament. Further, local content regulations specify in-country sourcing requirements with respect to the full range of goods, services, hiring, and training associated with petroleum operations. The regulations also require local equity participation for all suppliers and contractors. The Minister of Energy must approve all contracts, sub-contracts, and purchase orders above USD 100,000. Non-compliance with these regulations may result in a criminal penalty, including imprisonment for up to five years.

The Petroleum Commission applies registration fees and annual renewal fees on foreign oil and gas service providers, which, depending on a company’s annual revenues, range from USD 70,000 to USD 150,000, compared to fees of between USD 5,000 and USD 30,000 for local companies.

Mining

Per the Minerals and Mining Act, 2006 (Act 703), foreign investors are restricted from obtaining a small-scale mining license for mining operations less than or equal to an area of 25 acres (10 hectares). In 2019, the criminal penalty for non-compliance with these regulations was increased to a minimum prison sentence of 15 years and maximum of 25 years, from a maximum of five years, to discourage illegal small-scale mining. The Act mandates local participation, whereby the government acquires 10 percent equity in ventures at no cost in all mineral rights. In order to qualify for any mineral license, a non-Ghanaian company must be registered in Ghana, either as a branch office or a subsidiary that is incorporated under the Ghana Companies Act or Incorporated Private Partnership Act. Non-Ghanaians may apply for industrial mineral rights only if the proposed investment is USD 10 million or above.

The Minerals and Mining Act provides for a stability agreement, which protects the holder of a mining lease for a period of 15 years from future changes in law that may impose a financial burden on the license holder. When an investment exceeds USD 500 million, lease holders can negotiate a development agreement that contains elements of a stability agreement and more favorable fiscal terms. The Minerals and Mining (Amendment) Act (Act 900) of 2015 requires the mining lease-holder to, “…pay royalty to the Republic at the rate and in the manner that may be prescribed.” The previous Act 703 capped the royalty rate at six percent. The Minerals Commission implements the law. In December 2020, Ghana passed the Minerals and Mining (Local Content and Local Participation) Regulations, 2020 (L.I. 2431) to expand the specific provisions under the mining regulations that require mining entities to procure goods and services from local sources. The Minerals Commission publishes a Local Procurement List, which identifies items that must be sourced from Ghanaian-owned companies, whose directors must all be Ghanaians.

Power Sector

In December 2017, Ghana introduced regulations requiring local content and local participation in the power sector. The Energy Commission (Local Content and Local Participation) (Electricity Supply Industry) Regulations, 2017 (L.I. 2354) specify minimum initial levels of local participation/ownership and 10-year targets:

Electricity Supply Activity Initial Level of Local Participation Target Level in 10 Years
Wholesale Power Supply 15 51
Renewable Energy Sector 15 51
Electricity Distribution 30 51
Electricity Transmission 15 49
Electricity Sales Service 80 100
Electricity Brokerage Service 80 100

The regulations also specify minimum and target levels of local content in engineering and procurement, construction, post-construction, services, management, operations, and staff. All persons engaged in or planning to engage in the supply of electricity are required to register with the ‘Electricity Supply Local Content and Local Participation Committee’ and satisfy the minimum local content and participation requirements within five years. Failure to comply with the requirements could result in a fine or imprisonment.

Insurance

The National Insurance Commission (NIC) imposes nationality requirements with respect to the board and senior management of locally incorporated insurance and reinsurance companies. At least two board members must be Ghanaians, and either the Chairman of the board or Chief Executive Officer (CEO) must be Ghanaian. In situations where the CEO is not Ghanaian, the NIC requires that the Chief Financial Officer be Ghanaian. Minimum initial capital investment in the insurance sector is 50 million Ghana cedis (approximately USD 9 million).

Telecommunications

Per the Electronic Communications Act of 2008, the National Communications Authority (NCA) regulates and manages the nation’s telecommunications and broadcast sectors. For 800 MHz spectrum licenses for mobile telecommunications services, Ghana restricts foreign participation to a joint venture or consortium that includes a minimum of 25 percent Ghanaian ownership. Applicants have two years to meet the requirement, and can list the 25 percent on the Ghana Stock Exchange. The first option to purchase stock is given to Ghanaians, but there are no restrictions on secondary trading.

Banking and Electronic Payment Service Providers

The Payment Systems and Services Act, 2019 (Act 987), establishes requirements for the licensing and authorization of electronic payment services. Act 987 ( https://www.bog.gov.gh/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Payment-Systems-and-Services-Act-2019-Act-987-.pdf ) imposes limitations on foreign investment and establishes residency requirements for company senior officials or members of the board of directors. Specifically, Act 987 mandates electronic payment services companies to have at least 30 percent Ghanaian ownership (either from a Ghanaian corporate or individual shareholder) and requires at least two of its three board directors, including its chief executive officer, be resident in Ghana.

There are no significant limits on foreign investment or differences in the treatment of foreign and national investors in other sectors of the economy.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Ghana has not conducted an investment policy review (IPR) through the OECD recently. UNCTAD last conducted an IPR in 2003.

The WTO last conducted a Trade Policy Review (TPR) in May 2014. The TPR concluded that the 2013 amendment to the investment law raised the minimum capital that foreigners must invest to levels above those specified in Ghana’s 1994 GATS horizontal commitments, and excluded new activities from foreign competition. However, it was determined that overall this would have minimal impact on dissuading future foreign investment due to the size of the companies traditionally seeking to do business within the country. An executive summary of the findings can be found at: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp398_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

Although registering a business is a relatively easy procedure and can be done online through the Registrar General’s Department (RGD) at https://egovonline.gegov.gov.gh/RGDPortalWeb/portal/RGDHome/eghana.portal  (this would be controlled by the new Office of the Registrar of Companies in 2021), businesses have noted that the process involved in establishing a business is lengthy and complex, and requires compliance with regulations and procedures of at least four other government agencies, including GIPC, Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA), Ghana Immigration Service, and the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT).

According to the World Bank’s Doing Business Report 2020 , it takes eight procedures and 13 days to establish a foreign-owned limited liability company (LLC) to engage in international trade in Ghana. In 2019, Ghana passed a new Companies Act, 2019 (Act 992), which among other things created a new independent office called the Office of the Registrar of Companies, responsible for the registration and regulation of all businesses. The new office is expected to be in place in 2021, and would separate the registration process for companies from the Registrar General’s Department; the latter would continue to serve as the government’s registrar for non-business transactions such as marriages. The new law also simplifies some registration processes by scrapping the issuance of a certificate to commence business and the requirement for a company to state business objectives, which limited the activities in which a company could engage. The law also expands the role of the company secretary, which now requires educational qualifications with some background in company law practice and administration or having been trained under a company secretary for at least three years. Foreign investors must obtain a certificate of capital importation, which can take 14 days. The local authorized bank must confirm the import of capital with the Bank of Ghana, which confirms the transaction to GIPC for investment registration purposes.

Per the GIPC Act, all foreign companies are required to register with GIPC after incorporation with the RGD. Registration can be completed online at http://www.gipcghana.com/ . While the registration process is designed to be completed within five business days, but there are often bureaucratic delays.

The Ghanaian business environment is unique, and guidance can be extremely helpful. In some cases, a foreign investment may enjoy certain tax benefits under the law or additional incentives if the project is deemed critical to the country’s development. Most companies or individuals considering investing in Ghana or trading with Ghanaian counterparts find it useful to consult with a local attorney or business facilitation company. The United States Embassy in Accra maintains a list of local attorneys, which is available through the U.S. Foreign Commercial Service ( https://2016.export.gov/ghana/contactus/index.asp ) or U.S. Citizen Services (https://gh.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/attorneys/). Specific information about setting up a business is available at the GIPC website: http://www.gipcghana.com/invest-in-ghana/doing-business-in-ghana.html .

Ghana Investment Promotion Centre
Post: P. O. Box M193, Accra-Ghana
Note: Omit the (0) after the country code when dialing from abroad.
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 665 125, +233 (0) 302 665 126, +233 (0) 302 665 127, +233 (0) 302 665 128, +233 (0) 302 665 129, +233 (0) 244 318 254/ +233 (0) 244 318 252
Email: info@gipc.gov.gh
Website: www.gipcghana.com 

Note that mining or oil/gas sector companies are required to obtain licensing/approval from the following relevant bodies:

Petroleum Commission Head Office
Plot No. 4A, George Bush Highway, Accra, Ghana
P.O. Box CT 228 Cantonments, Accra, Ghana
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 953 392 | +233 (0) 302 953 393
Website: http://www.petrocom.gov.gh/ 

Minerals Commission
Minerals House, No. 12 Switchback Road, Cantonments, Accra
P. O. Box M 248
Telephone: +233 (0) 302 772 783 /+233 (0) 302 772 786 /+233 (0) 302 773 053
Website: http://www.mincom.gov.gh/ 

Outward Investment

Ghana has no specific outward investment policy. It has entered into bilateral treaties, however, with a number of countries to promote and protect foreign investment on a reciprocal basis. Some Ghanaian companies have established operations in other West African countries.

Grenada

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Grenada employs a liberal approach to foreign direct investment (FDI) and actively promotes foreign investment into the country.

The government of Grenada identified five priority sectors for investment:

  • Tourism and hospitality services
  • Education and health services
  • Information and communication technology
  • Agribusiness
  • Energy development

The Grenada Investment Development Corporation (GIDC) is the country’s investment promotion agency. It was established in 1985 to stimulate, facilitate, and encourage the creation and development of industry.

The GIDC is a “one-stop shop” offering:

  • Investment and trade information
  • Investment incentives
  • Investment facilitation and aftercare
  • Entrepreneurial/business skills training
  • Small business support services
  • Industrial facilities
  • Policy advice

To promote FDI, the GIDC adopts a targeted approach to promote investment opportunities, provides investor facilitation and entrepreneurial development services, and advocates for a supportive environment for investors to develop and grow businesses, trade, and industries.

Investment retention is a priority in Grenada and is maintained through ongoing dialogue with investors facilitated by the GIDC.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no economic and industrial strategies that discriminate against foreign investors. Non-Grenadian investors may be required to obtain an Alien Landholding License and pay a property transfer tax, which levies a 10 percent fee on the purchase of shares in a Grenadian registered company or real estate. In addition, the sale of such shares or real estate to non-nationals will attract a property transfer tax of 15 percent payable by the seller if the seller is a non-Grenadian. Foreign investors employed in Grenada are required to obtain a work permit, renewable annually. U.S. investors must pay a fee of USD $1,111 or XCD $3,000 for work permits. The renewal fee varies based on the investor’s country of citizenship.

There are no limits on foreign ownership or control, except for enterprises deemed prejudicial to national security, the environment, public health, or national culture, or which contravene the laws of Grenada. Grenada has accepted but not yet implemented regional anti-competition obligations. U.S investors are not disadvantaged or singled out by any of the ownership or control mechanisms, sector restrictions, or investment screening mechanisms in Grenada relative to other foreign investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Grenada passed its most recent Investment Promotion Act in 2014. The legislation promotes, encourages, and protects investment in Grenada by providing investors with a stable framework of fundamental and enforceable rights. It seeks to guarantee and ensure security and fairness in strict accordance with the rule of law and best international standards and practices. The 2014 Act is also in compliance with WTO regulations, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Agreement between the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the EU.

The incentives regime enacted in 2016 grants incentives to ensure that all new tax exemptions are codified, restricts discretionary exemptions, and requires that the beneficiaries of exemptions file appropriate tax returns and comply with tax requirements. It also sets streamlined, simple, and non-discretionary system/process for the granting of incentives. The Customs and Inland Revenue Departments (CIRD) administer exemptions through a clearly defined rule-based system in contrast with past incentive schemes that required each case to be approved at the cabinet level.

Under this regime, the CIRD grants incentives to projects within the priority sectors for investment. They are tourism, manufacturing, agriculture and agribusiness, information technology services, telecommunication providers and business process outsourcing operations, education and training, health and wellness, creative industries, energy, and research and development. Other sectors also include student accommodation, heavy equipment operators, investment projects above particular investment thresholds, and projects within specific geographical locations.

The incentive regime seeks to provide investment incentives on a performance basis (i.e., the more one invests, the more incentives one can receive). Therefore, based on the level of investment, CIRD grants different levels of incentives in a transparent, predictable, and non-discriminatory manner.

In the past three years, the government was not subject to third-party investment policy reviews through multilateral organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the WTO, and the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Business Facilitation

An investor must register a business name and identify whether it is a partnership or limited liability company. A registered business can be wholly owned or a joint venture. The official website of the GIDC includes an investor’s guide that details the procedures for starting and operating a business in Grenada. The guide has a business procedure flow chart and gives step-by-step instructions for various tasks from registering a business and owning properties to obtaining permits and licenses. Detailed information on business registration and timelines can be found at: http://grenadaidc.com/investor-centre/investors-guide/starting-up-a-business/#.WKxXdfnQe70 

The GIDC provides business facilitation mechanisms and ensures the equitable treatment of women and underrepresented minorities in the economy.

Outward Investment

The government of Grenada does not promote or incentivize outward investment. The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, to which Grenada is a party, includes a chapter on service agreements under the European Partnership Agreement (EPA). Under certain circumstances, provisions in these agreements may offer incentives to the potential investor. Grenada does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Guatemala

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Guatemalan government continues to promote investment opportunities and work on reforms to enhance competitiveness and the business environment. As part of the government’s efforts to promote economic recovery during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Economy (MINECO) began implementing an economic recovery plan, which focuses on recovering lost jobs and generating new jobs, attracting new strategic investment, and promoting consumption of Guatemalan goods and services locally and globally. Private consultants contributed to the government’s September 2020 economic recovery plan, which focuses on increasing exports and attracting foreign direct investment.

Guatemala’s investment promotion office operates within MINECO´s National Competitiveness Program (PRONACOM). PRONACOM supports potential foreign investors by offering information, assessment, coordination of country visits, contact referrals, and support with procedures and permits necessary to operate in the country. Services are offered to all investors without discrimination. The World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report ranked Guatemala 96 out of 190 countries, one position lower than its rank in 2019. The two areas where the country had the highest rankings were electricity and access to credit. The areas of the lowest ranking were protecting minority investors, enforcing contracts, and resolving insolvency.

International investors tend to engage with the Guatemalan government via chambers of commerce and industry associations, or directly with specific government ministries. PRONACOM began to prioritize investment retention in 2020.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Guatemalan Constitution recognizes the right to hold private property and to engage in business activity. Foreign private entities can establish, acquire, and dispose freely of virtually any type of business interest, with the exception of some professional services as noted below. The Foreign Investment Law specifically notes that foreign investors enjoy the same rights of use, benefits, and ownership of property as Guatemalan citizens. Guatemalan law prohibits foreigners, however, from owning land immediately adjacent to rivers, oceans, and international borders.

Guatemalan law does not prohibit the formation of joint ventures or the purchase of local companies by foreign investors. The absence of a developed, liquid, and efficient capital market, in which shares of publicly owned firms are traded, makes equity acquisitions in the open market difficult. Most foreign firms operate through locally incorporated subsidiaries.

The law does not restrict foreign investment in the telecommunications, electrical power generation, airline, or ground-transportation sectors. The Foreign Investment Law removed limitations to foreign ownership in domestic airlines and ground-transport companies in January 2004. The Guatemalan government does not have any screening mechanisms for inbound foreign investment.

Some professional services may only be supplied by professionals with locally recognized academic credentials. Public notaries must be Guatemalan nationals. Foreign enterprises may provide licensed, professional services in Guatemala through a contract or other relationship with a Guatemalan company. In July 2010, the Guatemalan congress approved an insurance law that allows foreign insurance companies to open branches in Guatemala, a requirement under CAFTA-DR. This law requires foreign insurance companies to fully capitalize in Guatemala.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Guatemala has been a World Trade Organization (WTO) member since 1995. The Guatemalan government had its last WTO trade policy review (TPR) in November 2016. In 2011, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) conducted an investment policy review on Guatemala. The WTO TPR highlighted Guatemala’s efforts to increase trade liberalization and economic reform efforts by eliminating export subsidies for free trade zones, export-focused manufacturing and assembly operations (maquilas) regimes, as well as amendments to the government procurement law to improve transparency and efficiency. The WTO TPR noted that Guatemala continues to lack a general competition law and a corresponding competition authority. The UNCTAD IPR recommended strengthening the public sector’s institutional capacity and highlighted that adopting a competition law and policy should be a priority in Guatemala’s development agenda. The government agreed to approve a competition law by November 2016 as part of its commitments under the Association Agreement with the European Union, but the draft law has not been approved as of March 2021. Other important recommendations from the UNCTAD IPR were to further explore alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and the establishment of courts for commercial and land disputes, though the government had not made substantive progress on these recommendations as of March 2021.

Business Facilitation

The Guatemalan government has a business registration website (https://minegocio.gt/), which facilitates on-line registration procedures for new businesses. Foreign companies that are incorporated locally are able to use the online business registration window, but the system is not yet available to other foreign companies. As a result of the entry into force of the commercial code amendments in January 2018, the time to register a new business online for a locally incorporated company went down from an average of 18.5 days in 2016 to an average of six days in 2019. The legal cost to register a business also fell by approximately 75 percent. The new procedures allow locally incorporated businesses to receive their business registration certificates online. Every company must register with the business registry, the tax administration authority, the social security institute, and the labor ministry.

Outward Investment

Guatemala does not incentivize nor restrict outward investment.

Guinea

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The Government of Guinea has increasingly adopted a strong, positive attitude toward foreign direct investment (FDI). Facing budget shortfalls and low commodity prices, the GoG hopes FDI will help diversify its economy, spur GDP growth, and provide reliable employment. To that end, the government has reduced land transfer fees, and improved procedures for import and construction permits. Guinea does not discriminate against foreign investors, with the exception of a prohibition on foreign ownership of media. One area of concern is that mining companies have negotiated different taxation rates despite mining code requirements. According to the 2020 World Investment Report, FDI in Guinea fell from USD 577 million in 2017 to USD 45 million in 2019. In late 2015, the U.S. Embassy facilitated the establishment of an informal international investors group to liaise with the government. The group has not been very active since. There is the Chambre des Mines (Chamber of Mines), a government-sanctioned advisory organization that includes Guinea’s major mining firms. Guinea’s Agency for the Promotion of Private Investment (APIP) provides support in the following areas:

  1. Create and register businesses
  2. Facilitate access to incentives offered under the investment code
  3. Provide information and resources to potential investors
  4. Publish targeted sector studies and statistics
  5. Provide training and technical assistance
  6. Facilitate solutions for investors in Guinea’s interior

On March 13, a presidential decree changed the responsibilities of APIP into a public agency under the technical supervision of the Ministry of Investments and Public Private Partnerships, and under the financial supervision of the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

More information about APIP can be found at: http://apip.gov.gn/ 

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Investors can register under one of four categories of business in Guinea. More information on the four types of business registration is available at http://invest.gov.gn/page/create-your-company. There are no general limits on foreign ownership or control, and 100 percent ownership by foreign firms is legal in most sectors. Foreign-ownership of print media, radio, and television stations is not permitted. The 2013 Mining Code gives the government the right to a 15 percent interest in any major mining operation in Guinea (the government decides when an operation has become large enough to qualify). Mining and media notwithstanding, there are no sector-specific restrictions that discriminate against market access for foreign investment. Despite this lack of official discrimination, many enterprises have discovered the licensing process to be laden with bureaucratic delays that are usually dealt with by paying consultant fees to help expedite matters. The U.S. Embassy may be able to advocate on behalf of American companies when it is aware of excessive delays.

According to the Investment Code, the National Investment Commission has a role in reviewing requests for approval of foreign investment and for monitoring companies’ efforts to comply with investment obligations. The Ministry of Planning and Economic Development hosts the secretariat for this commission, which grants investment approvals. The government gives approved companies, especially industrial firms, the use of the land necessary for their plant, with the duration and conditions of use set out in the terms of the approval. The land and associated buildings belong to the State, but can also be rented by or transferred to another firm with government approval.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

There has been no investment policy review conducted by the UN Conference on Trade and Development or the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development within the past several years. The World Trade Organization (WTO) last conducted a review of Guinea in 2018. The 2018 report can be viewed here: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp470_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

APIP is the Guinean agency that promotes investment, helps register businesses, assists with the expansion of local companies, and works to improve the local business climate. APIP maintains an online guide for potential investors in Guinea (http://invest.gov.gn). Business registration can be completed in person at APIP’s office in Conakry or through their online platform: https://synergui.apipguinee.com/fr/utilisateurs/register/. The only internationally-accredited business facilitation organization that assesses Guinea is GER.co, which gives Guinea’s business creation/investment website a 4/10 rating. It takes roughly seventy-two hours to register a business. APIP’s services are available to both Guinean and foreign investors. The “One Stop Shop” at APIP’s Conakry office can provide small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) with requisite registration numbers, including tax administration numbers and social security numbers. Notaries are required for the creation of any other type of enterprise.

An SME in Guinea is defined as a business with less than 50 employees and revenue less than 500 million Guinean francs (GNF) (around USD 50,000). SMEs are taxed at a yearly fixed rate of GNF 15 million (USD 1,500). Administrative modalities are simplified and funneled through the “One Stop Shop”. In December 2019, the Prime Minister inaugurated the “Maison des PME” (“The SME House”) a public-private partnership between the Societe Generale bank and APIP to help local SMEs expand and develop.

Outward Investment

Guinea does not formally promote outward investment and the government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.

Guyana

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GoG recognizes foreign direct investment (FDI) as critical for growing and diversifying the Guyanese economy. Guyanese law does not discriminate against foreign investors. Shortly after being sworn in, President Ali committed to institute an electronic single window application process to expedite business registration, permitting, and improve the country’s Ease of Doing Business ranking. The GoG has prioritized investments in the following sectors: agriculture, agro-processing, light manufacturing, renewable energy, tourism and information and communications technology (ICT). The Guyana Office for Investment (GO-INVEST) is the GoG’s primary vehicle for promoting FDI opportunities and assisting foreign corporations with their business registrations and applying for tax concessions. Companies and investors are encouraged to do their due diligence and have robust business plans completed before approaching GOINVEST.

The GoG expects to table local content legislation before Parliament in the second quarter of 2021, which will set baseline requirements for foreign firms to hire Guyanese and establish taxation standards to foster greater local participation in the oil and gas sector. The aim of this legislation is to promote long term investments in Guyana, build local capacity, and avoid the resource curse.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Guyana’s constitution protects the rights of foreigners to own property in Guyana. Foreign and domestic firms possess the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of commerce. Private entities are governed by the 1991 Companies Act (amended in 1995) under which they have the right to establish business enterprises and are free to acquire or dispose of interest in accordance with the law. Some key sectors like aviation, forestry, banking, mining, and tourism are heavily regulated and require licensing. The process to obtain licenses can be time consuming and may in some instances require ministerial approval.

The GoG prohibits foreign ownership of small-and-medium-scale mining (ASM) concessions. Foreign investors interested in participating in the industry at those levels may establish joint ventures with Guyanese nationals, under which the two parties agree to jointly develop a mining property. However, this type of relationship can carry a high level of risk because arrangements are governed only by private contracts and the sector’s regulatory agency, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC), offers little recourse for ASM disputes. The U.S. Embassy strongly encourages investors to thoroughly conduct their due diligence when exploring business opportunities.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Guyana’s macro-economic fundamentals have remained stable over the past decade. The Ali administration is revising its Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) to balance sustainable development goals with booming oil production. Developmental policies include incentives for priority areas, including education, health, renewable energy, agriculture, and agro-processing.

Government policy focuses on attracting inward FDI. The GoG applies national treatment to all economic activities, except for certain mining operations, although some foreign-owned companies conduct large-scale mining operations in the country. During its first months in office, the Ali administration took actions to improve the business environment such as repealing of taxes on corporate taxes on health, education, and construction materials. Incentives for FDI includes income tax holidays, and tariff and value-added tax (VAT) exemptions.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) published its most recent trade policy review of Guyana in 2015: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp420_e.htm 

Business Facilitation

All companies operating in Guyana must register with the Registrar of Companies. Registration fees are lower for companies incorporated in Guyana than those incorporated abroad.  Locally incorporated companies are subjected to a flat fee of approximately $300 and a company incorporated abroad is subject to a fee of approximately $400. Depending on the type of business, registration may take three weeks or more. Newly registered businesses are encouraged to visit the Guyana Revenue Authority and apply for a tax identification number (TIN). If a company employs Guyanese workers, the company must demonstrate compliance with the National Insurance Scheme (social security). Businesses in the sectors requiring specific licenses, such as mining, telecommunications, forestry, and banking must obtain operation licenses from the relevant authorities before commencing operations. Guyana has six municipal authorities which also assess municipal taxes: Anna Regina, Corriverton, Georgetown, Linden, New Amsterdam, and Rosehall.

GO-INVEST advises the GoG on the formulation and implementation of national investment policies and provides facilitation services to foreign investors, particularly in completing administrative formalities, such as commercial registration and applications for land purchases or leases.  Under the Status of Aliens Act, foreign and domestic investors have the same rights to purchase and lease land. However, the process to access licensing can be complex and many foreign companies have opted to partner with local companies which may assist with acquiring a license. The Investment Act specifies that there should be no discrimination between foreign and domestic private investors, or among foreign investors from different countries. The authorities maintain that foreign investors have equal access to opportunities arising from privatization of state-owned companies.

Resources

Guyana Deeds and Commercial Registry: https://dcra.gov.gy/ 
GO-INVEST: https://goinvest.gov.gy/ 
Guyana Revenue Authority: https://www.gra.gov.gy/ 

Outward Investment

While the GoG is focused on attracting inward investment into Guyana, there are no restrictions for domestic investors to invest abroad. GO-INVEST supports Guyanese investors and exporters looking to operate overseas.  In 2019, the Natural Resource Fund Act (NRF) was passed which created Guyana’s sovereign wealth fund. The Act provides the Minister of Finance with responsibility for the overall management of the fund.  The NRF is currently held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and, as of February 2021, has a balance of $246.5 million from its nascent oil revenues and royalty payments. The Ali administration plans to amend the existing Natural Resource Fund Act and has committed to leave all funds on deposit until a new regulatory framework is adopted. The GoG has not stated an official investment policy for the sovereign wealth fund as of March 2021.

Haiti

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Haiti’s legislation encourages foreign direct investment. Import and export policies are non-discriminatory and are not based on nationality. Haitian and foreign investors have the same rights, privileges and protections under the 1987 investment code. The Haitian government has made some progress in recent years to improve the legal framework, create and strengthen core public institutions, and enhance economic governance. The Haitian Central Bank continues to work with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank to implement measures aimed at creating a stable macroeconomic environment. The IMF concluded its most recent Article IV economic consultation with Haiti in January 2020 (www.imf.org/en/countries/hti). In April 2020, the IMF loaned Haiti $112 million through its rapid credit facility mechanism to provide liquidity to Haiti for expenditures to address COVID-19.

While not discriminatory towards international investment specifically, the Haitian government’s economic policies fall short of providing a sound enabling environment for foreign direct investment. The Haitian Central Bank announced in August 2020 the intention to use up to $150 million of its international reserves to intervene in the foreign exchange market, resulting in a rapid appreciation of the country’s local currency, the Haitian gourde (HTG), relative to the U.S. dollar (USD). The gourde appreciated from about 121 HTG/USD to 62 HTG/USD over two months and began steadily depreciating in November 2020 to its rate of 80 HTG/USD as of April 2021. The gourde’s sudden and unexpected change in value has resulted in sustained increased costs for export-oriented businesses, including international investors.

Despite passing anti-money laundering and anti-corruption laws to ensure that Haiti’s legislation corresponds with international standards, the government has not strictly followed the legal framework of these laws, and has failed to incentivize investment in Haiti. In early 2017, the Parliament enacted legislation making electronic signatures and electronic transactions legally binding. Other pieces of legislation that may improve Haiti’s investment climate remain pending, including incorporation procedures, a new mining code, and an insurance code. Haiti’s Finance Ministry is implementing measures to improve revenue collection and control spending. The Ministry signed an agreement with Haiti’s Central Bank in November 2019 to strengthen fiscal discipline and limit government monetary financing. Despite these measures, the rate of monetary financing over fiscal year (FY) 2021 appears to be outpacing the annual budgeted amount of $462 million (3.6 percent of FY2021 IMF-projected GDP), standing at $377 million (3.0 percent of GDP) as of March 4, 2021, less than six months into the fiscal year. The Center for the Facilitation of Investments (CFI), which operates under Haitian Ministry of Commerce oversight, was established to promote domestic and international investment opportunities in Haiti. In concept, the CFI could streamline the investment process by: working with other government agencies to simplify procedures related to trade and investment; providing updated economic and commercial information to local and foreign investors; making proposals on investor incentives; and promoting investment in priority sectors. The CFI aims to offer tailored services to large international investors, but has been unable to operate at full capacity during the pandemic. In practice, the CFI has made limited progress to incentivize job creation and boost national production in agriculture, apparel assembly, and tourism. As an example, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti’s Tourism Association reported a 60 percent loss of jobs in the sector in 2019.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

The Haitian government does not impose discriminatory requirements on foreign investors. Haitian laws related to residency status and employment are reciprocal. Foreigners who are legal residents in Haiti and wish to engage in trade have, within the framework of laws and regulations, the same rights granted to Haitian citizens. However, Article 5 of the Decree on the Profession of Merchants reserves the function of manufacturer’s agent for Haitian nationals.

Foreign firms are also encouraged to participate in government-financed development projects. Performance requirements are not imposed on foreign firms as a condition for establishing or expanding an investment, unless indicated in a signed contract.

Foreign investors are permitted to own 100 percent of a company or subsidiary. As a Haitian entity, such companies enjoy all rights and privileges provided under the law. Additionally, foreign investors are permitted to operate businesses without equity-to-debt ratio requirements. Accounting law allows foreigners to capitalize using tangible and intangible assets in lieu of cash investments.

Foreign investors are free to enter into joint ventures with Haitian citizens. The distribution of shares is a private matter between the two parties. However, the government regulates the sale and purchase of company shares. Investment in certain sectors, such as health and agriculture, requires special Haitian government authorization. Investment in “sensitive” sectors such as electricity, water, telecommunications, and mining require a Haitian government concession as well as authorization from the appropriate governmental agency. In general, natural resources are the property of the state, and the exploitation of mineral and energy resources requires concessions and permitting from the Ministry of Public Works’ Bureau of Mining and Energy. Mining, prospecting, and operating permits may only be granted to companies established and resident in Haiti, and the establishment of new industrial mines cannot take place until an elected parliament passes an updated mining law, along the lines of a draft law initially presented in 2017.

Entrepreneurs are free to dispose of their properties and assets, and to organize production and marketing activities in accordance with local laws.

Investors in Haiti can create the following types of businesses: sole proprietorship, limited or general partnership, joint-stock company, public company (corporation), subsidiary of a foreign company, and co-operative society. The most common business structures in Haiti are corporations. A draft law (Société de Droits law), which would facilitate the creation of other types of businesses in Haiti, such as LLCs, remains pending parliamentary approval when parliament is restored.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Haiti’s last investment policy review from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development occurred in 2012. In general, Haiti’s political instability, weak institutions, and inconsistent economic policies impede the country’s ability to attract and direct foreign direct investment.

The World Trade Organization’s (WTO) 2015 Trade Policy Review stated that Haiti’s Investment Code and Law on Free Trade Zones is fully compliant with the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures. The full report can be viewed at https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp427_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

While the Haitian government has made efforts to facilitate the launching and operating of businesses, the average time to start a business in Haiti is 189 days, according to the World Bank’s 2020 Ease of Doing Business Report. At present, it takes between 90 and 120 days to complete registration with the Commercial Registry at the Ministry of Commerce and obtain the authorization of operations (Droit de fonctionnement). The Center for Facilitation of Investments (CFI), a public-private organization, also offers a service providing pre-registered and fully authorized companies in manufacturing, agribusiness, and real estate the opportunity to reduce their registration time. Once the Inter-Ministerial Investment Commission validates these established companies, the shares are transferred to the new owners.

Both foreign and domestic businesses can register at Haiti’s CFI: http://cfihaiti.com . All businesses must register with the Ministry of Commerce, the Haitian tax office, the state-owned Banque Nationale de Crédit, the social security office, and the retirement insurance office.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s internet registry allows investors to search for and verify the existence of a business in Haiti. The registry will eventually provide online registration of companies through an electronic one-stop shop. In October 2020, CFI launched Spotlight, an initiative with the aim of promoting visibility of companies already established in Haiti and registered in the CFI database.

Outward Investment

Neither the law nor the Haitian government restricts domestic investors from investing abroad. Still, Haiti’s outward investment is limited to a few enterprises with small investments. These investors are generally businesspersons with dual citizenship and others of Haitian origin who presently reside in the country in which their firms operate. The majority of these firms are service providers and not investment firms. There is no current program or incentive in place to encourage Haitian entrepreneurs to invest abroad.

Honduras

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GOH is open to foreign investment, and low labor costs, proximity to the U.S. market, and the large Caribbean port of Puerto Cortes can make Honduras attractive to investors.

The legal framework for investment includes the Honduran constitution, the investment chapter of CAFTA-DR (which takes precedence over most domestic law), and the 2011 Law for the Promotion and Protection of Investments. The Honduran constitution requires all foreign investment to complement, but not substitute for, national investment. Honduras’ legal obligations guarantee national treatment and most favored nation treatment for U.S. investments in most sectors of the Honduran economy and include enhanced benefits in the areas of insurance and arbitration for domestic and foreign investors. CAFTA-DR has equal status with the constitution in most sectors of the Honduran economy.

Critics complain that lack of clarity and overlapping responsibilities among the multiple entities charged with attracting increased foreign direct investment undermine the government’s ability to effectively promote Honduras as a profitable destination for foreign capital. The National Investment Council, the Ministry of Investment Promotion, and the Ministry of Economic Development all have equities in attracting foreign investment and an ambitious job creation mandate.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Honduras’ Investment Law does not limit foreign ownership of businesses, except for those specifically reserved for Honduran investors, including small firms with capital less than $6,300 and the domestic air transportation industry. For all investments, at least 90 percent of companies’ labor forces must be Honduran, and companies must pay at least 85 percent of their payrolls to Hondurans. Majority ownership by Honduran citizens is required for companies in the commercial fishing sector, forestry, local transportation, radio, television, or benefiting from the Agrarian Reform Law. There is no screening or approval process specific to foreign direct investments in Honduras. Foreign investors are subject to the same requirements for environmental and other regulatory approvals as domestic investors.

According to the law, investors can establish, acquire, and dispose of enterprises at market prices under freely negotiated conditions without government intervention, but some foreign business operators report difficulty closing businesses. Private enterprises fairly compete with public enterprises on market access, credit, and other business operations. Foreign investors have the right to own property, subject to certain restrictions established by the Honduran constitution and several laws relating to property rights. Investors may acquire, profit, use, and dispose of property ownership with the exception of land within 40 kilometers of international borders and shorelines. Honduran law does permit, however, foreign individuals to purchase properties close to shorelines in designated “tourism zones.”

Other Investment Policy Reviews

In 2016, the World Trade Organization conducted a Trade Policy review of Honduras: https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/tp436_e.htm .

Business Facilitation

The Honduran government has worked to simplify administrative procedures for establishing a company in recent years, including by offering many processes online. GOH officials are pressing for, and have made good progress in, the digitalization of business, import, permitting and licensing, and taxation processes to increase efficiency and transparency, but procedural red tape to obtain government approval for investment activities remains common, especially at the local level. Honduras’ business registration information portal ( https://honduras.eregulations.org/ ) provides clear step-by-step information on registering a business, including fees, agencies, and required documents.

Honduras ratified the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in July 2016, agreeing to expedite the movement, release, and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. The TFA also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. According to the WTO/TFA database, Honduras’ current rate of implementation of TFA Category A notification commitments stands at 59.2 percent.

During the past year the GOH moved 38 of its ministries and agencies into the newly finished Centro Civico government complex, where it hopes to achieve efficiencies in business facilitation and other processes. In addition to moving information storage to digital formats across the government, the GOH plans to streamline public services though use of single windows for multiple services at the new center.

Outward Investment

Honduras does not promote or incentivize outward investment.

Hong Kong

1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

Hong Kong is the world’s second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI), according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) World Investment Report 2020, with a significant amount bound for mainland China.  The HKG’s InvestHK encourages inward investment, offering free advice and services to support companies from the planning stage through to the launch and expansion of their business.  U.S. and other foreign firms can participate in government financed and subsidized research and development programs on a national treatment basis.  Hong Kong does not discriminate against foreign investors by prohibiting, limiting, or conditioning foreign investment in a sector of the economy.

Capital gains are not taxed, nor are there withholding taxes on dividends and royalties.  Profits can be freely converted and remitted.  Foreign-owned and Hong Kong-owned company profits are taxed at the same rate – 16.5 percent.  The tax rate on the first USD 255,000 profit for all companies is currently 8.25 percent.  No preferential or discriminatory export and import policies affect foreign investors.  Domestic industries receive no direct subsidies.  Foreign investments face no disincentives, such as quotas, bonds, deposits, or other similar regulations.

According to HKG statistics, 3,983 overseas companies had regional operations registered in Hong Kong in 2020.  The United States has the largest number with 690.  Hong Kong is working to attract more start-ups as it works to develop its technology sector, and about 26 percent of start-ups in Hong Kong come from overseas.

Hong Kong’s Business Facilitation Advisory Committee is a platform for the HKG to consult the private sector on regulatory proposals and implementation of new or proposed regulations.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Foreign investors can invest in any business and own up to 100 percent of equity.  Like domestic private entities, foreign investors have the right to engage in all forms of remunerative activity.

The HKG owns virtually all land in Hong Kong, which the HKG administers by granting long-term leases without transferring title.  Foreign residents claim that a 15 percent Buyer’s Stamp Duty on all non-permanent-resident and corporate buyers discriminates against them.

The main exceptions to the HKG’s open foreign investment policy are:

Broadcasting – Voting control of free-to-air television stations by non-residents is limited to 49 percent.  There are also residency requirements for the directors of broadcasting companies.

Legal Services – Foreign lawyers at foreign law firms may only practice the law of their jurisdiction.  Foreign law firms may become “local” firms after satisfying certain residency and other requirements.  Localized firms may thereafter hire local attorneys but must do so on a 1:1 basis with foreign lawyers.  Foreign law firms can also form associations with local law firms.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

Hong Kong last conducted the Trade Policy Review in 2018 through the World Trade Organization (WTO).  https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/tpr_e/g380_e.pdf

Business Facilitation

The Efficiency Office under the Innovation and Technology Bureau is responsible for business facilitation initiatives aimed at improving the business regulatory environment of Hong Kong.

The e-Registry (https://www.eregistry.gov.hk/icris-ext/apps/por01a/index) is a convenient and integrated online platform provided by the Companies Registry and the Inland Revenue Department for applying for company incorporation and business registration.  Applicants, for incorporation of local companies or for registration of non-Hong Kong companies, must first register for a free user account, presenting an original identification document or a certified true copy of the identification document.  The Companies Registry normally issues the Business Registration Certificate and the Certificate of Incorporation on the same day for applications for company incorporation.  For applications for registration of a non-Hong Kong company, it issues the Business Registration Certificate and the Certificate of Registration two weeks after submission.

Outward Investment

As a free market economy, Hong Kong does not promote or incentivize outward investment, nor restrict domestic investors from investing abroad.  Mainland China and British Virgin Islands were the top two destinations for Hong Kong’s outward investments in 2019 (based on most recent data available).