Switzerland and Colombia renew alliance to promote green and inclusive growth

Since 2017, the Programme Colombia + Competitiva has been committed to improving the country's competitiveness and diversifying its economy through transforming public policy, generating capacities for its modernisation and strengthening of the cocoa, coffee, tourism and natural ingredients value chains. The second phase of the Programme will focus on promoting green and inclusive growth by improving the business environment, innovation and the integration of Colombian producers into responsible global value chains.

With an investment of CHF 14 million Swiss francs (approximately 15 million USD), a delegation officially announced the second phase of Colombia + Competitiva, a bilateral cooperation program between Switzerland and Colombia. The Programme seeks to promote innovation, competitiveness, as well as the development of sustainable value chains that provide employment and income opportunities in the country's regions.

The Swiss Ambassador to Colombia and the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism sign the cooperation agreement for the continuity of the Colombia + Competitiva Programme

"Strengthening the internationalisation and competitiveness of value chains such as coffee, cocoa or natural ingredients, will also accelerate the safe economic reactivation at the regional level after the COVID-19 situation throughout the country, generating more employment opportunities ”, explained María Ximena Lombana, Colombia's Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

The cooperation agreement between Switzerland and Colombia was signed today by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Tourism (MinCIT), the National Planning Department (DNP), the Presidential Agency for International Cooperation of Colombia (APC-Colombia), the Presidential Department for Competitiveness and Public-Private Management and State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) through the Swiss Embassy in Colombia. In the agreement, the entities committed to work together to promote green and inclusive growth through a conducive business environment and more effective public policies.

"The Colombia + Competitiva Programme provides an important space to innovate in public policies, to execute pilots of new public policies, instruments and programmes that lead to productive development, the promotion of entrepreneurship, science and technology. It facilitates interinstitutional coordination and works hand in hand with the private sector”, explained Luis Alberto Rodríguez, Managing Director of the DNP.

The first period between 2016 and 2020 generated important results thanks to the joint work between SECO and the National Government entities: “after four years of implementation, the programme has managed to promote and facilitate the development of Colombia's potential through the strengthening of an ecosystem of national and regional competitiveness aimed at leading the country towards sustainable economic development that creates opportunities for all its citizens”, stated the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

This collaboration occurs within the National Competitiveness and Innovation System (SNCI), a space in which the private and public sectors coordinate their actions to promote competitiveness.

Director of DNP, Director of the Presidential Agency for APC Cooperation, Ambassador of Switzerland in Colombia and Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

“Inter-institutional coordination is key to improve Colombia's competitiveness in the medium and long-term. In this context, we have always found support in the Swiss Cooperation and in the Programme to create spaces that allow for public-private cooperation, enriched by discussion to achieve consensus and high-impact projects such as Arco, closing regional competitiveness gaps or the formulation of public policies implemented for the future. In the future, it is important to maintain the spaces for collaboration so that the projects supported by the programme are appropriated by all the members, public and private, of the SNCI”, says Clara Parra, Presidential Advisor for Competitiveness.

Strengthening regions to gain access to international markets

In this next period, the programme will finance projects in the regions that provide technical assistance to producers, especially in rural areas in productive chains such as cocoa, coffee, tourism and natural ingredients. The aim is that producers can improve their exportable supply of sustainable products to international markets including Switzerland through linking them with potential buyers. These value chains were selected for their high potential to access international markets and generate employment in the regions.

“In the current context where the pandemic has deepened economic asymmetries and social gaps, this cooperation agreement is a valuable tool that will allow the strengthening of strategic sectors of the national economy. It will show that international cooperation can be maximised and aligned with national priorities to face common challenges," said the Director of the Presidential Agency for International Cooperation of Colombia, Angela Ospina de Nicholls.

For Julián Domínguez Rivera, President of the National Trade Union Council, “the presence of the Swiss Cooperation in Colombia has become a milestone for economic and social development in the regions by promoting key productive sectors for their competitiveness. The Network of Chambers of Commerce is satisfied by the news of the implementation of the second phase of the Colombia + Competitiva programme, a primary instrument for managing impact initiatives that promote regional development, both in urban and rural areas. The Programme has become a milestone in promoting national competitiveness thanks to their experience and the resources with which they have supported key productive sectors for economic development in the departments.”

He added that "all this has brought multiple benefits in productive and social terms and, more importantly, capacities have been generated that allow the sustainability and scaling of these benefits in the medium and long-term."

For her part, Rosario Córdoba, President of the Private Competitiveness Council explained that “the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the most vulnerable to a greater extent and has highlighted the existing inequalities in Colombia, amplified by structural problems of the productive apparatus and the labour market, such as high informality and low productivity. Recovering high and sustained growth rates and resuming the progress in well-being achieved in recent years requires a development strategy based on increasing productivity and competitiveness, also prioritising an agenda to close gaps. The second phase of Colombia + Competitiva will undoubtedly contribute a lot to establishing and implementing projects and programs in accordance with this development strategy.”

Improving the competitiveness and an appropriate business environment during this second phase also includes the promotion of sustainability and social inclusion, taking advantage of the growing interest of buyers and international financing companies in getting their supply from social and environmentally responsible producers.

“Today it is important to think about social, economic and environmental agendas together. We support Colombia's efforts to promote formal and inclusive jobs. Switzerland can transfer knowledge and facilitate access to markets through sustainable value chains. In this way, we seek to contribute to reducing inequality and building peace,” stated the Swiss Ambassador Yvonne Baumann.

Taking advantage of Switzerland's position as a global benchmark in the fields of competitiveness, innovation, skills development and sustainable value chains, all projects will have access to the Swiss Expert Network (SEN) where public, private and academic institutions from this country participate. Similarly, the SEN will contribute to the strengthening of scientific and academic cooperation, as well as commercial relations between Colombian and Swiss organisations for the selected supply chains.