Despite prolonged lockdowns, Latin American countries have yet to flatten the Covid-19 curve. Colombia is no exception. While the government battles the health emergency, national investment promotion agency (IPA) ProColombia is continuing its promotion activities. Foreign investment will play a vital role in the recovery, president Flavia Santoro Trujillo explains.

Q: How has ProColombia adjusted to the Covid-19 crisis?

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A: At ProColombia we believe difficulties bring opportunities. We stayed focused on achieving our mission, and we want to exceed our targets. Foreign direct investment is a key enabler of social and economic development, and it will play a fundamental role in the economic recovery of the country.

We have transformed our agenda and incorporated technology and digital tools to keep attracting FDI. For example, we are showcasing 70 investment projects in a digital investment roadshow for European investors. Our basic assumption is that business must go on.

Q: How have you refined the country’s investment proposition in the wake of the pandemic?

A: By offering new incentives we’re seeking to attract international companies that are looking to reorganise their supply chains and move closer to their headquarters [in North America].

We want to promote Colombia as an ideal destination due to its strategic geographical location and availability of human talent and natural resources. We are looking at attracting anchor investors that can develop domestic value chains with local companies and export to third markets.

More than ever we are looking for big investments that can boost our productive system to support entrepreneurship and generate quality employment. We are focused on designing all the incentives to achieve this vision and boost opportunities in sectors like business process outsourcing (BPO), pharmaceuticals, software development, agribusiness and tourism.

Q: The Colombian government wants to develop creative industries. How are you supporting this sector?

A: Start-ups and technology will be essential to trigger the economic recovery. We work closely with local entrepreneurs to support their international outreach. For example, in the roadshow I mentioned we are bringing together 80 Colombian start-ups looking for international partnerships and investment. A third of them are in fintech, but they also represent other sectors like artificial intelligence, software development and tourism.

Q: Will tourism return to normal anytime soon?

A: No, it won’t. But I do believe, as we say here in Colombia, “aislamiento es alistamiento” – isolation is an opportunity to upskill and get ready for the new reality.

For the tourism sector this means re-establishing air connectivity, but also providing training to companies in the industry and we have already trained 11,000 companies for new tourism opportunities. It will start with domestic tourism, but in the long run I believe Colombia has qualities – such as our exceptional biodiversity – that will provide opportunities for economic recovery in the tourism sector.

Q: Do you expect budget cuts at ProColombia as government finances come under pressure?

A: No, I don’t. We are keeping our network of 23 offices in place, but we have to be more careful in our investment promotion activities. We need to promote investment to generate high impact in the sectors I mentioned. We have to be smart in the way we use our budget, but I don’t expect cuts at the moment.

Q: As a leader of ProColombia, what have you learnt during the crisis?

A: I believe that working as a team, being collaborative, resilient and focused on positive results generates success in these circumstances.

Personally I’ve grown a lot, I’ve been with my family more, I’ve learnt to deal with my duties more digitally. We tend to have more time to deal with our interlocutors on video calls, and we have to make the most out of it. We have shown strength as a team, but we need to work 10 times harder to continue to bring good results to the country. I’m an optimist, I believe we can achieve it.

Flavia Santoro Trujillo is the president of ProColombia. 

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