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EF: How do you assess the current agenda and future vision of the Colombian health sector?
IM: The Colombian healthcare sector is one of the most relevant sectors for the economy and government. The healthcare budget allocation shows the importance of the sector, National government was allotted $51 billion between 2018-2022 and Bogotá District allocated $3 billion in 2020-2024. The new administration is prioritizing the healthcare sector by bringing different initiatives to the table. Its focus is on implementing preventive, predictive, curative, and rehabilitation actions to be implemented with the support of information and communication technologies (e-health).
The entrepreneurial ecosystem is expanding rapidly. This explosion is associated with the healthcare sector and the start-up culture. There is a new association called the Colombia HealthTech Association, with over 120 affiliates that offer technology-based solutions for different areas of health. Start-ups are gaining traction because of the various solutions they have to offer. Innovative solutions and technology can be plugged into any system when there is a firmly established ecosystem. Bogota's local government showed its commitment to the development of the healthcare sector by allocating a large budget to the district development plan.
During the pandemic, the district development plan launched several successful initiatives in favour of the healthcare sector. It was an opportunity that allowed us to gain strength and grow the healthcare system within Bogota. The city’s ICU capacity increased from 935 patients during the pandemic's peak to 2,727 patients in 2021. To date, 99.4% of Bogota’s population is fully vaccinated.
The second area of growth is our air transportation. Bogota’s airport is the gateway to Bogota and Latin America. It is the number one cargo port and the third-best passenger airport in Latin America. As such, it needs to be up-to-date, modern, and safe for everyone.
The collaboration between our public and private healthcare sectors gained recognition from World Health Organization ranked as the best in Latin America and second best globally. The Colombian pharmaceutical market is the fourth-best market in the region with several opportunities. 60% of the pharma manufacturers are here, there is 49% employment generation, and 47% of Colombia’s pharma sector's exports are from Bogota. The medical device sector is the third largest market in the region, and it is a thriving market. We are the business hub for the country and the region.
In 2021 healthcare services contributed 4.3% of the total national GDP. It produced $6.1 billion, which is a 12% growth from the previous year. After the pandemic, investors realized the development potential of the pharmaceutical industry. Many big groups are looking to invest in Colombia, which will fast-track the growth of the healthcare sector. In the next two years, we will be the production hub in Latin America for vaccines. This will increase the number of innovative centres, diagnosis centres, and research labs in Colombia and the region. We built an extended immunization program for vaccination institutions to reduce the risk of complications from vaccine-preventable events. The city is a platform for international brands.
We attract potential investors through our strategic positioning in Latin America. Colombia has a very dynamic domestic market and serves as an export platform for several sectors and companies. We are geographically central in North and South America, which is one of our biggest advantages. We not only offer connectivity, but we also offer free trade agreements and more opportunities for international brands to thrive within the Colombian market. There are currently eighteen free trade agreements in force, two awaiting approval and five under negotiations. Colombia offers a friendly business environment that supports business development and direct foreign investments. The country is very committed to sustainable economic growth, and it provides attractive investments.
As the capital of Colombia, we work hard to position ourselves as one of the most relevant destinations in Latin America. In the first half of 2021, Bogota received approximately 62% of foreign direct projects nationally. Three attributes make us the ideal city for investments. The first is the size of our economy. Bogota's economy alone is larger than other countries in Latin America. We have a diverse, highly skilled, talented, and competitive workforce that is mostly bilingual. Many companies can find highly qualified workers that offer their services at lower rates than in other markets and countries. The third attribute is that Bogota is the gateway to Latin America. Bogota moves more than 718,300 tons of cargo per year compared to Mexico's 567,800 tons and Brazil's 471,300 tons per year.
The city has become an ideal FDI destination in the region. We proactively incentivize and attract international brands to use Bogota as a healthcare platform. We offer to land services that include understanding the market, competitors, suppliers, where to base operations, the price offering range, and other factors needed to establish a business plan. We have a public, private partnership between the Bogota City Government and the Bogota Chamber of Commerce that strengthens our capacity to articulate all the collaboration needs between the public and the private industries.
Attracting relevant investments, reunions and events for the city is our purpose. The relevance of the investor is dependent upon several factors including sectors with a competitive advantage within the region. These sectors are healthcare, manufacturing, services, infrastructure, entrepreneurship, and creative industries. The company that comes to our city should transfer knowledge and technology to our economy and fulfilling sustainable development goals. This makes our partnerships symbiotic. Innovation, science, and entrepreneurship are always needed to drive growth and transformation.
Invest in Bogota’s contribution to the growth of the GDP and the generation of employment for our people is important. It was founded in Bogota 16 years ago. We have supported more than 460 projects in the city, which comes up to approximately $3.2 billion, with over 66,000 jobs generated. During the last six years, we have increased our participation within the healthcare sector. The company has been involved in more than 55 investment projects. We can be used as a medical platform for pharmaceutical and medical devices. Our firm’s investments account for 12% of the investments the country attracts related to the healthcare industry, with 2,400 new employment positions created. We link local companies and manufacturers with investors in strategic partnerships. Bogota and Colombia have the potential to become healthcare hubs in the region.
Our healthcare professionals are recognized within the region. Some of the widely recognized specialities include doctors, nurses, pharmacists, bacteriologists, and biomedicine engineers. Colombia has medical tourism, which is a testament to the quality of our healthcare system. Bogota is a healthcare city where people can seek medical treatment. The increasing investment in clinical research recently put Colombia in the spotlight for such projects. We are actively working on clinical research and engaging different companies in the study. Innovation in the healthcare sector by entrepreneurship is growing. Due to the problems in the supply chain in the last two years, many companies are considering establishing local manufacturing plants. These are all the markets and perspectives we have of the sector.
EF: What mission did you personally set for yourself during your appointment in your current role?
IM: All my previous experience has been in the financial sector in different roles. I have been promoting the private equity ecosystem for the past fourteen years. I learned how to change the economy through financing and other investment mechanisms. After my last position as Fund Manager for almost 4 years, I wanted to recover my path focus on developing, and articulating ecosystems and generating value by creating new projects to improve the economy and quality of life. I wanted to fulfil my goal and development vision.
As the realization set in, a headhunter contacted me about a position in an investment promotion agency. My knowledge in the finance, investments, entrepreneurship, and private and public sectors helped me make an informed decision to join the agency. My decision was based on driving and supporting public-private partnerships, encouraging development through investments, strengthening the entrepreneurial ecosystem, and driving technology and innovation to the local economy to make a difference in Bogota, Colombia, in the region.
I am one year in my role. When I arrived, I had three challenges to tackle. The first was leading a team of more than 45 employees and creating a new business unit, which was the Bogota Greater Convention Bureau. The Bureaus' responsibilities in the city are to capture international events and host those events here like the medical events Bogota hosts. It was challenging to merge a new business line and promote attraction exercises for international affairs.
My second challenge was creating a turnaround for the company. I had to change the team and our business strategy. A missing piece in our role as a promotion agency was our efficiency. We changed our KPIs in three months to plug in the missing piece and created a new investors' arrival matrix. The matrix comprises a compilation of research into international brands' path of arrival and numbers that account for our agency's value and services during the brand's decision-making process. Based on the value of the number, we can summarize if our services are valuable to each brand that arrives in Bogota. This matrix allows us to adjust our services according to the client’s needs, which makes our service more client-centric and impact-driven.
The third challenge was decentralizing the traditional asset structure for a more strategic one that considers private equity and ventures capital fund investments, as well as local entrepreneurs, support to find financing through international investors. To attract international investors to grow local companies, we had to change our thinking and strategy. We created an API channel to make local entrepreneurs more visible to investors and to increase investors' understanding of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. We are building a platform that will make accessibility easier in the coming months. The forum will make interactions easier between entrepreneurs and investors.