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Bahrain attracts a record $6.8bn in foreign investment

People walk through the souk in Manama, Bahrain; FDI has been encouraged by the golden licence programme for investors Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Reuters Connect
People walk through the souk in Manama, Bahrain; FDI has been aided by the golden licence programme for investors
  • Bahrain FDI investment up 148%
  • Kuwait is top contributor
  • Global high of 99.7% FDI to GDP

Bahrain has set a new record by attracting $6.8 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2023.

This is a 148 percent increase from the previous year’s $2.8 billion, according to the latest World Investment Report by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Kuwait emerged as the top contributor, accounting for 36 percent of the total FDI, followed by Saudi Arabia with 23 percent and the UAE with 10 percent, the official data shows. 

This surge increased Bahrain’s cumulative inward FDI stocks from $36.2 billion in 2022 to $43.1 billion in 2023, reflecting one of the highest global ratios of FDI to GDP at 99.7 percent — far exceeding the worldwide average of 46.9 percent.

Noor bint Ali Alkhulaif, minister of sustainable development and chief executive of Bahrain EDB, said in a statement to Bahrain News Agency that the milestone FDI inflows attracted in 2023 “reflects the strength of Bahrain’s value proposition… for investors seeking best value operating costs in a strategic location that serves as an ideal gateway to the region and beyond”.

FDI stocks, a key economic indicator, represent the total direct investments maintained by foreign entities within a country by year end. 

These stocks, valued in USD and expressed as a share of GDP, provide insights into the scale of foreign investment relative to the size of the economy.

Blazer, Clothing, Coat Noor bint Ali Alkhulaif said the growth 'reflects the strength of Bahrain’s value proposition'Bahrain News Agency
Noor bint Ali Alkhulaif said the growth ‘reflects the strength of Bahrain’s value proposition’

Bahrain has demonstrated robust economic growth despite being the smallest economy in the GCC with a projected GDP of $47 billion for this year. 

Since 2003, its nominal GDP has grown from around $11 billion to more than $43 billion in 2023, achieving an average annual growth of 7 percent. 

The financial services sector has notably surpassed oil as the highest contributor to real GDP, accounting for 17.8 percent in 2023.

Bahrain’s proactive economic diversification efforts include the golden licence programme, which has been central to attracting substantial regional and international investments. 

In 2023, the programme facilitated $2.4 billion in investments from nine major projects, expected to create 3,000 jobs. 

Recent beneficiaries of the golden licence include Bahrain Titanium by Interlink Metals & Chemicals, the construction of the National Bank of Kuwait’s first greenfield office outside Kuwait, a new data centre and submarine cable by Beyon and the Bahrain Marina development.

Introduced in April 2023, the golden licence offers significant incentives such as priority land allocation, streamlined business licensing and enhanced support from local development banks and labour funds. 

Available to both local and international firms, this initiative also includes potential regulatory reviews to ease investment processes.

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