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Colombia: a strengthening competitive economy after the long civil war

Since the end of its armed conflict in 2016, the Colombian government’s objective has been to support the local economy and create a positive, enabling environment for business. Each year tenders are issued for public-private partnerships. In the “Colombia + Competitiva” project, Swisscontact provides expertise to the policy dialogue for competitiveness as well as to the tender process for specific projects targeting four value chains.

“Colombia + Competitiva” supports a portfolio of projects focusing on value chain development, export promotion, labour standards, corporate governance, compliance with quality standards, and access to finance. These projects develop out of alliances between private institutions (chambers of commerce, universities, and associations) and state offices. They undergo a competitive selection process, and the winner is awarded project co-financing.

Project proposals are submitted in relation to four economic sector categories: speciality cocoa, sustainable tourism, natural ingredients for the cosmetics industry, and sustainable construction.Environmental, economic, and social sustainability also factor in the selection process. Selected projects are given expert counselling by the Swiss Experts Network (SEN) in order to improve planning and implementation. Swisscontact’s SEN comprises experts from various Swiss public institutions and the private sector.

Case study: “Destination Putumayo” tourism project 

Since the conflict formally ended with the 2016 peace treaty, new economic and social opportunities have sprung up in Colombia. This has increased tourism’s potential to improve the competitiveness and development of remote regions enormously. 

One of the projects selected in 2017 focuses on tourism promotion in Putumayo, in Colombia’s Amazon region. The corridor connecting the cities of Mocoa, Villagarzón, and Alto Putumayo is of a particular cultural value because of its local traditions and considerable diversity. The chambers of commerce of Putumayo, Gran Tierra, and Corpoamazonía have banded together in order to strengthen the region’s value as a tourist destination. 

For Deccy Ibarra, President of the Putumayo Chamber of Commerce, the SEN expert services provided in “Colombia + Competitiva” are highly valuable and have aided in establishing a new project strategy. “Before the SEN experts came, our approach was based on supply. They have helped us to see, not from the supply side but from the demand side, which has helped us to develop a more international image. In this way, we are able to get local parties to work together, making the locations more appealing to local residents and offering appropriate travel packages to visitors,” explains Ibarra.

The “Colombia + Competitiva” project is financed by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs and implemented by Swisscontact.