Transforming challenges into opportunities: How to succeed in Latin America | INCAE

Transforming challenges into opportunities: How to succeed in Latin America

17 de Octubre 2014
Olivia Ferris

What comes to mind when you think of Latin America? I think “diversity” of:  languages and dialects, geography, ethnicity, religion, music and festivities. A sub continent comprised of more than 22 countries and territories is rich and dynamic. At INCAE, we want to translate this diversity into a promising business environment.

Latin America also shares a great number of challenges. Though the MBA program, INCAE strives to graduate students that are flexible, critical thinkers, culturally aware, mindful and agile, who can succeed in this dynamic environment. INCAE is contributing to leverage the richness and diversity of the region towards sustained economic development, transforming challenges into opportunities.

Transforming challenges into opportunities

  1. Increasing competitiveness in a dynamic economy. Latin America is a region where market economies are highly volatile. For many centuries, we have been a center for commodities, such as agricultural and mining products and exports. Some have transitioned into the service sectors, becoming important outsourcing centers.  Nevertheless, in both cases, we are dependent on the demands of the global economy. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report, Latin America “has exhibited resilience with a projected growth rate of 3 percent for 2013 and 3.4 percent for 2014, outperforming other regions in the world, especially advanced economies.”[1] However, Figure 1 illustrates how Latin America needs to strengthen innovation, technological readiness and higher education and training to increase competitiveness.  At INCAE, students will learn of factors that affect growth and competitiveness, and how to come up with practical and relevant solutions. INCAE’s faculty is specialized in Latin America and the teaching content is focused on case studies on business, politics, economics and ethics in the region. -increasingly its becoming more relevant and around the world.
    Figure 1. Competiveness in Latin America[2]
    Figura 1
  2. Managing political risk. Latin America can be an effervescent region. Politics can be a driver or depressor of the economy. There is an important ideological divide between left and right and the economic stance each country takes. Multilateral agreements, such as Pacific Alliance and ALBA, define on which side each country stands. For example, Figure 2 shows trade alliances based on political similarities. It is also a region where civil society is in constant demand of rights and benefits. Social movements have the power to modify business operations and government control. To succeed in such environment, it is imperative to understand how culture affects business. INCAE strives to be a multicultural institution at all levels: staff, faculty and students. By living on campus, students from Latin America and all over the world gain a better understanding and become more empathetic towards other cultures, gaining leadership skills.  Morever, the professors¡ practical experience enhances learning in the classroom.
    INCAE prepares leaders that can adapt to the political environment in Latin America.
    Figure 2.  Latin America’s Trade Agreements[1]
    Figura 2
  3. Reducing the gender gap. “Women earn between 60 percent and 90 percent of men’s average income.”[4] It is a common challenged faced by Latin American women, who are as prepared as men, but continue to earn less. INCAE strives for equal opportunity inside and outside the classroom. For example, INCAE offers “Beca Mujer”, a scholarship that recognizes women who have shown leadership skills and impact. Moreover, through the Center for Women’s Leadership “INCAE became the only business school in Latin America and one of the first worldwide to create a center exclusively devoted to advancing and promoting women’s leadership potential”[5]. Though these initiatives, INCAE is truly committed towards the advancement and equal rights of women. Providing and advocating for equal rights “will increase global income per person by as much as 20% by 2030. … In emerging markets, women reinvest 90% of their earnings in their families and communities—which means that investing in women is an investment in our collective future.”[6]


  4. Corruption.  Unfortunately, corruption is widespread in Latin America as shown by the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International (Figure 3). It is impossible to pinpoint what triggers it across the continent, but organized crime and drug dealing are highly influential. It is also hard to account due to weak and bureaucratic public institutions. At the individual level, corruption is common and unperceived. The consequences slow down or hinder the development of the region. Concerned with this huge socioeconomic problem, INCAE students developed the MBA Oath Club[7]. It is an ethics code for students and alumni, which is strengthened by participatory sessions where students discuss real life cases. INCAE prepares leaders that are analytical, collaborative and culturally- savvy, who advocate for transparency and accountability, promoting a healthy growth for Latin America.
    Figure 3. Corruption Perceptions Index 2013[8]
    Figura 3

To learn how to do proper business in a region that is always changing, it is imperative to understand why and the consequences of your actions. Your project or company will be more successful if you understand the way of life and the general cultural environment you are immersed in. INCAE prepares leaders who are proactive, critical and mindful of their surroundings, such as politics, business, society and environment.









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