Israeli venture firm OurCrowd hosted Colombian President Ivan Duque and a delegation of ministers and entrepreneurs at its Jerusalem headquarters on Monday to ink a new agreement that would establish a tech incubator backed by the Colombian government, and a fund through which investments can be made into OurCrowd portfolio companies.
The event came a day before the Colombian premier is set to inaugurate a trade and innovation office in the Israeli capital Tuesday, operated by Bogota-based entrepreneurship and innovation agency iNNpulsa. The office will be Colombia’s first innovation center abroad and the government has plans to open similar offices in South Korea and San Francisco.
Duque is leading a 95-person delegation on a three-day visit to Israel that includes the ministers of defense, health, agriculture, trade, environmental protection, and transportation. Colombian officials, businessmen, and representatives of the Jewish community also joined the president.
Colombian Transportation Minister Ángela María Orozco was also participating in the Prime Minister’s Smart Mobility Summit 2021 in Tel Aviv on November 8-9. The conference brings together world leaders for dialogue on the future of transportation.
This is Duque’s first visit to Israel, and the second by a Colombian president. Juan Manuel Santos visited in 2013.
The OurCrowd gathering on Monday was co-hosted by iNNpulsa President Francisco Noguera and Flavia Santoro Trujillo, the head of ProColombia, the government office that promotes foreign investment in the country.
OurCrowd founder and CEO Jon Medved told The Times of Israel that Colombia was “an emerging tech powerhouse in Latin America with a tech-savvy government led by President Ivan Duque.”
“We are excited to partner with the Colombian government body iNNpulsa to deepen tech ties between our two countries. We already have several companies effectively working there, we have a number of great Colombian investors and we are looking actively there for new investments. When you add the friendliness of the people, the beauty of the country, and the exotic beaches and jungles, I think it will not be hard to get Israeli entrepreneurs to consider Colombia as a base for the growing Latin American market of 650 million people,” said Medved.
Over the course of the trip, during which Duque will attend a number of innovation-focused events, he is expected to present opportunities for cooperation and investment in Colombian companies to Israeli entrepreneurs.
Duque also met with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett earlier Monday, who said that the relationship between Israel and Colombia “has evolved greatly” over the years.
“Having you here in Jerusalem to open the first Colombian innovation office is a sign that our relationship is growing stronger than ever. Technology and innovation can do remarkable things, not just for both our countries, but for the entire world,” said Bennett, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office.
“Colombia is an island of economic stability and regional economic leadership,” said Michal Gur Arye, director of the Latin America, Caribbean & Africa economic desk at the Foreign Ministry, during a briefing last Thursday ahead of the official visit. “Therefore, the relationship is important both bilaterally and regionally.”
The free-trade agreement between Israel and Colombia, the third-largest economy in Latin America, went into effect in August 2020. The agreement is Colombia’s first FTA with any country in the Middle East and will allow 97 percent of Colombian goods to enter the Israeli market without tariffs.
Duque first announced his intentions to open the office in August 2020, during a videoconference with then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, marking the ratification of a free-trade agreement between the two countries.
The new mission will help Colombia “consolidate the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” he said then.
Currently, Brazil and Honduras operate trade offices in Jerusalem. Other countries that have trade and/or defense offices in the capital include the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Australia. Israel has touted the offices as diplomatic achievements, though they fell short of hopes for a flood of countries opening full embassies in Jerusalem after the US made the move in 2018.
While running for president in 2018, Duque told supporters that he would be open to moving Colombia’s embassy to Jerusalem, and wanted to improve good relations with Israel.