Is foreign investment truly a force for good?

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: Kontinentalist

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 30/09/2021

Credit: Zafirah Zein


Zafirah is a freelance writer and journalist as well as the co-editor of an independent magazine called AKAR. She was previously a correspondent for Eco-Business, where she covered topics such as the environment, sustainable development, and human rights. At Kontinentalist, Zafirah is a writer who produces data-driven stories with an Asian angle.

Project description:

Using data and research from Open Development Cambodia, we did a story on the growth of foreign direct investment streaming into the country and its implications on its people and environment.

Impact reached:

This story sheds light on the  impact of foreign direct investment on Cambodia, specifically from the rise of Chinese-owned businesses in the country. Addressing both environmental and societal impacts, the story aims to paint a comprehensive picture of foreign direct investment in developing countries that depend on it for economic growth and infrastructural development.

Techniques/technologies used:

We used Mapbox to map out the investments in Cambodia’s special economic zones, including information on size, number of workers and tenants. 

The rest of the visualisations were done on Figma and Flourish.


What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part was narrowing down a focus area from the wide breadth of material on foreign direct investments in Cambodia. 

We decided to highlight the growing number of coastal special economic zones, which are a type of foreign direct investment, because there was a lot of local community work to address the associated problems.


What can others learn from this project?

Featuring personal anecdotes from interviews and fieldwork in the communities affected by foreign direct investment projects adds a human element to a largely data-driven story, and leaves more of a personal and emotional impact on the reader.

Project links: