12:00 – 13:30 CET : UNCTAD–WAIPA EXCHANGE PLATFORM, Gearing up the Digitalization of Investment promotion: Strategies, good practices and lessons learned – Knowledge partner Ernst and Young

October 18, 2021


Organised with knowledge partner Ernst and Young (E&Y), this session deals with the changes and improvements brought about by digitalisation in investment promotion and facilitation through use of social media, numerical platforms and online-stop-shops to virtual reality. The session focuses primarily on the operational challenges and response by Investment promotion agencies (IPAs), economic development boards (EDBs) and special economic zones (SEZs), upon the onset of the pandemic. The issues to be addressed included analysing the speed and nature of digitalisation of investment promotion organisations and understanding the UNCTAD business facilitation platform.

Session Highlights

The discussions pivoted around how IPAs, EDBs and SEZs have transitioned with the ‘new normal’. The Panellists discussed how the accelerated digitalisation thrust compelled the much needed integration of critical technologies and development of digital tools. Even though the need for digitalisation had been recognised earlier and attempts were made to achieve the same, on account of resistance to change, quantum of information and technical issues, it never materialised. The onset of the pandemic saw countries such as India, Estonia and Latin American nations integrating new methods to gain traction.

By presenting current trends, many IPAs leveraged their position in the market by conducting high quality e-conferences and webinars. Some organisations even launched a series of promotional events and summits that were broadcasted particularly to the target audience identified. During COVID-19, the ‘low hanging fruits’ which presented opportunities for investment included the IT industry, R&D departments, digital tools and products and venture capital investments.

Further, the Panellists discussed digital tools incorporated by IPAs, EDBs and SEZs employed.

This includes:

  • Electronic multimedia;
  • Machine learning;
  • Client management systems;
  • Single window clearance system;
  • Land banks; and
  • Investment relations management system, among others.

Upon conducting a survey, 57 percent respondents opined that cost was saved by employing digital tools and 68 percent felt that time was saved. Thereby, the discussion established that there is efficient growth by employment of such tools and it saves time in analytics.

The Panellists highlighted that internal capacity building to meet with the advancement of technology was integral. The speakers stressed upon the importance of collaboration and partnership for achieving the same. It was discussed that some organisations have even roped in e-consulting services wherein IPA, EDB and SEZ employees focus merely on the core technical consultation work and formalities are handled by customer relationship management tools. Moreover, the Panellists discuss that the tools must be user centric and friendly and not require a prerequisite knowledge of programming or coding.

The aim must be to simplify investment procedures as has been done by Kenya and display online procedures holistically in a stepwise manner. Countries like Iraq have e-registration services wherein the processes have been automated. Vietnam goes on to provide a comparative of the registration processes district wise.

To conclude, the Panellists mentioned that digitalisation in investment facilitation is bound to stay. With cooperative and competitive federalism, all organisations shall follow suit and incorporate digital tools and emerging critical technologies in the times to come. However, there still is a digital divide and many are struggling. It is imperative to fill this gap and assist individual countries.


  • Paul Wessendorp, Chief, Investment Promotion Section, UNCTAD
  • İsmail Erşahin, Deputy Executive Director, World Association of Investment Promotion (WAIPA)

On the panel were:

  • Abhishek Gupta, Partner, Government Advisory, E&Y
  • Maria Camila Moreno, Executive Director, Latin American Association of Free Trade Zones
  • Raido Lember, Business Development Manager, Invest Estonia
  • Dushyant Thakor, Senior Vice President, Invest in India
  • Frank Grozel, UNCTAD Business Facilitation Platform, UNCTAD