Published on May 6th, 2015 | by Pierfrancesco GENNARO | Credit: León Page on Wikipedia0
Doing Business in Nicaragua: an Interview with Ambassador Sandino Montes
“We people, from Nicaragua, do not need an ice-breaker. We are very open and very talkative, that is why it is quite common to start conversation by asking personal questions”
Read our interview with Nicaraguan Ambassador in Belgium, his Excellency Mr. Mauricio Lautaro Sandino Montes and you will discover all that the Central American country has to offer in terms of business, tourism and nature.
Key Facts and Figures
Population: 6,17 million
Borders: Costa Rica, Honduras, Caribbean Sea to the East and Pacific Ocean to the West
Official language: Spanish
GDP Per Capita: US$ 3,330 (2012)
Economic growth: 4.7% GDP growth (2014)
Currency: Córdoba (NIO)
How should European businessmen, and particularly potential investors, view the current social and political situation in Nicaragua?
The political and social situation in Nicaragua, especially compared to the surrounding countries, is very stable and very peaceful, to the point that President Daniel Ortega was able to establish a strategic alliance between the government, trade unions and private enterprises for the past 7 years. Most decisions are made within this council, minimum wages are agreed jointly and, since the President took office, there was not a single major strike. This situation is incredibly peaceful and has to be seen as a great asset.
Moreover, security in Nicaragua is very high. Our neighbouring countries have high rates of murders, while we (along with Costa Rica) have the lowest rates in all Latin America: if in Honduras there are, on average, 92 murders per 100.000 inhabitants, we experience only 8,7 homicides.
Therefore, businessmen do not have to worry about our social and political situation for, in this specific issues, there is little difference with more developed countries.
What are the top 5 reasons to do business in Nicaragua?
We have a very open legislation where we guarantee that people obtain benefits from their investment easily and fast with almost no monetary control and, moreover, we are ranked as the top location for investors’ protection in case of insolvency.
Being known as the country of lakes, natural resources are abundant and ready to be exploited. Having an energy sector very important for our economy. This can be appealing for foreign investments, especially because renewable energies are on the rise (from solar to geothermal and wind energy).
Our strategic location is another top reason to bo business in our country : we are in the heart of Central America (only 2 hours away by plane from Miami) making Nicaragua an ideal place to invest.
As I have stated before, the political and social stability is a great asset we can be proud of; major criminality is very low and business can be conducted in peace .
Last but not least, tourism is on the rise and represents a tremendous opportunity for investment; from our landscapes to our historical sites (notably the old city of León, which was declared UNESCO World Heritage), from the food industry (coffee and cocoa above all) to cultural activities, Nicaragua offers endless opportunities.
Are there any industries which are particularly promising especially for small and medium-sized companies from the EU?
The handcraft and wooden sectors have great potential for the European SMEs which are willing to venture into our market. What we are looking for is to create joint ventures to combine the international “know-how” with Nicaraguan economic excellences.
Agribusiness is another crucial sector where SMEs can play a key role in its development: out of the 5 million hectares of suitable agricultural land available, only 1,2 million hectares are currently being exploited. These numbers explain the great potential the agricultural sector has for development.
What are some of the challenges that European SMEs encounter there? How can they be overcome?
The infrastructure system is not very developed and there are still some great territorial differences (between the Pacific-more developed coast and the Caribbean-less developed area) which represent quite a challenge. Yet, we have a plan to create a channel connecting the two coasts as the Panama channel is running short in load capacity. This pharaonic investment of nearly 50 billion dollars can boost the development of our infrastructures and re-launch the Caribbean coast.
What advice do you have for European SMEs seeking to invest or do business in Nicaragua? What would be the first thing you would recommend?
I would personally add value to our agriculture, as it is the base of our economy it must be treated with care and with a special eye. Recently we have started an important programme on the cultivation of biomasses to create renewable energy. We have an abundance of fertile land that is not in use right now: I believe that we should rationalise our land and have the best profit from a good and sustainable use of the ground it is a paramount for our future.
Do you have any tips on how to do business with business people from Nicaragua?
I believe that the biggest asset we have is our people and, as such, it is very easy to start a conversation with us, also during business meetings and with foreigners too. We people, from Nicaragua, do not need an ice-breaker. We are very open and very talkative, that is why it is quite common to start conversation by asking personal questions, even during business talks: ask about the family and do not be afraid to get too personal, we appreciate intimate conversations and this can boost business deals too.
We had the chance to know a bit more about Nicaragua and its great opportunities thanks to this interview; now it is up to you to start your trip and invest in this safe paradise full of resources and welcoming people.