REINVENTING MEXICO

Mexico 2017 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Vicente Fox, former President of Mexico & Director of Centro Fox, on the aims of the foundation, methods of funding, and his perspective on US-Mexico relations.

Vicente Fox
BIOGRAPHY
A graduate of Iberoamericana University, Vicente Fox gained a bachelor’s degree in business administration at its campus in Mexico City, and a diploma course in senior management taught by professors of Harvard Business School. In 1964, he joined the firm Coca-Cola de México as a route supervisor. He eventually became regional CEO of the company for Mexico and Latin America, the youngest person to hold such a position in the firm. Later moving into a successful political career, he has also served as an advisor to the Mexican-American Chamber of Commerce and as Director of Grupo Fox.

Why did you decide to start an NGO, and what is the mission of Centro Fox?

When I left the administration, I decided I wanted to do more for other people. My wife and I have three foundations that we have created and funded thanks to our donors. The core of what we do is around leadership; every year we have over 200,000 people that visit this center. We want to touch each and every one of them with leadership attributes. We implemented this in the form of education through seminars associated with different universities in Mexico and abroad. Secondly, we do some think tank activities and work on key issues in Latin America. All of this is addressed with high priority for people with scarce resources and who live precariously. We want everyone to have the same opportunities in life. The other two foundations carry out charitable initiatives and we sponsor a number of health programs, like tending to people who are paralyzed and are in wheelchairs.

How are your various foundations funded?

First, we have some generous donors. We approach foundations, friends, and corporations and ask them for donations. We are tax deductible in Mexico and also in some places in the US, which eases our fundraising campaigns in the US. Another source of funding is the conferences I give. In an average year, I give about 48 conferences and I donate what I get paid to the foundations. Other sources of funding include working with corporations and attracting FDI in Mexico and helping them to navigate our business environment to ensure that they are successful; the only thing we ask in exchange is that they become donors.

To what degree is technology an important element in Centro Fox's work?

Leaders need technology, knowledge, and capabilities. And they also need the capacity to innovate and create. We are trying to kill two birds with one stone. We try to build compassionate leaders; otherwise, they will not transcend. These leaders need to be of a high yield and capacity. And that is why out of the poor and the humble families we try to build and promote that kind of leadership that is compassionate and promotes the skills needed to transform society.

What do you consider the Mexican economy's strengths and weaknesses?

We are strong because Mexico is a successful nation and economy. We are the largest manufacturing hub in Latin America. Manufacturing wise, Mexico is larger than the rest of Spanish-speaking Latin America together. We are the most competitive manufacturing market in the world. Now, Mexico is moving into the next phase, which is a knowledge economy with technology, innovation, and creativity. All of this is where we want to be participating and nurturing. Even though we have many universities providing students with engineering degrees, we are still behind in terms of education as compared to other countries. Mexico still has big challenges to face, such as corruption. We must reinvent ourselves and eradicate this culture of corruption, and changing cultures takes years so we must make sure that our democracy fights against corruption, while transparency and accountability become the number one thing in Mexico.

What should the next Mexican president do to reassure international investors regarding US-Mexican relations?

It is not Mexico who caused this turmoil. It is the disrupter and the destroyer also known as Trump who decided to break all the written rules of the economy. He has harmed Mexico, the US' main partner, too much, and he believes that by patting our back he can go back to how things were before. We were deeply offended and that will not change in the very short term. Now the beast has to be leashed. He has to be domesticated and educated on his ignorance. Otherwise, things will remain uncertain and corporations will hesitate to invest not only in Mexico, but also in the US.