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Does foreign direct investment cause economic growth? A dynamic panel data analysis for SADC countries

Edmore E Mahembe (Department of Economics, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa)
Nicholas M Odhiambo (Department of Economics, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa)

International Journal of Emerging Markets

ISSN: 1746-8809

Article publication date: 18 July 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to examine the causal relationship between inward foreign direct investment (FDI) and economic growth in Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries over the period 1980-2012. It also investigates whether the causal relationship between FDI inflows and economic growth is dependent on the level of income.

Design/methodology/approach

In order to assess whether the causal relationship between FDI inflows and economic growth is dependent on the level of income, the study divided the SADC countries into two groups, namely, the middle-income countries and the low-income countries. The study used the recent panel-data analysis methods to examine this linkage. The Granger causality test for the middle-income countries was conducted within a vector-error correction mechanism framework; while that of the low-income countries was conducted within a vector autoregressions framework.

Findings

The results for the middle-income countries’ panel show that there is a uni-directional causal flow from GDP to FDI, and not vice versa. However, for the low-income countries’ panel, there was no evidence of causality in either direction. The study concludes that the FDI-led growth hypothesis does not apply to SADC countries.

Research limitations/implications

Methodology applied in this study is a bivariate framework which is likely to suffer from the omission of variable bias (Odhiambo, 2008, 2011). Second, the Granger causality analysis employed in this only investigates the direction of causality and whether each variable can be used to explain another, but does not directly test for the mechanisms through which FDI leads to economic growth and economic growth leads to FDI.

Practical implications

Future studies may include a third variable such as domestic savings, exports, or financial development in a trivariate or multivariate panel causality model. A more complete analysis which seeks to explain the channels through which FDI impacts growth is suggested for future studies. Lastly, sector level analysis will help policy makers draft effective industrial policies, which can guide allocation of incentives.

Social implications

The results of this study support the Growth-led FDI hypothesis, but not the FDI-led growth hypothesis. In other words, it is economic growth that drives FDI inflows into the SADC region and into Southern Africa, and not vice versa. This implies that the recent high economic growth rates that have been recorded in some of the SADC countries, especially the middle-income countries, have led to a massive inflow of FDI into this region.

Originality/value

At the regional level, SADC as a regional bloc has been actively pursuing policies and strategies aimed at attracting FDI into the region. Despite the important role of FDI in economic development, and the increase in FDI inflows into SADC countries in particular, there is a significant dearth of literature on the causal relationship between FDI and economic growth. The study used the recent panel-data analysis methods to examine the causal relationship between FDI and economic growth in SADC countries.

Keywords

Citation

Mahembe, E.E. and Odhiambo, N.M. (2016), "Does foreign direct investment cause economic growth? A dynamic panel data analysis for SADC countries", International Journal of Emerging Markets, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 316-332. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJOEM-06-2014-0084

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited