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News | 18 October 2018

Blog: As a country you get in easier than as an individual company

Due to its strategic position in Latin America and its own considerable water challenges, Panama is an important country for the Dutch water sector. The whole of South America represents only 10% of the Dutch water export: there is room for considerable growth. Reason enough for the mission based on the theme of sustainable cities and the circular economy, which took place last week.

The Dutch Embassy and Partners for Water exporter, NWP, worked in harmony to achieve a result-oriented mission programme. During the mission, Paul Ravenstijn, senior project manager at Witteveen+Bos, killed several birds with one stone, he says in his blog.

"The mission's theme is in line with our field of work, which was a reason to join in for starters. We also have had good contact on a local level with the authorities of the Panama Canal, the municipality of Panama City and the other Dutch companies in our field of work which are already operating there."

Opening a local branch

"We have participated in various projects in a number of Latin American countries involving deltas, shorelines, rivers and waterways, ports, water technology and infrastructure. In short, we are already doing much in the region. Until now we have done this from a distance and I fly a lot to and from the Netherlands. However, if you want to take advantage of the attractive business opportunities in an optimal way, a local presence is essential. You should visit the people there and drink coffee with them, personal relationships are incredibly important.

We are therefore considering to open a private local branch in Panama. There is plenty to do in and from Panama. The country itself is facing considerable water challenges and it is also located strategically in the region with Central America, Northern South America and the Caribbean. Panama has a good direct flight connection with the Netherlands, and Central and South America are easily accessible from Panama by plane. The mission allowed us to speak with various parties who we need for this reason. 
And a third reason is that we are involved as a participant in a consortium in a possible project involving flood protection of Tocumen Airport near Panama City. In short: we could kill several birds with one stone."



"We were able to speak with various parties in Panama, both potential clients and relationships that we need for our possible local branch. It was also very important that it also included a matchmaking component; just presenting a good story is not enough. It was also quite clear to us that the Dutch Embassy in Panama is very active and wants to get things done. That's why they had already drawn up an opportunities report, they maintained good contacts and they had also organised additional meetings for us at our request. All the important leaders from Panama were present at the opening meeting. This was a clear indication that the Mission was highly appreciated by the Panamanian side. The Panamanians have a positive and constructive attitude."

Joint presentation as a water sector

"I regarded the support by NWP as very positive. The value was primarily in the joint presentation as a water sector. As a country you get in easier than as an individual company, certainly in the early stages. This happened quite convincingly and in addition, we profited from all kinds of practical and proactive organizing. 

As far as our branch is concerned, we obtained valuable new knowledge, for example, on an educational level, labour costs and the residential climate for expatriates: what are the working and living prospects like there, also as a family with children, for example? We examined these aspects in many conversations, we wanted to speak to a mix of expatriates and local people. It is expected that the decision will be taken in the first half of 2019.

And this of course applies to all missions: it is a step in a longer process. It is now largely up to us to follow through, we have to stay on top of it. And that's what we will do."

Want to know more?

In addition to the various networking and matchmaking meetings, the mission programme also included meetings with the financial world: for effective and realistic water solutions, the link between water and financing is essential. It basically involved specialists from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank and the Latin American Development Bank. Dennis van Peppen, Global Issues Team Manager at RVO - was the mission leader. The mission is co-funded through the Partners for Water programme.

If you want to know more about Panama, please contact Audrey Legat, a.legat@nwp.nl