SMART MOVES

Costa Rica 2019 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

With IBM and McKinsey already opening offices in Costa Rica, the government in San José hopes to build on previous success in attracting high-tech services.

Jorge Sequeira
BIOGRAPHY
Jorge Sequeira is the Managing Director of CINDE. He joined in 2014, after PROCOMER, where he served for four years as the General Manager. Prior to that, he co-founded and was CEO of Exactus Corporation. He was previously also Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the Costa Rican Chamber of Industries, as well as of GS1 Costa Rica. Sequeira graduated magna cum laude from Tufts University, in Boston, where he obtained an engineering degree in computer science and applied math. He later obtained a post-graduate degree in administration and management from the Harvard University School of Extension, also in Boston.

What are the main challenges for foreign investors looking to enter Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is a small economy located in the middle of the Americas that initially specialized in exporting a few primary products to its neighborhood. Costa Rica viewed FDI attraction as a strategic option to sustain growth, enhance exports, and create better jobs. The Costa Rican value proposition for FDI is based on a combination of strategic geographical location, a well-educated and relatively cost-competitive workforce, political stability, and an attractive tax incentives package. Human talent will continue to be the main thrust to attract more investment. As a country, we continue working on our competitiveness in areas such as business climate, infrastructure, and increasing the amount of talent pool available, among others.

What main projects do you want to see FDI coming in for the coming years?

The world is experiencing a technological disruption, which Costa Rica is no stranger to. Our country is transitioning into an economy that is guided by knowledge, efficiency, and innovative trends, and strengthening our participation in the information industries as well as global value chains makes Costa Rica the ideal destination for knowledge-based investment. The main emerging industries that Costa Rica is competitive in at a global level are high-tech manufacturing, life sciences, and services. These sectors are characterized by incorporating complex processes with higher added value, generating quality employment. Furthermore, over the last few years, they have grown exponentially and increased our country's presence in the overall global market place. We are still working in order to attract more investment projects in the mentioned sectors, increasing our footprint and proven track record worldwide.

How can you better align educational institutions to prepare human capital?

We have different initiatives; for example, we build educational programs with the participation of universities, the government, and private companies to improve the local curricula according to the new market trends. For example, we helped Texas Tech University create a whole educational program, having in mind the inputs of top performers of the industry such as IBM and Intel about careers of the future. With Cenfotec, for example, three-quarters of the courses are related to cognitive, max platforms, certifications, and so on. This is an area where we work efficiently via partnerships with both public and private universities. We expect public institutions to support our efforts to close the gap between human capital supply and private sector demand for STEM skillsets.

What are your main objectives for the coming year?

CINDE's 2019 plan is to continually strengthen the life sciences, advanced manufacturing, and high-value-added services sectors. But more than that, we are moving from strategic sectors structure to another one more focused on strategic processes, such as cybersecurity. This will help Costa Rica become a platform for high-end and new technologies that are already part of our lives globally. Most companies here are moving up the value chain—IBM's largest cybersecurity center in the world, Accenture's largest web development and web design center in the world, and McKinsey & Company's largest single site in the world are all based here.

What are your thoughts on the T-24 project?

San José's town hall has a strong vision to have large infrastructure for start-ups, entrepreneurs, and multinational and local companies that want to be close to those technology centers. Microsoft will be the anchor company, and a second multinational will move to that area very soon. Since the beginning of this project, we were contributing with ideas for its conceptualization.