The broader Middle East and North Africa region recorded the world’s fastest growth in foreign direct investment during 2005, according to the latest World Investment Report.

And the UAE led the way by attracting more than US$12bn – up 40% on previous years.

The figures were revealed at the recent ‘Broader MENA Investment Summit” at Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) by Abdel-Rahman Taha, general manager of ICIEC, a member of the Islamic Development Bank Group.

ICIEC is co-organising the summit with the World Bank Group’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (Miga), in association with DIFC.

Taha attributed the high inflows of investment to the commitment by broader Mena countries to greater economic liberalisation and integration, especially providing investors with the right business environment.

However, he warned that while considerable economic progress has been made, a significant number of challenges remain, most notably the need to create new jobs.

“A key challenge we face today is that unlike previous oil-booms, where governments catered for employment, these jobs must now come from the private sector,” he said.

“I hope this summit will lay the foundation for greater cooperation and synergy, not only between the different sectors of investors and financiers present, but also between private, public and international institutions.

“I hope that we can outline practical steps that will help make the broader Mena region a more attractive destination for investors and thereby promote greater levels of employment and improvement in people’s lives.”