The demand for better logistics, dredging of seaports, and an increased awareness of the concept of sustainable cities: that is where the challenges of the upcoming years lie in the countries in Latin America such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Peru. Which, in other words, creates opportunities for the Dutch water sector.
That is the conclusion of Jurgen Bartelink who has been active in the region for the last four years as Regional Business Developer at the Embassy in Peru. Soon he will say goodbye.
What does a regional business developer do?
“My role mostly included sharing knowledge, supporting companies, and raising awareness about the available opportunities. The pilot that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated four years ago will be continued in the coming years. This will be done with the same themes, one of which being ‘water’. The strength often lies in a cross-cultural approach, such as water plus logistics. We are closely monitoring tenders that are published that could be of benefit to the Dutch water sector, either by the countries themselves or with financing from the World Bank, CAF, or IBD.”
What is your experience with doing business in this region?
“Naturally, the region is far away. But in my opinion, the cultural differences between the Netherlands and the Gulf region or the Far East, for example, are much greater than the differences between the Netherlands and Latin America. The cultural differences between the latter two are comparable to the differences between Southern European countries and the Netherlands. What is essential when doing business in this region is to master the Spanish language."
"Another thing I have learned is that there are no ‘quick wins’, so to speak. It is a continent that offers chances but one has to understand and acknowledge that these chances are based on an approach that takes several years to pay off. In other words, this approach can prove to be fruitful but only if one invests time and attention. Money alone is simply not enough.”
Can you name an example of how you bring parties together?
"A tool I use regularly in workshops and conferences that has proven to be successful is Port of the Future. This is a ‘serious game’ that was developed by Deltares and is based on the sustainable construction of the Tweede Maasvlakte. It is often an eye-opener for people. Moreover, I also ensure the representation of the Dutch water sector at events like these: Holland Branding ought to be connected to sustainable economic development."
What is the situation surrounding sustainable port development?
"Since the widening of the Panama Canal, large ships and vessels can pass through. Consequently, the ports at the Pacific need more depth which can be accomplished with dredging; but many ports have already reached their dredging limit. For further economic growth from the enormous agricultural sector, it is very important to tackle these issues at the ports. This includes the multimodal transport chain to the back country."
To what degree does the theme Sustainable Cities play a role?
"Raising awareness is what is most needed. Urbanisation is moving at a rapid pace, making Latin America the most urbanised continent in the world. Moreover, one in three Peruvians lives in the capital city of Lima. This causes many challenges in a number of areas such as drinking water, water pollution, and sanitation. There is also a flood risk in the nearby rivers and coasts."
What is the assignment for the upcoming period?
"We have to stay sharp and pay attention to the opportunities that appear; we have to reinforce the connections between various Dutch Government programmes; and we must ensure that the sector participants are also well connected. The cooperation between government, companies, and research institutes lays the foundation for this. A good example is the Blue Deal programme that started in April 2019; it includes 11 partnerships in nine countries, among which are Argentina and Colombia. In the next round, Peru will most likely join this list."
Can the Amsterdam International Water Week play a stimulating role?
"Certainly. In 2017, a group of 28 people from seven Latin American countries took part in Amsterdam, with good chances to reinforce the ties and to put Dutch solutions in the spotlight. This year, we are working on a Latin American Water Dialogue showing solutions related to urban water and coast protection."