Interview: Colombia and the Czech Republic Have a Bright Future for Growth in Mining, ICT, and Trade
The Czech Republic isn’t well known to most Colombians. While the nations have long maintained ties, the cultural connections don’t run that deep, but Pavel Eichner is one of the nation’s representatives who is trying to change that.
Stationed in Bogotá and working for the embassy’s trade promotion agency CzechTrade, he has been doing the legwork with boots on the ground to look for more trade and commercial opportunities that can help both Czech and Colombian companies cooperate and grow together.
Photo: National representatives work to promote bilateral ties at the Czech Republic booth during this year’s MinExpo in Medellín. (Credit: Loren Moss)
He attended the MinExpo 2023 in Medellín earlier this year, and Finance Colombia Executive Editor Loren Moss got the chance to sit down and hear more about the areas in mining, technology, and more that Eichner sees as important to the “bright future” he believes is ahead for two nations’ economic ties.
Finance Colombia: We got to talk at the MinExpo in Medellín, and I know the trade mission here has a large focus on the mining sector. For those who don’t know much about the Czech Republic presence in the industry, can you tell us a little bit?
Pavel Eichner: The Czech Republic is a small country, but we have a very big industry. If you look at Europe and compare our industry to our gross domestic product (GDP), it’s one of the biggest in Europe.
In mining, we have a very large tradition of because, since we are small country, we have to really make good use of all the places we can mine. All the companies are focused on extraction and being very efficient in all their processes.
If you look around the world, the Czech mining companies are very strong in Europe, in Asia, and South African countries. We were strong in the Americas maybe 30-40 years ago, but nowadays — in the last 20-30 years — the Czech companies just focused elsewhere. Now, they are starting to reactivate this continent to start exporting here as well.
“I believe there’s a bright future for the commercial relations between the Czech Republic and Colombia.”
– Pavel Eichner of CzechTrade
Finance Colombia: Where do you see areas for growth? Mining is an obvious sector, but where are the areas for growth in bilateral trade — not just for Colombian companies to find opportunities but also for Czech companies to open markets and do business here?
Pavel Eichner: Yes, definitely. At our stand, we had a video of Czech Republic and all its main industries, and it’s a very wide selection of products. What I see is that the potential is in modern technologies that can help us work with in every sector we can think of. And to work more sustainably and to work more effectively.
There’s a huge boom in the ICT sector, and nowadays, for example, we know that in Latin America a lot of companies still have problems with cybercrime and cybersecurity. That’s a sector that is very strong in Czech Republic, actually. If you know the biggest antivirus companies — like Avast, AVG, and more — most of them are from the Czech Republic and one is from Slovakia.
We are a big country in this area — and not only in the antivirus segment, but everything related with ICT. I think this is the future.
Finance Colombia: The services sector seems to be very strong, but what are some of the products? Obviously, at least in North America, the Czech Republic is famous for beer! And mining is a key sector, but what are the areas that you really would like to gain more exposure for the Czech Republic when it comes to exports and opening up new markets?
Pavel Eichner: I’ll tell you of course the ICT segment comes first. But, for example, in the construction sector, we have a lot of companies that not only focusing the construction itself but also in design and functionality of construction.
We can speak about the smart technologies for smart cities for city mobility. Last year, we actually had a delegation from Colombia — from Medellín, Bogotá, and other cities — to the Czech Republic and they had a look at our public transportation system: the trams, the trains, and more. The ability to communicate everything will very much help here in Colombia.
There is a lot of exchange not only in products but also in the know-how. That’s where you have always to start because when you just buy the product, the desired effect doesn’t come. Because you don’t know how to use it correctly, right?
I think those will be the sectors, but really there’s a very wide range of opportunities.
Finance Colombia: Overall, what are your impressions of being stationed here in Colombia? How have you enjoyed the experience, the weather, and everything about being stationed here?
Pavel Eichner: Colombia is a very nice country. I’ve been before to Mexico and some other countries, and I very much like the development they have shown in the past year in a lot of systems. For example, the social systems that they are implementing help a lot in growing the country and helping to create a better life in Colombia.
Of course, you mentioned the climate. I’m stationed in Bogotá, and I believe that in the last six months I think there was one day without rain! But that’s something that that you that you have to get used to.
I especially enjoy the interest the Colombian companies are showing in learning new things. That’s what we do and that’s what I think we are here for. I believe there’s a bright future for the commercial relations between the Czech Republic and Colombia.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.