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Webinar: Trade opportunities between Colombia and South Africa for the economic recovery

Date: 12 August, 2020
Webinar: Trade opportunities between Colombia and South Africa for the economic recovery

This webinar was jointly organized by the Bogota Chamber of Commerce – BCC, The Western Cape Tourism, Trade and Investment Promotion Agency (WESGRO), and the Embassy Of Colombia in South Africa, with the support of ProColombia and Invest in Bogota.

First presentation

Welcoming remarks by Ambassador Carlos Andrés Barahona Niño

Some highlights: 

Ambassador Barahona stressed that the COVID-19 crisis is acute and immediate, but the economic crisis is equally critical, (…) we must do everything in our power to promote an economic recovery.

Furthermore, he highlighted that Colombia had made good economic and social progress over the last two decades. Due to all these progress, on 25 May 2018, Colombia was invited to become a member of the OECD”.

“In early this year, Colombia´s Economic Outlooks were so favourable. We were so happy and thrilled, our economy was expected to grow at 3,6% according to the International Monetary Fund. Unemployment rate was 9,8%. Foreign Direct Investments were also on the raise” he remarked. 

Additionally, Ambassador Barahona shared with the audience the following words in Spanish: “Las dificultades nos producen retos y los retos nos ayudan a cambiar y encontrar posibilidades nunca vistas, cada dificultad nos invita a innovarnos y replantear nuestro futuro”. It translates that difficulties produce us challenges and challenges help us to change and find possibilities never seen before, every difficulty invite us to innovate and rethink our future”.  

He noted that Colombia and South Africa have almost the same size in terms of population and territory and that both countries also have two oceans. There are so many cultural and socioeconomic similarities between the two countries that everyone should take into consideration for doing business. In that regard, he presented five key priorities:

  1. Develop an ambitious, medium-term bilateral trade to intensify commerce, tourism and investment sectors.
  1. Promote direct new investments toward technologies taking into account that the world is going to the 4th Industrial Revolution.
  1. Promote a just economic transition under a private-public partnership.  That means assisting vulnerable households, workers, regions, and trade-exposed companies.
  1. Coordinate with others. Ambassador Barahona strongly believed that the two countries need to work together to scale up economic recovery in an equitable and effective manner.
  1. Promote a cultural industry, or “Orange Economy”. The pandemic has proven that we can live without some belongings, but COVID-19 has proven that people need culture in their lives through music, entertainment, movies, etc. And is there where the cultural and creative industries will have to play a key role for the future generations.  

“Let me end by emphasizing that the time to act, especially with Small Medium Enterprises, or (PYMES), is now. The decisions we take now will shape our economies” Ambassador Barahona concluded.

For further inquiries, please contact esudafrica@cancilleria.gov.co 


Second presentation

Welcoming remarks by Flavia Santoro, President of ProColombia

Some highlights: 

Ms Santoro welcomed all the speakers and the audience by saying that she appreciated the interest that South Africa is showing into Colombia. She explained that Procolombia “promotes our country as a leading destination for Foreign Direct Investment – FDI, international tourism and as a world class provider of non minerals products”.

To sustain her argument, Ms Santoro mentioned that Colombia enjoys solid fundamental framework and that the Colombian government understands foreign investment as a key role in the economic recovery once we have overcome the pandemic. She explained that Colombia offers a strategic geographical location, skilled work force and a strong innovation ecysostem, which are “good reasons to believe in our country”, she expressed.

The president of ProColombia highlighted that Colombia joined OECD recently as its the 37th member country to do so, joining Mexico and Chile from Latin America & The Caribbean (LATAM) in this selected group of countries. Furthermore, she also highlighted that Moody´s and other risk agencies have given Colombia good rates for international investments, which its also related to the fact that Colombia is the 3rd large receiptments of FDI in LATAM and enjoyed a 25% increase of FDI in 2019.

Ms Santoro mentioned the “red carpet strategy”, which includes institutional, legañ and financial actions to invite investors and bring their attention. 

In regard to the bilateral trade, she expressed that for 2021 Colombia expects a revival of the economy, bearing in mind that according to the FMI the country grow 4% last year. In that sense, she have identified some sectors that would be of interest of South African investors and companies: industry, infrastructure, agribusiness, finance services, tourism. She invited to consider the export trade platform that Colombia offers thanks to the FTA that are currently in place. 

“Colombia is ready to supply South African market and African markets” she added. In her current role, she emphasized that at ProColombia “we are working together with Colombian companies to explore the African continent” in order to explore all the universe of opportunities that Africa has to offer.

At this point, she highlighted the success case of Aldor Africa (Pty), a Colombian company with operations in Johannesbourg, South Africa. This company manufacturers confectionnary products and was voted as the one of the two “coolest brand” in the Sweets category in 2010. 

For ProColombia, Ms Santoro added, there are potentials in the following sectors: Confectionanary, coffee, essential oils, among others. “Colombia is certainly moving forward in strenghtening bilateral commerce with South Africa. At Procolombia, we are ready to be part of this process” Ms Santoro said. To conclude, Ms Santoro invited the audience to “please come to us, we are DNA of kindness and effectiveness to assist you, in any requirements you have”. 

For further inquiries, please contact mortega@procolombia.co 


Third presentation

Mr Mateo Jaramillo, Director of Health Cluster: Vicepresidency of shared value and competitiveness, Bogotá Chamber of Commerce

Some highlights: 

Mr Jaramillo welcomed all the attendees through some welcoming remarks on behalf of the Bogota Chamber of Commerce. 

His presentation was regarding Competitiveness and Innovation Agenda (CIA) of the city of Bogota. He started bt highlighting that Bogota-region is implementing one of the most important productive development agendas in Latin America & The Caribbean.

This agenda includes 17 cluster initiatives divided in 4 categories: creative district (fashion and apparel; jewelry; music; content industries; footwear, leather & leather products; gastronomy; graphic communications; software & IT), services hub (MICE industry; financial services; logistics and transportation), bio-pole (healthcare, pharmaceutical, cosmetics, dairy) and sustainable region (electric energy; construction).

Mr Jaramillo noted that, given the current situation, the CIA strategy has been adjusted into a Regional Agenda for Economic Reactivation (RAER). 

He concluded his presentation with the following final remarks:

  1. Bogota is leading one of the most important productive development agendas in Latin America & The Caribbean.
  1. The most prominent bets are related to this smart specialization process and the 17 cluster initiatives that have been prioritized.
  1. There is a whole institutional framework that supports the competitiveness roadmaps as well as the reactivation agendas that the Bogota Chamber of Commerce have set in place.
  1. That institutional framework is available for building commercial relations between the Western Cape and Bogotá-Cundinamarca.
  1. The Bogota Chamber of Commerce would be honored and thrilled to take this conversation forward with WESGRO and South Africa.

For further inquiries, please contact laura.sancho@ccb.org.co


Fourth presentation

Ms Luisa Fernanda Mesa, Investment Promotion Manager: Invest in Bogota

Some highlights: 

Ms Mesa represented Invest in Bogota, which it’s a public-private partnership between the Bogota Chamber of Commerce and the Bogota City Government. The agency´s core functions are: investment promotion, international positioning and business environment improvement. 

She started her presentation by sating that “Bogota is a global center for business and a great place to live”. According to her presentation, Bogota has the perfect combination: strategic location, driver of growth, human talent and international ranking.

The first, strategic location, refers to the importance of El Dorado International Airport (BOG – IATA code). The BOG is the 1st in cargo movement and 3rd in passenger movement in the Latin America & The Caribbean. It serves 49 international direct flights. The second, human capacity, refers to the capacity provided by more than 4,6 million people total Young labor force and the city is home to 313 of the Forbes 2000 companies. 

Ms Mesa also explained that driver of growth refers to the fact that Bogota is the main consumption center in Colombia and has a favorable macroeconomic environment. In regard to the last, international rankings, she explained that Bogota has the highest number of M&As in LATAM (Orbis). She added that other rankings positioned Bogota in high places: 3rd at Kearney (Global city in LATAM) and also 3rd at FDI American Cities of the Future.

She presented the incentives for all sectors and investment opportunities: creative industries (Orange Economy: audiovisual, entertainment, videogames, music, publicity), life sciences (healthcare services, pharmaceutics, medical devices, cosmetics), IT/BPO, manufacture goods (construction materials, food and beverages), and infrastructure. 

  • Creative industries: 0% Income Tax. VAT Exemptions. 1556 Law: 40-20% Cash Incentive (films, series, post production, videogames). New Transferable Tax Rebate for 35%.
  • Life Sciences: the healthcare sector has the second largest budget in the National Development Plan of Colombia: USD 51Bn.
  • IT/BPO: Bogota is the 3rd largest market in LATAM for BPO and 4th for IT sector. 
  • Infrastructure: Bogota is the 3rd largest construction market in LATAM and represents 22% of city´s GDP. There some important projects that will start in 2020: Bogota´s Metro, Regiotram, Santa Clara Hospital, Usme Hospital, etc. 

Ms Mesa pointed out that the city has an excellent programme of tax refund for foreign investors that attracts many investors who are seeking for safe and profitable markets. 

For further inquiries, please contact lmesa@investinbogota.org 


Fifth presentation

Mr James Milne, Head of WESGRO’s Investment Promotion Unit

Some highlights

Mr Milne presented investment opportunities in Cape Town and the Western Cape region. He started by showing to the audience the economic background of these territorial areas with particular information regarding the relative size of SA Western Cape and Cape Town to other African markets. 

Later, his presentation included a briefing about the connectivity of Cape Town and some of the leading sectors in Western Cape and Cape Town for Colombian and foreing investors which includes Retail, Agribusiness, Asset Management, Sustainable Energy, Tech, BPO, Oil & Gas, Agriculture, and Tourism. 

In the last part of his presentation, Mr Milne explained the key sectoral opportunities for investment taking into consideration that the President of South Africa has recently announced the launch of a $138 Billion priority infrastructure development programme. Projects range from water supply and irrigation to energy, roads, housing and aquaculture.

  • Agribusiness: The Western Cape as a region is the largest agricultural exporter to the rest of Africa. AgriTech start-ups have been raising significant funds.
  • Green Economy: The Western Cape is home to 70% of Green Economy headquarters, and 60% of manufacturing. The Atlantis Special Economic Zone (Green Tech focus).
  • Tech and Business Services: Software developers in the Western Cape cost 40-80% less than developed markets. Cape Town is a leading digital hub on the continent.
  • BPO (call- centers): Region offers significant cost reductions compared to other areas (60-70% less than UK & Australia). Strong infrastructure and English language capacity. 
  • Niche Manufacturing: The Saldanha Industrial Development Zone (Ship Repairs in Oil&Gas industry). Strong Clothing & Textiles sector with government support. 

Finally, he presented some of the key services from his unit at WESGRO:

  • Guidance regarding accessing governmental incentives and grants
  • Policy advocacy leveraging strategic support of the InvestSA One Stop Shop Western Cape
  • Site location
  • Strategic matchmaking
  • Facilitation of access to finance 
  • Sector-specific research via WESGRO Research Unit
  • Professional referral service
  • Intergovernmental linakges

For further inquiries, please contact james@wesgro.co.za


Sixth presentation

Mr Denan Kuni, Head of WESGRO’s International Trade and Development

Mr Kuni presented trade opportunities with potential for the economic recovery. He started by presenting the growth of Western Cape exports. Then he explained the Top 10 of import/export products:


Top 10 import products

  1. Crude oil
  1. Refined petroleum
  1. Whiskies & other spirits
  1. Medicaments
  1. Frozen fish excl. fillets
  1. Poultry meat & offal
  1. Preserved sardines, tuna etc.
  1. Beer
  1. Men´s clothing
  1. Women´s clothing    


Top 10 export products

  1. Refined petroleum
  1. Citrus fruit
  1. Wine of fresh grapes
  1. Grapes
  1. Apples, pears and quinces
  1. Products of iron or on-alloy steel
  1. Fruit & vegetable juice
  1. Engine parts
  1. Fish fillets
  1. Yachts

The audience also was informed that the core functions of the unit are to promote and facilitate exports of goods and services and to facilitate and support operations and expansion of qualified Western Cape companies into the rest of Africa through Outward Foreign Direct Investment (OFDI).

Mr Kunin emphasized some of the Wesgro International Trade Priority Sectors that include Agriculture, Agro-processing, Agribusiness, Furniture, Manufacturing & Value-Added Products, Green Industries, Cosmetics, Natural Ingredients, Organic, Services (ICT, BPO, Agr-tech), Wholesale and Retail, Clothing, Textiles, Leather, Footwear, Boatbuilding and auxiliary services, among others. 

He later explained why Colombia could become one of the emerging markets for Western Cape and Cape Town based companies. Firstly, because Petroleum oils (excl. crude) category was the leading import category into Colombia in 2019 at a value of USD4.00bn, equivalent to 7.93% of import costs in 2019.

But also, he noted that Colombia has various Free Trade Agreements with individual countries or associations, which include the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Mexico, Peru), the Central American Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), USA, Canada, the European Free Trade Association (EFTA: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), and the European Union, among others. 

For further inquiries, please contact denan@wesgro.co.za


Closing remarks

Iván Mendoza, Commercial Attaché: Embassy of Colombia in South Africa

Some highlights

The moderator summarised the broad themes which came up in webinar´s proceedings. He highlighted the key priorities for the economic recovery presented by Ambassador Carlos Barahona in his welcoming remarks and how they will help to address the question of integration between Colombia and South Africa at trade level.

Mr Mendoza also pointed out that a number of speakers have mentioned the potential to provide many substantial benefits to developing an economic recovery as a whole. In particular presentation of Ms Flavia Santoro, president of ProColombia, who fantastically presented the potential sectors between Colombia and South Africa. 

“I think that the point has been made clear that the process of trade diversification can be a great benefit (…) we had a very interesting discussion on the subject of investments opportunities. It is clear that we need to undertake work on how to ensure that investments can be a useful tool for integration and economic recovery into both countries” he stressed. 

The moderator also mentioned that the presentations made by Ms Luisa Fernanda Mesa of Invest in Bogota and by Mr James Milne and Mr Denan Kuni of WESGRO “were very useful due to the increasing importance of preferential market access in the context of regional trading agreements of Colombia and South Africa”.

He also thanked to Mr Zac Bard, Managing Director of Westfalia Limited, a South African company with operations in Colombia. Mr Bard presented to the audience the succesful case of his company in doing business and investing Colombia, and how the company has taken advantage of the different FTA and export platfrom that the country offers currently.

“I think that the seminar has revealed some of the thinking about how economic recovery might be developed and interpreted in the future (…) we need to take into account this information so that we might constructively explore how business and investments opportunities can be addressed. And these opportunities have been perfectly showed to all of us through the succesful cases of companies from both countries”, Mr Mendoza concluded. 

Finally, the moderator closed the event by expressing thanks and appreciation to the speakers for their time and to the many others that contributed as well. He also expressed thanks to the attendees, for dedicating part of their vauable time to be there in the webinar. 

For further inquiries, please contact ivan.mendoza@cancilleria.gov.co 

The webinar was officialy closed by 10h26 (Bogota), 17h26 (Pretoria)

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