What does it mean to be recognized as one of the best regional business promotion agencies in South America five times in a row by Site Selection Magazine?
As I tell my team, we do not work for those recognitions; we work to attract foreign investment, so that companies find a long-term business in Bogotá, generate employment, bring good production practices, and initiate innovative projects. These awards raise the bar in terms of our commitment to businessmen and the city. In 13 years, we have contributed to more than 350 investment projects to the city resulting in 30,000 direct jobs and over USD2.5 billion in new investments. We are entering a phase where we will hit 50 projects a year, which is an interesting number. When this agency was created 13 years ago, there were 600 companies with foreign capital, and we are now currently 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; therefore, 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, to promote and attract 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 to strengthen 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. There could not exist a better environment to attract new businesses to Colombia. With the commercial setting established by the relations between China and the US, there is huge potential to attract new American and European investments.
The IT and BPO sectors in Latin America are blooming, creating 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% is in Bogotá. We are betting extensively on it because the sector has real incentives and there is an agreement with Bogotá for the development of creative industries. It is already a powerful sector that generates many export products because content generation here is not just for the local market but also for exports. Bogotá, a megacity with around 10 million inhabitants with growing income per capita and sustained growth in recent years 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. We all must take advantage of the circumstances and continue to move in the right direction.
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 have to be built and technologies that have to be invested. In manufacturing, apart from those of added value, we are making a commitment in life sciences including the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and medical devices sectors. Furthermore, we are promoting clinical tests in Bogotá so that drug companies take advantage of our resources in biodiversity to develop new pharmaceuticals, alternative medicines, and so on.
What are your goals for 2020, and what role will Invest in Bogotá play in the international field?
Each year, we have around 25 campaigns to identify strategic sectors and markets. The US is extremely important, as is Europe. We are also placing more importance on Asia. I even told the board of directors, “We will stop going to China every two years and will instead go twice a year." The Chinese are not only large exporters but are also important importers and developers. This year, we brought in companies from Russia, India, Ireland, Korea, the UAE, and Barbados. We have identified 118 multilatinas with the capacity to enter Colombia, and we are also looking for anchor companies, which are defined as companies that can mobilize an entire sector.