CAPITAL IDEA

Colombia 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

The capital of Colombia is vying to become a magnet for foreign investment, especially into its tech sector and cultural offerings.

Juan Gabriel Pérez
BIOGRAPHY
Juan Gabriel Pérez is the Executive Director of Invest in Bogotá, the investment promotion agency for Bogotá. A professional in international trade at the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University, he is a specialist in negotiation and international relations at the Center for International Studies of the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá. He worked in the Commercial Office of Proexport Colombia in Madrid for 10 years, five of them as director.

How would you evaluate the investment climate in Bogotá?
2017 was a great year for the city, since certain interesting strategic sectors consolidated. Every year, Bogotá is better positioned as a global business destination. For instance, América Economía ranked us the fourth-most attractive city in Latin America, when in 2003 we were in 16th place. Bogotá has an interesting value proposal regarding the size of its economy; it is the same size as the economy of Ecuador and is bigger than countries like Uruguay, Paraguay, Costa Rica, and Panama. The human talent in Bogotá is also key. There are more than 115 higher education institutions, and every year more than 140,000 students graduate from these universities, 33% of them with postgraduate degrees. A third of the country's tech professionals are in Bogotá. We continue to work to make Bogotá a city not just with a better investment climate but also a better quality of life. That is what people seek when they move to a city like ours: gastronomy, culture, arts and public spaces, and events.

Which sectors in Bogotá receive the most attention from foreign investors?
In Bogotá, the local government and the chamber of commerce are currently working together on a development agenda. The city is not only strengthening its service sector, but also providing new opportunities for manufacturing. Invest in Bogotá currently has five teams, two of them working in the service sector. One is oriented toward value-added services and the other works on creative industries. The national government is also interested in this digital content industry, and Bogotá will certainly benefit. Regarding the manufacturing sector, we have two teams: one focused on the healthcare industry and the other on manufactured products that can be sent via air, such as processed food, construction material, and electronic devices. We are looking at Chinese products that now have a tariff in the American market, so we can export our products to the US. The fifth team is infrastructure oriented. There are great challenges to be solved concerning mobility, urban development, and logistics, and we are currently prioritizing 10 projects out of more than 40 that have been studied. These 10 main projects represent more than USD13 billion, and this could be an area for investment where foreign companies can help the city's development. Some of these projects include a subway system, a second airport terminal, and a water treatment plant. All these projects are part of the work we do here. We help the city find global investors that can help build the infrastructure that Bogotá needs.

What are your expectations and plans for 2019?
The trade war between the US and Asia is a situation that we need to monitor closely. Another challenge is the tax reform currently taking place in Colombia; we need our taxes to be competitive with other countries. Another aspect is enhancing free trade zones, so that Bogotá has some of these zones inside the city, and companies do not have to go outside of the city. We are optimistic about 2019. We have at least 40 projects in mind and are looking for major global companies to settle in the city, which will help with Bogotá's development, promotion, and transformation. We also need to continue to work side by side with the local administration and the federal government to have better results. In the last 12 years, Invest in Bogotá has helped bring about more than USD2.5 billion in investment and more than 34,000 direct jobs. For 2019, we expect around USD400-500 million and 5,000 new jobs.