The young President of Colombia, Iván Duque, has spoken about such an “orange economy” since his time at the Inter-American Development Bank. He has used the phrase “Latin America’s Silicon Valley” on several occasions to refer to the Colombia of the future. Its critics ridicule the idea and call it ridiculous. And many of his followers don’t understand what he’s talking about. Right now, Colombians don’t seem to have time to talk about the future. They have turned their attention to the old struggles of the past and the coronavirus crisis. But, Is the “orange economy” really crazy?
The important things first. What is the “orange economy”? This colorful term refers to the creative industries. That means the art of making money with ideas. It essentially comprises the culture industry and the knowledge-based economy. For example: architecture, visual and performing arts, crafts, cinema, design, research and development, games, fashion, music, advertising, television and radio, education, computers, high technology, telecommunications, robotics, nanotechnology, blockchain, fintech, etc.
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The idea behind the creative economy is economic development through the generation of ideas. To use the words of John Howkins, writer at Creative Industries and promoter of many of these concepts, it’s about turning ideas into profit. In the book “Orange Economy: Infinite Opportunities” by Iván Duque and Felipe Buitrago, published by the Inter-American Development Bank, The creative industries are presented as a development axis for Latin America.
Goods and services based on intellectual property are not as volatile as the market for goods and raw materials. Skeptics argue that this is the “Silicon Valley of Latin America” and requires world-class education and technology. In other words, not feasible for Latin Americans. However, It ignores the fact that the creative industries are already larger than many than traditional sectors. In Colombia, for example, the creative economy outperforms coffee in terms of gross domestic product.
The global creative market is huge. And almost everything develops with the help of the internet. It is more, If the creative market were a country, it would be the fourth largest economy in the world after the USA, China and Japan, with a worldwide workforce of more than 144 million people. And these products have an advantage that oil, coffee or raw materials don’t have. In good times they are very efficient and in times of crisis they are much more resilient. While automation and artificial intelligence pose threats to manufacturing and mechanical work, creativity is not an easy substitute.
Creativity doesn’t require that much capital, but access and contact. This means, Integration (physical or virtual) between target groups, content, creatives, developers, entrepreneurs and technologies. Innovation is always an articulated effort. In other words, it’s a value chain.
Is Duque’s “orange economy” possible? I think so. 600,000 Colombians already work in the creative industries. That is three times the number of miners. The creative industries in Colombia They already account for 1.8% of GDP. In comparison, coffee, the traditional export, accounts for 0.8% of GDP. Colombia is rich in creative talent. And it contains many elements that are required for innovation. I don’t think Duque is delusional. Plus, it seems to me that it is spot on.
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The Ethereum Municipality selected the city of Bogotá as the venue for Devcon 6, Bogotá 2021. I’ll see you there, by the way. JPMorgan, Nubank, Lulo Bank, Finsocial, BTG Pactual and many others want to travel to Colombia and promote the FinTech revolution from there. It’s not a coincidence. The authorities create the conditions. And it’s not just talk. In Colombia there are funds, tax incentives, events, meetings, educational plans, scholarships and a state policy to support the orange industry. Of course there is still a long way to go. Obviously, they need better legislation on fintech and crypto. But they are taking the first steps and that deserves admiration. My applause for Colombia.
Now let’s talk a little about the challenges ahead. Duque’s ideas are good. Without a doubt he is a prepared man. The man is right, but he lacks the strength. And in these cases it is not enough to be right. You have to be right and strong. And by violence I mean political support.
Duque is in the middle of his tenure and it’s been two very difficult years. He didn’t have a honeymoon for a day. He is facing a pandemic with an inefficient health system, violence has escalated and the peace agreement is on the verge of faltering, Venezuelans continue to rush, the scandal surrounding the alleged “illegal” funding of his campaign is not going away and his mentor Álvaro Uribe has been appointed House arrest by the Supreme Court. Thunder and lightning. Holy Orange Economies!
The opposition did not let him breathe and declared a war without a neighborhood. Many laugh at the orange economy. And those who don’t laugh don’t give it much importance. ANDIn other words, we cannot say that Colombia is all working together on its common future in the orange industry. What we have is a boxing ring. The enthusiasm for the orange industry is initially limited to a select minority.
Duque is more of a technocrat than a statesman. It has not been possible to unite all political groups. And he failed to woo the nation with his brilliant plan. The arrival of the coronavirus has favored it a little in terms of its popularity. But late last year and early this year its popularity was on the ground. 7 out of 10 Colombians disapproved of his management. Protests and a national strike were organized in denial. But then came the coronavirus. The quarantine saved him. But the discontent is still there.
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Now Fintech, Bitcoin and the orange industry in Colombia. Beyond the challenges, this government policy of promoting the orange industry offers us a world of opportunity. It doesn’t matter that it’s a plan that is misunderstood by the average Colombian. After all, Silicon Valley doesn’t cover the whole country. Innovation doesn’t require millions of people. A talented minority with the right tools and contacts can go a long way.
Bogotá can become the fintech / blockchain capital of Latin America. The international Ethereum community, for example, will hold their premier event, Devcon, in Bogotá next year. Out of all possible cities, the Ethereum Foundation chose Bogotá, Colombia. One wonders why Bogotá is special and not another Latin American city. Well the answer is obvious. Bogotá offers the ideal conditions for such events. And that’s exactly what we need in order to be innovative and grow: the conditions. That is the secret.