Representatives of five Central American nations will present the region as a competitive, unified and attractive outsourcing destination at the first Central American Nearshore Summit in November. The creation of the summit – joining together five distinct agencies, each of which have differing operating and funding models – is seen as an important milestone for the Central America regionand also reflects an oft-heard call for individual countries to take more meaningful steps through promotional collaboration.
Central America does not have the collective population size or ‘deep pockets’ of a Brazil or Mexico, yet there is growing consensus that the joint efforts of multiple countries can deliver far more impact that individual countries acting alone. “Your regional outsourcing hub” is the slogan of the event, which takes place in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua on November 7 and 8. The summit is hosted by Nicaraguan investment promotion agency PRONicaragua, with support from Costa Rica’s CINDE, Honduras’ FIDE, El Salvador’s PROESA and Invest in Guatemala.
“We’ve been working for approximately two years to begin to collaborate in promoting Central America as an alternative for investment and exports,” Javier Chamorro, the executive director of PRONicaragua tells Nearshore Americas. “As part of this dialogue, we’ve met three times in different locations and agreed to start holding an annual joint event in a different Central American country each year, in order to demonstrate what Central America has to offer the services sector.” Chammorro has, almost singlehandedly, been the driving force behind regional collaboration going back several years with the founding of an investment agencies alliance aimed at sharing best practices and greater coordination.
Overcoming Small Market Barriers
“The idea of this summit is to present the region of Central America as a more attractive option for nearshoring than other regions in Latin America,” Chamorro adds. “Every country in Central America is trying to promote economic development in the services industry, but in the nearshore market there are certain barriers that are difficult for small countries to overcome individually,” he explains. “The objective of this event is to begin to position Central America before the international business community as a single, united region that can provide high-quality services and can compete with any other region in the world.”
“We have to take part in regional initiatives because I think we need to be noticed as a region,” PROESA’s Investment Director Salvador Salguero tells Nearshore Americas. Once the international business community’s attention has been drawn to the region, then the countries there will be able to showcase their individual strengths and boost development through their growing relationships with outsourcers, he adds.
“Interacting with these outsourcing companies leads to a knowledge transfer toward our workforce,” Salguero explains. “For example, when you have a contact center that’s dealing with top-notch global companies, the workers learn about the technology, strategies and how to treat personnel. This will help us as a country.”
Similarly, Luis David, Executive Director of Invest in Guatemala, says his country decided to take part in the summit in order “to promote our services and bring greater development to Guatemala.” To achieve those aims, David says it would be important “to keep working as a team with the other countries in Central America.”
Nicaragua’s Leading Role
Nicaragua will host the inaugural summit because it “took a leading role in organizing the event and made an important economic contribution in order to be the host country,” Chamorro says. Although the summit is sponsored by Nearshore Americas, the Sourcing Interests Group and the Nearshore Executive Alliance, “the host country covers most of the costs for carrying out the event,” Chamorro reveals.
Approximately 150 guests are expected to attend the summit, including around 50 international services buyers and 100 foreign or local business owners with operations in Central America, plus a few other potential investors who may be interested in the region.
The summit will include a series of presentations from international experts on important themes like global trends in the sector, innovation, investment, site selection and the opportunities that Central America offers. The speakers will include Dawn Evans, president and CEO of Sourcing Interest Group (SIG); Kirk Laughlin, founder and editorial director of Nearshore Americas; Ann Harts, principal of Hickey & Associates, LLC; Atul Vashistha, chairman of Neo Group & the Nearshore Executive Alliance; Mike Barrett, vice chairman of the Board of the Nearshore Executive Alliance; and Peter Ryan, OVUM’s lead global IT analyst.
Successful business owners from Central America will also be on hand to talk about their experiences in the region, and there will be booths from the investment promotion agencies in the region which will answer questions and explain the value that each country offers the sector. Finally, there will be two matchmaking sessions (one each day) in which foreign and regional investors and contractors can network with business owners and suppliers in order to establish initial agreements and alliances.
Why Invest in Central America?
Central America’s appeal is grounded in its “very competitive costs,” Camorro says, plus the fact that the region shares the same time zone as much of the United States and is only three to six hours away by plane. Historical ties and immigration have also created a strong cultural affinity between Central America and the United States. However, there are challenges that must be overcome and this summit will also provide the opportunity to consider how to help the region move forward.
“Obviously, the big challenge facing every country in Latin America is to increase the number of people that speak English so that they have greater opportunities to work in the U.S. market,” Chamorro says. “Some countries in the region are also working to establish stability and security, to make them more attractive destinations for investors and business owners. It terms of the ease of doing business, this event will also be a forum for public and private representatives from the region to discuss the opportunity to make it easier to do business in Central America.”