April 18th, 2012
09:12 AM GMT
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Editor’s note: The Millennials are a generation that are constantly plugged in and moving fast to make their mark on the world. CNN’s Quest Means Business is tracking four of them. In this episode, Joe Braidwood and his company, Swift Key, head to Barcelona for the 2012 Global Mobile Awards 2012 while David Lloyd, CNN contributor, writes on the attraction of Colombia from the Summit of the Americas.  Follow The Millennials to find out how Lloyd's company, Intern Latin America, was recognized at the summit.

(CNN) – Buying real estate in Colombia is not the sort of thing that your local bank branch manager is likely to recommend. But to me it is a sensible, even prudent, macro-bet on a country which is the next star of Latin America.

Colombia now takes its place alongside an Asian tiger like Indonesia and the future giant of South Africa in the CIVETS group of rapidly growing emerging markets. It is the new darling of “smart money” which views it as the hidden gem of Latin America. Although it continues to suffer from out-of-date negative perceptions, its attractiveness is coming onto both the tourist and investor’s radars.

The negative perceptions that persist present opportunities. In Colombia’s modern and industrious second city, Medellin (where Hewlett Packard has just located its entire Latin American Headquarters), prime property is found for under $750 per square meter, with rental yields in excess of 10% commonplace. There are very few places in the world with statistics like this that share Colombia’s potential. I have just made a macro-bet on Colombia via a real estate purchase.

Colombia’s traditional Achilles heel, security, has improved significantly in recent years. Popular ex-President Álvaro Uribe, (who left office with 80%+ popularity ratings), backed up by significant quantities of U.S. aid, took a hardline approach and routed the FARC guerrillas to make Colombia's cities safe again. FARC are at their weakest in decades, although considerable problems remain in some rural areas.

Colombian guerrillas killed

Proexport, the National Colombian Tourist Board, decided the country was ready to challenge the security perceptions head-on and launched a successful campaign in 2008 based around the slogan, “Colombia: el riesgo es que te quieras quedar”(Colombia: the risk is wanting to stay). Its stunning, tropical landscapes are finally starting to receive the attention they deserve: A tourist boom is under way with double digit percentage growth.

Economically, Colombia is flying ahead with annual growth of 6%. Rich in natural resources, especially oil, coal and gold, Colombia pursues the same framework of the free-trade export-led model that has elevated Chile into being the first South American country awarded membership of the "rich nation’s club" - the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Chile has come far with that model and Colombia can go even further. It has the advantage of mass: Its population is the second largest in South America. Crucially, its economy is considered one of the most diversified in the continent - a key asset in a region where under-diversification is too common.

Its strengths are not going unnoticed. JPMorgan sees Colombia’s investment potential as second only to Brazil in the whole of Latin America. Foreign investors are pouring dollars in. Foreign direct investing to Colombia grew 113% between 2010 and 2011 according to official United Nations figures, injecting a record $14.4 billion into the country in 2011.

Colombia proudly follows an ambitious free trade agenda, following in the footsteps of Chile which has signed agreements resulting in free trade with more than 90% of the world’s population. Colombia is unashamedly pro-business, pro-trade and outward looking. “The message we send to our producers is you are in the world, not just Colombia. The future is about being competitive and this is as painful as giving birth”, Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry said in March. A free trade agreement has just been struck with the European Union and a long awaited free trade agreement with the United States was finalized at last weekend's Summit of the Americas.

I attended the Summit of the Americas with my company Intern Latin America . It's a great time to be in Colombia - get in before it becomes mainstream.

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soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Nicolai Eslava

    Colombia is in the Gold Hour. The market, the scenario is just perfect for growing businesses. We help international companies to establish business in Colombia and we are having 15 requirements per week to find a space in this glorious time for Colombia. David, thanks for your investments and for that sincerely believe in our country.

    April 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
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