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Colombia: The Next Brazil?

Christina Sommer |

The new up-and-coming emerging economies are the CIVETS: Colombia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey, and South Africa, according to Robert Ward, global forecasting director for the Economist Intelligence Unit.  According to Mr. Ward, they are ready to become the next BRICs.

Unless you have been living under a brick yourself for the last 10 years, you’ve certainly heard of the BRIC countries: Brazil, Russia, India, and China.  BRIC was an acronym coined by Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs back in 2001 to neatly group the emerging economies advancing on the global stage.  And, by and large, these countries have emerged and are thriving in many ways.

Brazil, in particular, has surpassed many people’s expectations.  Brazil overtook the United Kingdom in terms of GDP in the latter part of 2011—a pretty incredible feat, especially for a country that some thought was included on the list just to make the acronym work.

Mr. O’Neill, of course, has his own list called the “Next 11”.  I will spare you the list but, to my surprise, Colombia did not make it.  While I don’t pretend to be an economist, I do think Colombia rightfully deserves a seat at the table.

By the numbers alone, Colombia is truly up and coming: According to CIDA, 42 percent of its population is under the age of 18.  We’ve been reminded, time and again this past year, of the collective power of the Youth—uniting on everything from buying discounted dinners on sites like Groupon to helping overthrow long-standing authoritarian regimes.  What’s more, youth in Colombia are growing up in a very different country than their parents did—one that is full of growth, optimism, and greater security.  President Uribe and now President Santos have focused on chipping away at Colombia’s damaged reputation.  Colombia has received both a significant amount of foreign investment (an estimated $13 billion in 2011) and a considerable increase in the number of foreign tourists (international tourism grew four-fold from 2000 to 2010—from 575,000 to over 2 million).  With GDP growth in 2011 estimated at 5.5 percent and per capita GDP doubling since 2004, from $2,482 to $5,980 in 2010, Colombia is showing promising signs of growth on several fronts.

This past fall, I was lucky enough to see this growth first hand. On my trip to Bogota, I was amazed at the streets bustling with young professionals, the sizeable number of construction projects underway, and the overwhelming feeling of optimism that filled the air.  Colombia is definitely on the top of my “one-to-watch list” and I wouldn’t be shocked in five to seven years if Colombia is referred to the way Brazil is—thriving!

Topics: Economic Outlook

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