In 2018 the country attracted 278 foreign inward investment projects, 29% more than in the previous record year in 2017.
Flanders accounted for 169 of those, an increase of 26%; Brussels improved its score by a healthy 65% to 61 projects; and Wallonia attracted 48 projects, 9% more than in 2017.
The investments provided 7,363 jobs in total – 5,366 in Flanders, 1,890 in Wallonia and 107 in Brussels.
The United States was once more the largest single investor in Belgium, with 51 of the new projects, 10 more than in 2017. They were followed by France (44 projects) and the Netherlands (32). The number of British projects increased from 13 in 2017 to 25 in 2018, which EY puts down to the approaching Brexit and the effect of companies shifting their base from the UK to the European mainland.
EY identifies a number of growth sectors in Belgium’s search for inward foreign investment: services, transport and logistics, agri-food and the digital sector. Belgium’s growth is also contrary to the European trend: in 2018, with a total of 6,356 foreign investment projects, Europe saw the numbers fall by 4% compared to 2017.
“The picture of investments made per region matches investors’ perceptions of the attractiveness of Belgium and its regions for investments,” comments Leo Sleuwaegen, professor of international business strategy at the University of Leuven. “However the finding that established investors are less optimistic, and a very low percentage (16%) are planning a new project, implies that there is still a lot of work to be done, especially with regard to taxation, mobility and education, to make our country more attractive.”