At the very beginning of 2022, Covid-19 was still the dominant story globally. The likely impact of the Omicron variant of the virus was still unknown, as was the efficacy of the many vaccines produced to fight this new strain. As it turned out, while Covid-19 would remain a factor for businesses around the world (particularly those in the zero-Covid-obsessed China), it would be relegated behind issues such as the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, soaring interest rates, faltering economies and political instability for many. The horrors of 2020 and 2021 may not have been repeated where the pandemic was concerned, but 2022 had some new tricks up its sleeve that were to prove equally damaging for the global economy and foreign direct investment (FDI) markets.
The big story in the business world in the first month of the year was the Theranos trial, which acted as a warning to investors so obsessed with finding the next big thing that they were happy to look beyond trifling issues such as evidence that the wonder-product they were investing in actually worked. Another big global story was the formation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade deal. Involving 15 Asia-Pacific countries, it became the world’s largest trading bloc by economic size, but it wasn’t without its winners and losers.
Pariah states were to become a theme throughout 2022, but it was Eritrea, not Russia, that Investment Monitor was focused upon in January, pondering whether its potash reserves could bring the country out of international isolation. We also covered how the rest of the world could deal with the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Speaking of self-enforced isolation, the UK government was still pretending that it was serious about ‘levelling up’ the country in early 2022 (a mere three prime ministers ago), and Investment Monitor was always happy to point out the flaws in this strategy, as well as offer data to show just how badly Brexit is going two years after Boris Johnson’s deal was done.
The lucrative (but still, for some reason, much-ignored) world of video gaming was examined, pondering if the industry will ever have its own Silicon Valley, while our hugely popular investor guides reached the Middle East and Central Asia. The problems Kazakhstan was having with Bitcoin miners came under scrutiny, as did the impact of quantum computing on all levels of security.
Meanwhile, an increase in Russian forces on the Ukraine border was causing growing concerns (see our separate article about how Investment Monitor covered the invasion of Ukraine). Many were still hoping at this point that Vladimir Putin was merely posturing, and it is poignant now to read our January interview with Igor Terekhov, the mayor of Kharkiv, who spoke of his optimism for the Ukrainian city’s future. Kharkiv has been one of the pivotal locations of the war in Ukraine, with its efforts to repel Russian invaders winning it global admiration. It can only be hoped that investment will flood into the city, to both rebuild it and help realise Terekhov’s ambitions, once the war is over.
As February progressed, Russia’s aggression on its Ukraine border became more and more prominent in headlines around the world, before the eventual invasion took place on the 24th (just after the nauseating love-in between Putin and Xi Jinping at the Winter Olympics in Beijing). Before this, however, the lingering impact of Covid-19 on economies around the world was still dominating news reports. On this, Investment Monitor delved deeply into the now-sexy world of supply chains, assessing the winners and losers from the supply chain problems of 2020 and 2021, providing our Supply Chain Vulnerability Index, and taking a specific look at the size of the task this disruption had left the automotive industry to deal with.
Our dedication towards looking at investment in frontier markets saw Investment Monitor report on FDI in space, and then, even more implausibly, the foreign investment environment (if you can call it that) in North Korea. We returned to the topic of Bitcoin mining, looking at where the hotspots for this activity were located, and assessing its energy conundrum. Sticking with the ‘new tech’ theme, we offered this explainer of the (brief) rise of non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, if you will. Nothing to do with tech whatsoever, Investment Monitor also asked whether the Western world is falling out of love with milk. Brits love the BBC for the most part, but what do they get in return (aside from David Attenborough)?
February is Black History Month, and to mark this Investment Monitor looked at various topics related to race issues. We looked at race-related socioeconomic statistics from the US, we asked whether investors really care about racial inequality, we assessed structural racism in corporate America and Europe, while opportunity zones in the US were also profiled.
March was a grim month, as the world watched in horror as Putin’s troops made their way through Ukraine. The ramifications of the invasion would be felt in sectors of all kinds, from wheat production to automotives. With all eyes on Russia, however, Investment Monitor was quick to look towards Taiwan, assessing its importance to China as the threat seemed to grow of another hostile invasion. We also were among the first to report on the impact of Taiwan’s semiconductor ban on Russia’s military capabilities. The West’s response to Russia’s aggression at first came in the form of sanctions, and Investment Monitor led the debate over whether these sanctions would work.
As part of the celebration of International Women’s Day on 8 March, Investment Monitor looked at the lack of women investing in tech and start-ups, the female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were profiled, as was female inclusivity in institutional investment, parental leave (and how more equal parental leave allowances would benefit everyone) and gender bias among investors. Our big crops series started by profiling wheat, and would move on to maize, rice and soy in the following weeks.
Our unparalleled data services were on full show in March, showcased by Investment Monitor’s multinational company subsidiary database, our assessment of the Covid-19 winners and losers among companies and sectors and the investor guide for south-east Europe. Meanwhile, Jamaica’s decision to manoeuvre itself away from the UK was given a nod of approval (following a similar move by Barbados).
By April, much of the world had accepted two things: that the crisis in Ukraine was not going to end quickly, and that a new world order was emerging as a result of Russia’s invasion. One of the key issues that came with isolating Russia was a shortage of oil, and with that in mind, Investment Monitor looked at whether this would work to the advantage of long-time pariah state Venezuela, pondering whether it might fall back in favour with the US (and later in the year looking at just how big its oil market could be). How the oil crisis could play into the hands of Saudi Arabia was also explored.
Investors and venture capitalists the world over are obsessed with discovering the next unicorn (or decacorn, or hexacorn, or perhaps a dodecahedracorn), but is this obsession a good thing? This issue was looked into by Investment Monitor. Continuing on the theme of words we hadn’t heard of ten years ago, we also offered this explainer on what a gigafactory actually is, and the possibility of quantum computing bringing down Bitcoin was given a going over. We also listed the companies with the most ambitious net-zero targets, gave the lowdown on Canada’s foreign buyer ban on real estate, and extended our sympathy to those in the UK construction sector having to cope with the ever-rising cost of materials. We also gave you this guide to the best US state to invest in.
Elsewhere, we looked at gold mining in India, the cannabis market in Thailand and NFTs in Nigeria. In fact, our always-stellar Africa coverage took in Nigeria’s blue economy and assessed whether the continent could become a global breadbasket, while in the Middle East we pondered whether the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) is serious about tackling climate change, and editor-in-chief Courtney Fingar launched a passionate defence of Dubai’s more modern charms. “I love modern architecture and sleek new buildings, and in contrast tend to associate the ‘period properties’ beloved by Londoners with bad plumbing more than charm, with actual mould more than crown moulding,” is just one of the points made in said article, and it is hard to argue with such logic.
By May, the energy crisis was top of mind for governments across the world, and in the UK the blame game was being played in parliament as the Conservative and Labour parties accused each other of not building enough nuclear power plants. Which of them was right? Read our deep dive into the topic to find out. One of the more depressing news stories to emerge in May was the threat to abortion rights in the US, as Roe versus Wade was put under threat. Investment Monitor looked into whether the states that denied abortion access were likely to be less attractive to investors.
We continued to look at the big issues affecting the business world: how can Big Pharma attract tech talent?; should pension funds be more transparent?; what is the real reason for food insecurity around the world?; what is Web3? Our Middle East coverage continued with a look at whether the World Cup would bring investment to Qatar, an analysis of the golden visas on offer in the United Arab Emirates, this appraisal of a GCC-wide rail project and a profile of Dubai’s potential as a crypto hub. In Australia, Anthony Albanese dramatically swept into power, and Investment Monitor pondered what this might do for the fraught relationship between his country and China.
Ireland’s Brexit bonus was also assessed, as was Joe Biden’s inability to provide the US with sufficient manufacturing talent. Staying in the US, we also gave the country’s warehouse and transport supply chain crisis a thorough going over.
Cybersecurity was on our minds in June, as we looked at the cybercrime threat in Africa, we asked whether business leaders are taking cybersecurity seriously enough and we ranked the top global locations for FDI in cybersecurity. As countries around the world queued up to qualify as the latest economic basket case, we profiled the difficulties being experienced in Sri Lanka, we looked at Colombia’s presidential elections, Africa’s food crisis was analysed, and we lamented why it is so ridiculously difficult for a foreign business to open a bank account in the UK.
I can’t lie, my body becomes around 80% Dr Pepper in the hot summer months, so I was surprised to read on Investment Monitor that many believe the soda industry is going flat. We also looked at the challenges the meat industry faces to be considered in any way ESG compliant. We offered this explainer on central bank digital currencies and assessed whether business leaders are doing enough to protect LGBTQ+ rights.
In Europe, US-based Rivian was actively looking for a site in which to open a new electric vehicle factory, so we thought we would do the company’s homework for it. WeWork’s errors (and what can’t be learned from them) were also analysed, and we also took in an eclectic mix of topics, from music festivals and FDI to monetising the metaverse, to making data centres sustainable and assessing France’s post-colonial legacy and pondering what it means for FDI flows.
All of which sees the first half of a tumultuous year come to an end. What would the second half of 2022 have in store? Find out tomorrow on Investment Monitor. No dodecahedracorns were harmed in the writing of this article.
Read a review of the second half of 2022 on Investment Monitor here and our coverage of the Ukraine crisis here.