This is the best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Since 2017, Colombia has increased its ranking in the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index (GCI). In 2017 Colombia ranked 66 out of 140 economies, in 2018 it ranked 60 and during the latest ranking in 2019 Colombia was ranked 57. Colombia’s advancement in ranking reflects its recent improvements in infrastructure, stability, and institutional development. However, Colombia’s infrastructure is still underdeveloped compared to regional counterparts like Chile that is leading the Latin America and Caribbean region.
After the signing of the Peace Agreement between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2016, infrastructure development became a priority for former president Juan Manuel Santos. In 2015, as the agreement with the FARC was being negotiated, the Santos Administration established an infrastructure initiative to connect Colombia through multimodal transportation projects, commonly referred to as the Intermodal Transportation Master Plan (PMTI). This initiative encompasses 101 road projects, 52 highway projects, 5 railway projects, 8 fluvial projects, 31 airport projects and various dredging projects. In 2016, the value established for this ambitious initiative was COP 10.4 trillion (USD 2.7 billion) equivalent to 1.3% of Colombia’s GDP. The Plan is divided in two major programs named fourth generation infrastructure projects (4G) and fifth-generation infrastructure project (5G).
4G Infrastructure projects aims to develop the country’s connectivity and promote economic development by connecting industrial regions with the port’s areas. They encompass 29 road projects to construct 4,970 miles of dual carriageways, repair 4.349 miles of roads, and construct 141 tunnels and 1,300 viaducts. Prior to President Gustavo Petro taking office in August 2022, the outgoing administration completed 20 projects and the remaining 9 will be developed by the Petro Administration. 4G projects are developed under a public-private partnership (PPP) scheme. According to the Colombian Transportation Ministry, these highway projects are valued at COP 47 billion (USD 12 million).
The prior administration of Ivan Duque was committed to concluding those 4G projects from the prior administration and, launched a new fifth-generation series of infrastructure projects (5G). This initiative included initially 14 intermodal transport projects valued in at COP 22 billion (USD 5.5 million). The mentioned 5G Infrastructure initiative included seven road projects, four airport projects, two river projects, and one railway project. By May 25th, three 5G road Infrastructure projects have been awarded including Valle del Cauca Road, ALO sur, and Accesos Norte II, while four projects are in the tender process, including the second most important river project in Colombia, the Canal del Dique PPP. Colombia’s 2021 transportation budget was COP 12 trillion (USD 3.1 billion). According to Colombia’s Infrastructure Chamber of Commerce, this budget may increase to COP 15 trillion (USD 3.9 billion) in 2023.
Colombia’s recently elected Gustavo Petro, a socialist, president for four years. He is committed to guaranteeing the full implementation of the FARC Peace Agreement in Colombia. The Agreement signed in 2016 endorsed an initiative of connecting rural areas in Colombia with distribution centers and ports to transport farmers’ crops. In this endeavor, the Petro Administration will aim to keep developing roads in rural areas in Colombia as well as develop social infrastructure projects such as aqueducts and schools.
In addition, the Petro Administration is committed to implementing a new transportation system in Colombia with IT, data, and smart technology components as well as green technology components. The Administration is interested in fostering railway and water transportation projects as a transportation model in Colombia to reduce pollution gases in the country.
Generally, U.S. companies have not participated in Colombia’s highway development due to the uncertainty surrounding cost recovery, the high risk associated with the projects (many in remote areas), and the complexities of environmental licensing that require consulting with local communities. Many U.S. companies have found the return on investment to be too low, given the risks. They have preferred to participate in less risky portions of projects, such as engineering, architectural design, and financing. However, other international firms from Spain, France, Italy, Portugal, Brazil, and Mexico are leading development of Colombia’s highway projects. Recently, China has begun bidding on highway projects. Colombian firms also participate in bids under a consortium with international firms.
In November 2020, the previous Duque Administration launched the Railway Master Plan for Colombia. It aimed to improve and develop cargo and passenger railway lines. The Plan set a goal to reduce 26 percent of the country’s logistics costs to improve productivity and reduce environmental pollution. The greater Bogota and Medellin areas plan to have railway developments in the coming years. Bogota aims to foster the Cundinamarca region by connecting the city and rural surrounding areas with metro lines and commuter trains. Similarly, Medellin is looking to increase the Antioquia Department’s competitiveness by connecting the city’s distribution centers to seaports.
In Colombia, airports are operated via concession agreements. The Duque Administration announced airport renovations for Cali, Neiva, and Choco, estimated at COP 1.42 trillion (USD 372 billion), Cartagena estimated at COP 2.83 trillion (USD 742 billion), and San Andres estimated at COP 300 billion (USD 78 million).
Odinsa, a private Colombian company, is leading Cartagena’s new airport initiative. They have presented the project to the National Infrastructure Agency (ANI). The project is currently under the feasibility stage, once ANI approves it, Odinsa will develop the project. The airport will be located at Bayunca, a neighborhood in Cartagena. It will have capability for 8 million passengers per year and will manage 35 flight operations per hour.
ANI grants concessions for seaports for 20 to 25 years to private companies. Currently, Colombia has 8 port areas located in the Pacific and Caribbean region. ANI has provided concessions to 61 ports. Colombia’s seaports in Buenaventura and Barranquilla are losing competitiveness because sediments rate is impacting port access. Through the development of water projects to regain the navigability of the Magdalena River and the Dique Channel, the Barranquilla’s and Cartagena’s ports aim to increase their competitiveness by reducing the volume of the sediment.
Puerto Antioquia is the newest seaport development in the country. The port is in the Uraba Gulf region, close to the Panama border on the Caribbean coast. Puerto Antioquia will have the capability to handle 1.15 million cargo tons per year, 3 million tons of bulk cargo, and 60,000 automobiles. In addition, the port will be the main export route for bananas and fruits to the United States and European markets. Puerto Antioquia’s principal investors are local banana companies, a French millionaire, and Colombian businessman. The port investment is USD 650 million and, it is expected that by 2025 Puerto Antioquia will start operations.
In 2017, the National Government stablished the National Dredging Plan in partnership with the Dutch Government, the objective of the plan was to develop a dredging maintenance strategy to foster Colombia’s ports competitiveness. The National Government, through the National Roads Institute (INVIAS), performs annually dredging operations at the port of Buenaventura, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Tumaco, Providencia, San Andres and the Uraba Gulf. U.S. manufactures of dredging equipment have provided some machines to the National Government, to perform dredging works. Dredging operations are managed by INVIAS, which falls under Colombia’s Transportation Ministry, and therefore must be developed under a tender process.
The residential construction subsector leads the construction sector in Colombia. 38 different construction companies, commonly referred to as “Constructoras”, dominate the residential housing sector. Since 2013, this subsector has grown from 112,000 housing units sold to 176,000 housing units sold in 2020. From January to March 2022, the residential building sector grew up 13.1 percent compared to the prior year. The growing demand is linked to the National Government’s subsidies for the construction of low-income houses and low mortgage rates.
- Complex engineering projects and services related to mass transportation systems: seaports, dredging, tunnels, and bridges
- Construction machine equipment
- Intelligent transportation systems equipment and services
- Road safety equipment and services (such as electronic toll collection)
- Architectural and engineering for healthy, highly efficient, and cost-saving green buildings under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) framework
The U.S. – Colombia Trade Promotion Agreements enables road and construction equipment to enter Colombia duty free. Services such as project management, bridge design, architecture, and engineering, among others, also enter Colombia duty free. Other advantages from the TPA include stronger legal protections for U.S. companies, expanded access to the services market, market access for used goods, increased transparency in procurement, and improved dispute settlement mechanisms. Under the National Treatment Caveat, Chapter Nine of the TPA, U.S. companies are to be treated similar to local companies when they participate in public bids, eliminating the disadvantage they used to face before the TPA. The one exception is public bids issued by the Colombian Civil Aviation Authority (AeroCivil). Since opportunities in road construction, airport expansion, and port expansion are offered through concessions and contracts governed by Colombia’s PPP legal framework, U.S. firms interested in offering services to construction companies in Colombia should understand how the PPP structure works. U.S. firms are advised to find a local representative who can support them in-country or explore the possibility of a joint venture for infrastructure projects.
Colombia’s Infrastructure Chamber- CCI
November 24-25-26, 2022
Construction, design and, architecture fair
August 24-27, 2022
Colombian Construction Congress
October 19-21, 2022
For additional information, including market analysis, trade events, and the assistance the U.S. Commercial Service can provide to help you succeed in the Colombian market, please contact:
U.S. Embassy Bogota
Stephanie Delgado Vera,
Construction, and Infrastructure Commercial Specialist.
+57 (313) 636-6772