REWARD FOR RISK

Colombia 2019 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Export-led growth and a renewed tourism sector provide opportunities for Colombia's entrepreneurs, who can make the most of the country's natural assets.

José Manuel Restrepo Abondano
BIOGRAPHY
José Manuel Restrepo Abondano studied economics in Universidad del Rosario before completing his master’s degree at the London School of Economics. He is a doctoral candidate in management of higher education institutions at the University of Bath. His distinguished career has seen him serve as vice-rector of Universidad del Rosario and Rector of CESA.

What sectors of the industry and economy have the most potential for growth in 2019?
Colombia has the potential for growth, and realizing that potential is the aim of this new government, which is pro-private initiative and pro-industrial and firm development. The government understands the importance of building new firms and attracting more investment to not only increase growth but also build equity to generate employment and build inclusive growth. There are many sectors that the country will develop in the coming years. The tourism sector has grown by double digits in the last four years and attracts millions of international visitors. The sector is growing in terms of domestic tourism and is taking advantage of Colombia's most important assets: our biodiversity, beaches, sun, and the growth in events and convention tourism. Adventure tourism and environmental tourism are also rapidly growing. However, there are many ways to further develop this sector. Another important sector is the creative or orange economy. It takes advantage of one of the most important assets of this country, namely our human capital. The quality, perseverance, resilience, and creativity of our human talent sets Colombia apart from other countries. The creative economy includes traditional sectors such as music, arts, design, fashion, architecture, gastronomy, and even tourism. The sector currently represents approximately 3.8% of GDP, and we expect it to grow to 5% in the coming four years. Another key sector is industry, particularly in metal mechanical and auto parts, as well as in plastics and other sectors. These have developed significantly in terms of productivity and competitiveness. Industry is also growing considerably in terms of exports. In December 2018, industry growth in exports was almost 5%, and we expect this to continue in the medium term.

How can the ministry help develop a mentality and a culture of entrepreneurship?
Something that is different in this country is the courage of our entrepreneurs; the global entrepreneurship index highlighted Colombia as a country with a great deal of potential. We have the organization iNNpulsa to further develop entrepreneurship. Every year, we hold the most important meeting of entrepreneurs called Heroes Fest, and 2018 saw the highest-ever number of attendees. We develop this mentality and culture by holding meetings and discussions with clusters of entrepreneurs in different regions and promoting them. We also give them the opportunity to obtain seed capital to develop their ideas. To further organize the ecosystem of entrepreneurship, we work with institutions such as Fondo Emprender and others focused on entrepreneurship. We have to segment the policy, as sustainable entrepreneurship is different from opportunity entrepreneurship or high-value entrepreneurship.

Which sectors of the economy are currently the most important for Colombia's export economy?
We have three strategies in our trade policy that were also adopted by the national council of trade: taking advantage of current FTAs, facilitating commerce, and legal and loyal commerce. We have a great opportunity to benefit from the many FTAs that Colombia has signed. In terms of the sectors, we want to boost agro and agroindustry products, especially in the EU, where we have almost full access. We have other opportunities in terms of industry, for example in terms of confectionery. Other important sectors include metal mechanical and auto, plane, and boat parts; plastics; and services. We have to open new markets and continue our negotiations with Asian countries and associated nations in the Pacific Alliance to take more advantage of inter-Pacific Alliance commerce. We should also sign partial agreements with African and Caribbean countries, which are important in terms of buying food and agro products.