The Business Year

Flavia Santoro

COLOMBIA - Economy

Flavia Santoro

President, Procolombia

Bio

Flavia Santoro holds a bachelor’s degree in law and a master’s degree in insurance law from Javeriana University in Bogotá. She has extensive experience in the development and management of institutional relations within the private sector, as well as in creating strategic and commercial alliances for fund raising. Her professional experience covers a wide variety of sectors such as consulting and sales in the insurance sector, nonprofit organization work and actively participating in two presidential campaigns with proven achievements. Flavia Santoro was recently recognized as one of the 50 most powerful women in Colombia by Forbes magazine.

ProColombia is committed to promoting exports, FDI, and tourism for Colombia, as well as strengthening international relations that bring Colombia closer to new business opportunities.

How has ProColombia contributed to the growth and diversification of the Colombian economy during its three decades of operations?

Thanks to a talented team of professionals, a focused strategy, as well as the coordination with the national government, unions, and other partners, ProColombia has made great strides in attracting tourism and FDI, as well as in promoting non-mining exports and the Country Brand. We have contributed to Colombia’s positioning as a leading destination for FDI in the region, and it has been an efficient investment which has positively impacted job creation and growth in Colombia. For example, employment opportunities from foreign investment supported by ProColombia have increased more than fivefold over the last 10 years. In 2011, the number of jobs created reached 21,000, while 2021 closed with 107,000 jobs created—a compound annual growth of 18%. The number of countries that invest in Colombia has more than doubled. In 2011, ProColombia supported investors from 16 countries, while in 2021, the number reached 35 countries. Additionally, every month, 72 new foreign investment opportunities are identified for Colombia, while 10 years ago there were 27 each month. For these reasons, Colombia is one of top 30 investment recipients in the world and the third largest recipient of FDI in Latin America. Exports have also increased. On average, with ProColombia’s support, 24 foreign buyers acquired Colombian products and services every day in 2021, while in 2011 there were nine buyers a day. Currently, an ever-increasing number of Colombian companies are receiving export-related services from ProColombia. In 2011, ProColombia supported 2,441 companies from 20 departments; in 2021, this increased to 5,615 companies from all 32 of Colombia’s departments.

What strategies are the focus of export promotion, and to what do you attribute the success achieved during 2021?

In 2021, we implemented an economic reactivation plan for Colombia’s non-mining exports, which prioritized knowledge-based services, public procurement, biosafe goods and services, personal protective equipment, health diplomacy to achieve phytosanitary admissibility for more agri-foods, and online and in-person commercial activities such as Macro Business Matchmaking Forums, among others. We have made great strides in various fields, including harnessing the potential of e-commerce. Thanks to the “Colombia a un Clic” (Colombia at a Click) program—which supports and advises Colombian companies on entering international marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon—we have trained more than 3,900 business representatives in partnership with the marketplaces and in the e-commerce export training program launched in 2021. In addition, 485 companies have opened an account and 210 have achieved sales of USD24.4 million. Likewise, at ProColombia, we are overseeing approximately 56 admissibility processes for agricultural products in 27 countries, providing technical support and identifying real business opportunities as well as coordinating with embassies and health authorities in Colombia and the destination.

What policy incentives and mechanisms have proven effective in increasing Colombia’s attractiveness as an investment destination?

At ProColombia, we strive to promote our country as a leading destination for sustainable FDI. We are in the right path, as we are certain that currently we are the investment hub in the Americas. Due to our privileged geographic location, in the middle of the continent, which enables us to connect to any destination in the hemisphere in short periods of time, we are an ideal friend-shoring destination. That means that we are a unique platform to reach other markets, as Colombia has signed and enacted important commercial agreements that enable our country to reach over 1.5 billion consumers. Our government has implemented strategies to boost the arrival of foreign direct investment, offering tax exemptions to attract projects that promote the development of renewable energy, agribusiness, new technology, business services, tourism, infrastructure, and logistics, among others. This increased effort to attract investment also strives to further diversify Colombia’s exportable offer and position the country as an export platform and provider of goods and services.

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