The aim of Tekes and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs' joint programme BEAM – Business with Impact, is to assist Finnish enterprises and other actors in using innovations to address global development challenges, by converting such innovations into successful and sustainable businesses. At the seminar, the opportunities presented by Latin America were highlighted and companies were encouraged to familiarise themselves with the region's markets. A total of 70 participants were attracted to the event.
Growth potential in the near future
The BEAM programme covers all of the world's developing markets.
"Traditionally, Finnish companies first head to the U.S. markets and then to China. Meanwhile, Latin America is experiencing annual growth of 5–10 per cent, providing entirely new opportunities for Finnish businesses," says Minh Lam, Programme Manager, BEAM.
"I want to present Latin America to them as a potential source of growth," Lam says.
"Latin America is an increasingly attractive trading partner"
Ari Mäki has headed the Ministry for Foreign Affairs' Unit for Latin America and the Caribbean since September 2015. His previous positions included diplomatic posts in Tehran, Paris and Rome, and most recently in Afghanistan.
Compared to Afghanistan, Latin America has a highly positive outlook, which makes Ari Mäki visibly enthuse about the region and its markets: "Due to our problems with Eastern trade and the difficult situation in the Middle East, Latin America has become an increasingly attractive trading partner for Finland. These markets are "easy" in the sense that they function largely in the European way, based on Western culture. Cooperation runs smoothly in the cases of Mexico, Chile, Columbia and Peru in particular. Argentina is also opening up, whereas political problems in Brazil are casting a shadow on economic development," Mäki says.
Ari Mäki refers to the long distance from Finland and the language barrier as the greatest challenges. "Portuguese and, in particular, Spanish are clearly an asset in this area, but you can manage with English, at least with the biggest operators," he says.
Finnish companies have around 160 subsidiaries in Latin America. The biggest sectors include the mechanical and metal industry, forest industry and electrical and electronics industry.
New emerging sectors include cleantech and education and training. Mäki explains that 50 teachers from Brazil recently visited Finland to familiarise themselves with the Finnish education system. They were interested not only in our comprehensive schools, but also in our secondary and higher education systems.
Since Latin America wants to minimise its dependence on oil, it is interested in bioenergy and other renewable energy sources. Recycling and the reuse of waste are also emerging trends in Latin America. Ari Mäki sees plenty of opportunities for Finnish companies in these sectors.
"Finland is a partner of a suitable size, we have a good reputation and our innovative approach is highly appreciated in Latin America," Mäki explains.
Team Finland assists companies
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs and other Team Finland operators provide various types of services for companies aiming to enter the Latin American markets.
The Ministry analyses market opportunities and provides information on the political situation and the overall status of corporate responsibility in individual countries. Tekes provides funding for market research and pilot projects performed by companies and creates partnerships for businesses and research organisations within Finland and abroad. Tekes, Finpro, Finnvera and Finnfund are intensifying their efforts in Latin America.
"Finland's ambassadors in Latin American countries are opening doors that Finnish companies themselves cannot open – that is what we call prestige services," Mäki says.
"The largest Finnish companies are already present in Latin American markets. SMEs have either not yet found these markets, or have lacked the courage to enter them, but for them the region has huge export potential!" Lam and Mäki conclude on an upbeat note.
Programme Manager Minh Lam
tel. +358 2950 55743
Text: Sanna Nuutila
Photos: Susanna Lehto and Sanna Nuutila