How Colombia has changed to a stable investment opportunity
HalloCasa conducted an interview with the Director for Colombia and Venezuela at Germany Trade & Invest. Germany Trade & Invest is the economic development agency of the Federal Republic of Germany. Edwin Schuh will talk about how Colombia has changed to a stable investment opportunity. The organization promotes Germany as a business and technology location and supports companies based in Germany with global market information.
HalloCasa: “Good afternoon, Mr Schuh. Thank you for taking the time and to talk with HalloCasa. First of all, in order to introduce you properly, could you give a short description of how you came to be working for Germany Trade & Invest in Bogotá.”
Edwin Schuh: “Thank you very much. I am pleased to be able to give you an interview about this exciting market. Originally I’m from Munich and did both my Bachelor and my Master in Economics at the University of St. Gallen. Now, I am working for the German Foreign Trade promotion organization, Germany Trade and Invest in Bogotá. After my semester abroad at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá I was fascinated by Colombia and the sprawling city of Bogotá, so I decided to move here permanently.”
Living in Bogotá
HalloCasa: “When hearing “Bogotá”, at first it sounds very exciting but also very dangerous. Tell us how it feels to be living in this city.”
Edwin Schuh: “Bogotá is definitely a very interesting place to live in, it is always exciting for foreigners. The city is chaotic and you will have a lot of experiences. It can be very livable, if you are prepared to have some financial flexibility. The city has numerous parks, excellent international restaurants, there are beautiful destinations in the area, or you can treat yourself occasionally a short trip to the Caribbean to catch some sun.”
HalloCasa: “That does not sound like the Bogotá of 1980´s. It is true that Bogotá is one of the most inspiring and stylish cities in world. Its street art and “imperfectness” inspire a lot artists from around the world. We created a Pinterest Board which includes a decent amount of street art images. Now, let´s move to Colombia, in general. As an expert, what do you think could motivate foreigners invest money especially with respect to safety?”
Edwin Schuh: “As a foreigner, security concerns should not pose an obstacle to invest in Colombia. The situation has improved significantly since 2002. There are still sporadic guerrilla attacks, but they are located in remote parts of the country. In cities, the crime level is comparable that other Latin American cities. For example, in the north of Bogotá, i do not know any foreigner that has had something happened to them.”
HalloCasa: “You mentioned other Latin American countries. Why is Colombia a better destination to invest in than other Latin American countries?”
Edwin Schuh: “Colombia, unlike other Latin American countries such as Argentina, Brazil or the extreme case of Venezuela, is a conservative country with a lot of pro-business policies. In addition, due to the conflict in the 1980´s and 1990´s the country has still got a lot to catch up with. The geographical location with connections to both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans is another unique advantage which other Latin American countries do not have.”
Investment opportunities in Colombia
HalloCasa: “That sounds like it has great potential. What fields of investment do you consider are very exciting in Colombia right now?”
Edwin Schuh: “There are a lot of plans concerning investment in infrastructure across the country, such as the construction of new highways and railroads, the navigability of the Rio Magdalena and the modernization of ports and airports. Furthermore, cities are investing in public transport, such as the major project of the first metro line for Bogotá. This might be certainly very interesting for foreign companies. In general, for investors Colombia provides a field where proven business models can be adopted from other countries because of its large demand due to investment backlogs.
For example, European private equity companies and Abraaj Group launched the company “Koba International”. Within a few years, they launched successfully the German supermarket discounter model “Aldi”, called D1. This supermarket chain has grown very rapidly and has opened 330 stores across the country. Other interesting possibilities are definitely within e-commerce, or for example McFit, the German gym discounter.
In addition, there is potential for investment in Colombia in the commodity sector, as large parts of the country have not been opened up because of the guerrilla conflict in this area. Apart from that, due to the favorable Colombian climate and the geographical location, Colombia´s agricultural sector reflects a huge potential. With the use of high technology it could give rise to an agribusiness like in Brazil.”
HalloCasa: “Yes, that’s right, gyms are very expensive here. Regarding the government investment in roads and traffic, we have planned an interview with the Instituto de Desarrollo Urbano. Let’s now have a look at investments in real estate. How have real estate prices in Colombia developed from 1980 to 2010. Is there a clear trend? “
Real estate opportunities in Colombia
Edwin Schuh: “This is quite difficult to generalize. Due to the large uncertainty, until 2000 real estate prices in Colombia had not change very much year over year. Since then, however, a boom can be observed, especially within the luxury real estate sector. The strong economic growth, driven by the oil sector and foreign investment in Colombia, have allowed the real estate prices to rise sharply.
Also, the inflow of capital from Venezuela and the return of wealthy Colombians from abroad influenced this trend. Meanwhile, in the north of Bogotá the peak has probably been reached, where real estate prices in the last ten years increased sixfold. There are various people who are talking about a housing bubble. In other areas of Bogota, however, there is still room for improvement. For example, the historic district of La Candelaria and La Macarena have become the focus of the wealthier people, also due to its liveliness and some projects, which are designed to restructure the city center of Bogotá.
In other cities like Medellin, Cali, Barranquilla and Bucaramanga housing prices are about 10-30% below the level of Bogota. Here, within the luxury real estate sector there is still potential. In addition, medium-sized cities like Santa Marta or Pereira are particularly good prospects for a rise in property prices. In particular Santa Marta can be predicted to develop as much as Cartagena where the colonial old town is being renovated. Therefore, local property prices might sky-rocket there as well.”
HalloCasa: “Concerning the development of Santa Marta, we can only agree. It has changed remarkably within the last 4 years. One last question: If you had one wish, and could change one thing in Colombia, what would it be? “
Edwin Schuh: “I would hope that car drivers take more care of each other and drive less aggressively, red lights to be complied with, aimless honking to be fined. Apart from that, every day I hope that I do not need an ambulance. Car drivers never give them access. This is something very disappointing.”
HalloCasa: “Mr Schuh, we know that your time is limited. We would like to thank you for this informative and insightful interview. Would it be possible for interested readers to contact you if they have some follow-up questions? Thank you for the interview.”
Edwin Schuh: “Yes, of course. Investors may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.”
HalloCasa, the marketplace for international real estate properties, is being founded by a German in Bogotá. HalloCasa´s mission is to build trust for vendors and investors with respect to cross-border real estate transactions. If you are interested in more interviews, you can read them here.