NÚRIA VILANOVA

Spain 2020 | ECONOMY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Núria Vilanova, President of Consejo Empresarial Alianza por Iberoamérica (CEAPI), on almost a decade of activity, the effects of the pandemic, and expectations for 2021.

CEAPI, with more than 140 members, was founded in 2014 with the goal of strengthening the Ibero-American connection and the business climate. What have been its main accomplishments in the last six years?

I always think that the things that work do so, because they bring about something that is necessary and responds to a preexisting reality. Spain does not just invest in Latin America; Latin America has begun looking to Spain with an increasing interest. For one, this space allows for the relationship between presidents and helps create relationships of trust. I believe that there are other factors that have contributed to the success of CEAPI. This includes the special attention that we have given, since the beginning, to all other aspects that accompany business life such as all aspects of social commitment, the environment, the role of women in business, as well as the role of the youth.

What impact has the pandemic had on relations between Latin America and Spain?

The fact that Spain does well is key for those companies that not only have headquarters in our country but also are investors in Latin America. We are talking about a flow of EUR130-150 million. Also, over the last few years, Latin America, with Mexico at the forefront, has been become one of the largest investors in Europe, with Spain as the landing point. When Spain is doing well, it is beneficial for both Spain and Latin America.

What has been CEAPI's main priority since the beginning of the pandemic?

When the pandemic arrived, the whole world, namely governments, businesses, and health organizations, were overwhelmed by the situation. There was a great deal of stress, exhaustion, and the need to make decisions rapidly, and the response has been spectacular. Over the course of 24 days, from one day to the next, companies made decisions and prepared themselves. At this level of stress and urgency, our priority was being able to exchange experiences. We had several meetings, first in Spain with participants from various Latin American countries to exchange experiences, to show what people were doing in different sectors to react. The second aspect that has stood out in the business world during this pandemic was social responsibility and how businesses were able to support, help in terms of demonstrating solidarity or in terms of productive capacity, namely producing masks or other sanitary products. It was important to share so that we could all be proud and set examples for each other. The third aspect is that when we talk about public-private collaboration, we often think about building a highway or some other physical project. I think the greatest potential for public-private collaboration during this crisis relates to ideas. What characterizes business is its capacity to respond quickly, its flexibility, its resilience, and its vision for the future to respond in difficult situations and find a solution with opportunity and optimism. Soon, we will present a document written by the 50 most important Ibero-American business people who have generously given hours of their time thinking and sharing what the keys to recovery will be.

Congreso CEAPI have become one of the main business events in Ibero-America. What are the plans for a future event?

We are planning a conference in 2021. We are dedicating ourselves to this and want to have record participation from the largest players in Latin America. It makes more sense to have this event every two years. Business leaders travel often, and we can have smaller meetings more frequently, but the congress can be biennial. Our goal is for October 2021, depending on how the pandemic develops. If the pandemic ends, it will be the best congress in our history, because it will focus more than ever on Ibero-America.

What are the key objectives of CEAPI for 2021?

For us, 2021 is a year for Ibero-America. We could not have predicted that the pandemic would impact the entire region, but it did so in an unequal manner, especially in relation to the decisions that countries made and whether or not they allowed businesses to be part of the solution. This has gone better for some countries than others, though no matter what happened, the opportunity for investment will remain relevant, showing that the economy is more global than ever. There will be opportunities and the necessity that the business world, in 2021, demonstrates the capacity for social commitment and creativity to develop projects or support other entrepreneurs. For CEAPI, we will continue to work, as we always have, to defend the figure of business leaders so that governments understand that we are part of the solution as well as establishing connections of trust between the major businesses within the region. We must also not forget our social roles and responsibilities. The more aware we are of this responsibility, the better our future will be for our business, our teams, and our countries.