The Business Year

Close this search box.
Felipe Buitrago

COLOMBIA - Economy

3.2% of Colombia’s GDP

Vice Minister of Creativity and the Orange Economy, Ministry of Culture


Felipe Buitrago is a graduate of the University of the Andes in Economics and has a master’s degree in International Public Policy from Johns Hopkins-SAIS. He is also co-author of the books “The Orange Economy” and “The No Collar Economy.” The Viceminister, who has served since August 2018 as Presidential Advisor for Economic and Strategic Affairs, has 16 years of experience in issues related to the creative economy. From his work, he was actively participated on the design, implementation and evaluation of public policies for the development of creative entrepreneurship and the appropriation of new technologies. In the past he served as Director of TicTac, the think tank of the Colombian Chamber of Information Technology and Telecommunications (CCIT). He was a consultant to the Division of Cultural Affairs, Solidarity and Creativity of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); Director of the Ibero-American Copyright Observatory (ODAI); and Managing Manager of the Creative Economies in Development Program of the British Council in London.

“By mid-2020, we will have a relatively accurate picture of the cultural scene and potential creative industries of the most important cities.“

The Orange Economy was not well known until this government made it one of its main focuses. What were your greatest achievements in this first year of work?

We have a seven-pronged approach to develop the Orange Economy. The first is information, meaning we need to get a better understanding of the sector and its numbers both financially and non-financially. For that, we have been improving the scope of the culture satellite account and the Orange Economy. We expanded the number of activities we follow and have been improving the methodologies so they can produce information more often. We are improving our ability to produce numbers in a prompter way with greater priority. For that, we work with the National Department of Statistics (DANE) and are also working and better understanding the ecosystems at a local level. We have started city mapping the Orange Economy in a joint venture with Findeter. We have already completed two mappings and are undertaking another 12. By mid-2020, we will have a relatively accurate picture of the cultural scene and potential creative industries of the most important cities in the country together with an improved understanding of the macroeconomic numbers. The Orange Economy currently contributes at least 3.2% of GDP, equivalent to about COP28.4 trillion (USD9 billion) from 2018. There are close to 540,000 workers directly related to these activities, and our expectation for the tenure of President Duque is to have a real growth of 35% to about COP38.1 trillion (USD11.24 billion). We expect to grow around 6% in 2019, 7% in 2020, and 9% in 2022. We are basing that on our observations from the sector’s better performance in 2018 compared to the rest of the economy as well as on the numbers reported by Confecámaras. The first semester reported almost 10% growth in the number of companies registered in the chambers of commerce. We are confident that given the positive trajectory of public spending on the creative industries, the positive behavior of financial credit to the sector, and this growth in the number of companies that 6% is a conservative approach; however, we are going conservative with our numbers. We expect to grow much faster than the rest of the economy, and that that be reflected in the employment numbers. Typically, GDP growth tends to have a strong correlation with employment creation, so I would not be surprised if we saw another 160K new creative jobs by the end of the Duque government.

What about the other approaches?

The second approach is institutions. The Vice Ministry of Orange Economy was created in October 2018, and we also created the National Council of Orange Economy that month. That council is presided over by the Ministry of Culture and includes the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Education, Ministry of ICT, and Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Tourism together with SENA, Findeter, the National Direction of Copyright, the National Planning Department, and DANE. There are another 15 agencies and councillorships of the President that also support the council. Together, we run about 70 programs that are either new programs or enhancements of existing programs. This is a Sustainable Development Goal number 17, and we are using it significantly on the Orange Economy. When talking about investing in culture as a lever for development, it is not just an issue to be taken care by the Ministry of Culture. That coordination has also sent a signal to the markets. Bancoldex found that in the first 12 months of the government of President Duque, more than COP1 trillion in credit was allocated to creative industries compared to the 36 previous months, when the average was only COP680 billion. There has been 60-70% growth in the allocation of credit to this sector. That is what happens when there is institutional development and coordination, and this is even before the incentives kick in. Just this coordination alone has created an environment where people feel activated. The next element is infrastructure, which is usually the mid-point for non-core areas and is related to the next dimension: industry. There is a figure we created, first in the Bogotá Development Plan, which is called the Orange Development Areas and consists of creative clusters or districts where we, as a central government, can provide tax incentives. The municipalities define the limits of these areas, and from the government we will allocate a fiscal space for people to do either cultural infrastructure development or public goods’ development in these areas. We can provide tax exemptions in exchange for those investments in order to concentrate private attention, so companies enter this creative areas and provide faster internet access, better walkways, better parks, or theaters for artists to work and play. We want these areas to become magnets for talent. Then, we have integration, which is not looking to ourselves but understanding the world is wide, as we are strongly linking creativity with tourism to try to help rebrand our country around our culture. Then, there is inclusion. We work hard to use culture to reduce gaps. It is also a good element to reassure the rights of ethnic communities. There is also growing demand from former combatants to become a part of society. Finally, we have inspiration, which is about education, and in that we are working hard with the Ministry of Education. Some schools, in their expansion from half day to full day schooling, are starting to include music education, art education, and sports as part of a full curriculum.



You may also be interested in...


COLOMBIA - Industry

Maria Ximena Arbelaez


CEO, Bosanet


COLOMBIA - Industry

Natalia Jiménez


Regional Manager LATAM, Deel


COLOMBIA - Industry

Albert Douer


Executive Chairman, Ajover Darnel, Colombia

View All interviews



Become a sponsor