Voices from the Finance and Investment Network: OCO Global
Joachim Arnold is the Chief Operating Officer of OCO Global, a consulting firm working in the field of foreign direct investment transaction and trade development. Through USAID INVEST, OCO Global is working with the Government of Georgia’s economic development agency to mobilize foreign direct investment into Georgia. In this interview, Arnold discusses the challenges and opportunities facing the country and how FDI fared during the COVID-19 outbreak.
By Lauren Zinser, INVEST Activity Manager, and Carolanne Chanik, INVEST Communications Coordinator
Through INVEST, the USAID Georgia Mission is working to increase foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country’s economy, creating high-value jobs for Georgian workers and helping the country’s private sector recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. “Foreign direct investment can be a significant facilitator of economic growth, job creation, and economic diversification,” says Joachim Arnold, the Chief Operating Officer of OCO Global, an international consulting firm specializing in FDI. “It’s a way for governments to support innovation and accelerate the development of their economies.”
While most INVEST activities focus on facilitating local and international investment into small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), OCO Global, funded through USAID Georgia, is searching for companies outside of the country seeking to set up new operations in Georgia, known as greenfield investments.
To facilitate this effort, OCO Global is working closely with Enterprise Georgia, the Government of Georgia’s economic development agency. Before this partnership, Enterprise Georgia found they lacked meaningful connections to large companies outside of the country’s borders. Now with OCO Global, Enterprise Georgia can connect with OCO’s network of contacts in 20 countries.
While many of Georgia’s traditional FDI successes have been in the textiles and business process outsourcing industries, this new initiative is targeting the high-value manufacturing sector — especially electronics, medical instruments, and aerospace and automotive parts — as part of the effort to drive high-value job creation. “To date, these sectors are underdeveloped in Georgia and have the potential to catalyze growth in a way that creates good jobs for Georgian workers,” says Arnold.
USAID, Enterprise Georgia, and OCO Global see numerous benefits to building a stronger manufacturing sector: local workforces with diversified skills, the adoption of modern management techniques and technology by Georgian businesses, integration with international value chains, and the development of new, local industries, among others. “Success comes down to establishing several landmark investments that can pull in other investors by providing tangible examples of why Georgia is a good place to do business,” says Arnold.
In a departure from its typical government support activities, OCO Global is providing comprehensive support to Enterprise Georgia across the entire life cycle of FDI mobilization. “We’re involved from the strategy development stage to value proposition building, identification of relevant investors, all the way through facilitating the investment project,” Arnold says. “Our goal is to act as a mentor or trainer to support the Enterprise Georgia team so the project can have a sustainable effect.”
Georgia’s need for job creation and economic growth took on increased urgency with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. USAID launched this activity as a proactive effort to spur a strong economic recovery. While OCO Global is familiar with navigating uncertainties in economic environments, COVID-19 has given rise to unprecedented challenges in attracting FDI. “The pandemic has been probably one of the biggest disruptors and the biggest concern in the foreign direct investment industry,” states Arnold. “FDI declined sharply in 2020, and many companies paused their FDI plans with the increasing economic uncertainty.”
Despite these challenges, Arnold believes that the industry is now poised for a comeback. “From what we hear from the market, companies are ready to invest abroad again. There is a significant level of pent-up demand, and we expect an uptick in foreign direct investment when travel restrictions are lifted,” he states.
Over the next year in Georgia, OCO Global plans to seize on renewed market interest to facilitate the closing of three FDI transactions totaling $10 million and creating 500 high-value jobs for Georgian workers.