ONE BUSINESS AT A TIME

Colombia 2020 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

Invest in Bogotá has jumpstarted economic growth through innovative ways that grow employment and transform the city's business sector.

Juan Gabriel Pérez
BIOGRAPHY

Juan Gabriel Pérez is Executive Director of Invest in Bogotá. He is a professional in international trade and a specialist in negotiation and international relations. He worked for 10 years in the commercial office of Proexport Colombia (now ProColombia) in Madrid, spending five years as director. Since his arrival in 2013, Invest in Bogotá has been recognized by Site Selection Magazine as the best regional investment promotion agency in Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, fDi Magazine highlighted Bogotá in 2016 as the city with the best investment promotion strategy in Latin America.

What have been some of your achievements?
In 13 years, we have contributed to more than 350 investment projects to Bogotá, resulting in 30,000 direct jobs and over USD2.5 billion in new investments. Soon, we will hit 50 projects a year. When we started, there were 600 companies with foreign capital; now, there are close to 1,600 companies. We are always looking for new ways to contribute with productive employment and transformation to the city's business sector.

What are your plans for the short and medium term?
We are betting on three areas. One is entrepreneurship; we are developing an entire strategy to make Bogotá the capital of entrepreneurship in Latin America. This includes looking for new investment sources, attracting international entrepreneurs to settle in Bogotá, and, above all, promoting and attracting new venture capital funds. A great example is Rappi, which received USD1 billion from the Japanese investment fund Softbank, which has also installed its headquarters in Bogotá. Another important driver is strengthening our human talent. We are developing a project on bilingualism together with Fedesarrollo, where we seek to analyze and generate concrete actions to attract more employees to our industries. With the commercial environment established by US-China relations, there is huge potential to attract new US and European investments.

The IT and BPO sectors in Latin America are blooming, representing 7.5% of employment in Bogotá. How will this sector continue to contribute to the economy?
Bogotá is a strong city in terms of services; 62% of the city's GDP comprises services. A substantial amount of employment is generated by that sector; however, if we had more human resources in the software programming area, we could have more companies, or we could see existing companies continue to grow. In addition, we are developing initiatives to boost women's participation in programming. Additionally, we are holding boot camps to run pilot tests and rapidly develop talent for the female sector. This is a city with a young population, which gives companies the assurance that there are human resources available locally in the long run. There is an opportunity to continue growing, and the service sector and creative industries will be important in the field.

Now that the government is focused on promoting the orange economy, how will this strengthen the business environment in the city?
If one looks at the number of audiovisual companies in Colombia, 75% are in Bogotá. We are betting extensively on it because the sector has real incentives and an agreement with Bogotá for the development of creative industries. It is already a powerful sector that generates many export products because our content generation is not just for the local market but also for exports. Bogotá, a mega city with around 10 million inhabitants with growing income per capita and recent growth exceeding 3%, is attractive to world-class companies that will continue to arrive to strengthen the entire ecosystem. In the audiovisual field, our biggest competitors are Mexico and Argentina. Bogotá and Colombia are up to the task of surpassing them in terms of importance and the number of companies that arrive here.

What other sectors do you plan to develop this year and the next?
We are looking at five services sectors that generate value. One is the city's infrastructure, which we need to enhance. This administration advanced significantly here, though there is still a great deal of room to improve. Foreign investment plays an important role, as do PPPs in healthcare, wastewater, and treatment plants, as well as public buildings that must be built and technologies that have to be invested in. In manufacturing, apart from those of added value, we are making a commitment in life sciences, including the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and medical device sectors. Furthermore, we are promoting clinical tests in Bogotá so drug companies take advantage of our resources in biodiversity to develop new pharmaceuticals, alternative medicines, and so on.