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Ranked: Top Countries for Foreign Direct Investment Flows

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One of the most significant phenomena in 21st-century globalization, driven by the ascent of multinational corporations and the removal of investing barriers, is the vast cross-border flow of foreign capital.

To analyze recent trends, Samidha Nayak utilized World Bank data spanning 2012–2022, charting the top 10 destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI) and the leading investing countries annually.

A chart showing the top foreign direct investment flows (inflows) between 2012–2022.

Countries With the Most FDI Inflows (2012–2022)

In 2012, the United States had the highest FDI inflow, attracting about $250 billion in investment from the rest of the world.

ℹ️ Foreign direct investment is when a resident in one economy has 10 percent or more of the ordinary shares of voting stock of a resident enterprise in a different economy.

At second place, China’s FDI inflows stood about $9 billion lower at $241 billion.

The middle ranks have representatives from Europe (Netherlands, Cyprus), from Asia (Hong Kong) and from South America (Brazil).

Towards the bottom, three OECD countries—Germany, Ireland, and Australia—all attracted an average of $60 billion in foreign investment.

Unexpectedly, the British Virgin Islands came in 8th. Their lack of corporate tax makes it a popular place for companies to headquarter, in turn attracting FDI inflows.

2012Country2012 Inflows
(USD Billion)
2022Country2022 Inflows
(USD Billion)
1🇺🇸 U.S.$250.351🇺🇸 U.S.$388.08
2🇨🇳 China$241.212🇨🇳 China$180.17
3🇳🇱 Netherlands$239.673🇸🇬 Singapore$140.84
4🇧🇷 Brazil$92.574🇭🇰 Hong Kong$120.95
5🇭🇰 Hong Kong$74.895🇫🇷 France$105.42
6🇨🇾 Cyprus$69.976🇧🇷 Brazil$91.50
7🇩🇪 Germany$65.447🇦🇺 Australia$67.12
8🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands$61.128🇨🇦 Canada$53.71
9🇮🇪 Ireland$58.099🇸🇪 Sweden$50.05
10🇦🇺 Australia$57.5510🇮🇳 India$49.94

Ten years later however, the top 10 saw a shuffle. The U.S. and China retained their top spots, but the difference grew much larger—with the U.S. attracting nearly 50% more foreign investment ($388 billion) than China ($180 billion).

Singapore, which first appeared in the rankings in 2014, took third place with $141 billion.

Meanwhile the bottom half changed almost entirely with France, Canada, Sweden, and India replacing Cyprus, Germany, the British Virgin Islands, and Ireland.

Countries With the Most FDI Outflows (2012–2022)

Unlike the ranks of net inflows, the top 10 countries with the highest FDI outflows have stayed essentially the same.

A chart showing the top foreign direct investment flows (outflows) between 2012–2022.

The U.S. topped the list in both ends of the decade, despite briefly falling out of the top 10 entirely in 2018. There were only three new entrants (France, Australia, and the UK) in 2022 compared to 10 years prior, with Cyprus, Switzerland, and the British Virgin Islands dropping out of top spots.

2012Country2012 Outflows
(USD Billion)
2022Country2022 Outflows
(USD Billion)
1🇺🇸 U.S.$377.241🇺🇸 U.S.$426.25
2🇳🇱 Netherlands$237.942🇩🇪 Germany$178.87
3🇯🇵 Japan$117.633🇯🇵 Japan$175.40
4🇩🇪 Germany$99.084🇬🇧 UK$158.93
5🇭🇰 Hong Kong$88.125🇨🇳 China$149.69
6🇨🇾 Cyprus$75.256🇳🇱 Netherlands$125.89
7🇨🇳 China$64.967🇦🇺 Australia$123.36
8🇨🇦 Canada$62.258🇫🇷 France$118.76
9🇨🇭Switzerland$54.309🇭🇰 Hong Kong$106.86
10🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands$53.9410🇨🇦 Canada$83.11

Many of the countries who are in the top ranks for inflows (U.S., China, Canada, Australia) are also in the top ranks for outflows both in 2012 and 2022.

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This article was published as a part of Visual Capitalist's Creator Program, which features data-driven visuals from some of our favorite Creators around the world.

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Top 10 Countries Most in Debt to the IMF

Argentina tops the ranking, with a debt equivalent to 5.3% of the country’s GDP.

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Bar chart showing the 10 countries most in debt to the IMF.

Top 10 Countries Most in Debt to the IMF

This was originally posted on our Voronoi app. Download the app for free on iOS or Android and discover incredible data-driven charts from a variety of trusted sources.

Established in 1944, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) supports countries’ economic growth by providing financial aid and guidance on policies to enhance stability, productivity, and job opportunities.

Countries seek loans from the IMF to address economic crises, stabilize their currencies, implement structural reforms, and alleviate balance of payments difficulties.

In this graphic, we visualize the 10 countries most indebted to the fund.

Methodology

We compiled this ranking using the International Monetary Fund’s data on Total IMF Credit Outstanding. We selected the latest debt data for each country, accurate as of April 29, 2024.

Argentina Tops the Rank

Argentina’s debt to the IMF is equivalent to 5.3% of the country’s GDP. In total, the country owns more than $32 billion.

CountryIMF Credit Outstanding ($B)GDP ($B, 2024)IMF Debt as % of GDP
🇦🇷 Argentina32604.35.3
🇪🇬 Egypt11347.63.1
🇺🇦 Ukraine9188.94.7
🇵🇰 Pakistan7374.71.8
🇪🇨 Ecuador6121.64.9
🇨🇴 Colombia3386.10.8
🇦🇴 Angola392.13.2
🇰🇪 Kenya3104.02.8
🇬🇭 Ghana275.22.6
🇨🇮 Ivory Coast286.92.3

A G20 member and major grain exporter, the country’s history of debt trouble dates back to the late 1890s when it defaulted after contracting debts to modernize the capital, Buenos Aires. It has already been bailed out over 20 times in the last six decades by the IMF.

Five of the 10 most indebted countries are in Africa, while three are in South America.

The only European country on our list, Ukraine has relied on international support amidst the conflict with Russia. It is estimated that Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country caused the loss of a third of the country’s economy. The country owes $9 billion to the IMF.

In total, almost 100 countries owe money to the IMF, and the grand total of all of these debts is $111 billion. The above countries (top 10) account for about 69% of these debts.

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