The civic leaders of Bogotá, the capital of Colombia, are looking to transform the city into one of Latin America’s main centres of innovation and technology by 2025.

Bogotá’s local government – along with its chamber of commerce – has drawn up a strategy for the city’s future, focusing on five knowledge-intensive sectors or pillars: creative and software industries; knowledge-intensive strategic pillars, including natural foods, bio-cosmetics and life sciences; professional services, including legal and financial consultancy; an advanced knowledge hub, encompassing educational innovation and R&D; and a sustainable city, centred around intelligent transport and sustainable construction.

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“Bogotá has amazing human capital,” says Juan Gabriel Pérez, chief executive of Invest in Bogotá, the city’s inward investment agency. “We believe its future lies in professional services, the creative industries and sectors that are rich in knowledge and have a high social and environmental impact.”

Big business

Bogotá has about 7.8 million inhabitants, though the greater metropolitan area has a population of 9.8 million. In total, it has about 4.6 million economically active adults.

It has a GDP of about $94bn, the equivalent of a medium-sized country such as Ecuador, and accounts for one-quarter of the overall Colombian economy. Between 2005 and 2015, $14.6bn was invested in greenfield sites in the city and today more than 1600 foreign companies have a presence there, up from 520 in 2005.

The city already has a good basis to become a centre for innovation, as services make up 62% of its economy and about half of FDI is in that sector.

Bogotá has more than 115 institutions of higher education and accounts for 43% of PhDs granted in Colombia. Some 30% of the country’s technicians live in the city. Its international airport – called El Dorado – is one of the best connected in Latin America, with more than 700 weekly international direct flights to 43 countries globally. 

The wider metropolitan region took fourth spot in fDi’s South American States of the Future 2016/17 rankings, after São Paulo, Buenos Aires Autonomous City and Rio de Janeiro (in total 133 states and regions in South America were evaluated).

Ordered growth 

Bogotá, however, faces some major challenges if it wants to fulfil its 2025 goals. The city does not have a metro system and traffic congestion, especially at peak hours, can be a big issue. Furthermore, the city – which is one of the most expensive in Latin America – lacks affordable housing. 

“Bogotá has to grow in an ordered way,” says Freddy Castro, the city’s economic development secretary. “There must be adequate healthcare. More people are living alone or just sharing with one other person, which means that the supply of affordable housing has to improve massively. Mobility is a major issue. The integrated bus system, Transmilenio, has improved the city’s commuting but some poor parts of the city, such as Ciudad Bolivar, are still inaccessible.” 

The construction of a metro system is supposed to finally start in 2018, following decades of delay. It is expected to begin with 26 stations and entail an investment of $7bn, 70% funded by the federal government. It would be one of the biggest construction projects ever in Latin America. 

The city also used to be perceived as one of the most dangerous in Latin America but today it has a 20,000-strong police force and is seen as much safer environment than it was a decade or so ago.