It’s already been a year since the so-called D17, a transcendental day in which the governments of the United States and Cuba announced to the world the decision to reestablish diplomatic relations and move forward in a process of normalization that leaves behind the embargo and hostility. Today the island’s market looks very interesting for US investors and businesspeople.
The University of Pennsylvania and Momentum, Knowledge@Wharton, in collaboration with OnCuba, organized last November a four-day trip for US businesspeople as part of the Knowledge Mission, an initiative to explore investment possibilities on the island.
Wharton has coordinated an important conference series on Cuba in which I have participated as a lecturer: the Cuba Opportunity Summit, the US-Cuba Corporate Counsel Summit, and the Infrastructure, Finances and Investment in Cuba Summit.
I had already told my friends about Wharton and Momentum, that it was indispensable for the participants and protagonists of these conferences to visit Cuba. One cannot speak seriously about a country and even less about possibilities and intentions to invest in it without getting to know it, take it in, exchange with its people. It is necessary to understand who we are as a nation, as a people, our culture, idiosyncrasy and to have contacts and talks with officials, especially with those in charge of carrying out the economic reforms and with those responsible for foreign investment.
Wharton listened and came to Cuba with a group of executives, businesspeople, investors and representatives of some of the most important US companies. I had the opportunity of accompanying them during the entire trip and during the intense meetings, getting to know them – I already knew the majority -, interacting, observing them while they got to understand Cuba. After almost a week I saw they were convinced about some fundamental things:
That it is not a question of arrogance when we say that Cuba is a marvelous, useful, fertile country in every sense. That, as I have said many times, there are countless opportunities. But Cuba is a country with very peculiar characteristics where, for example, money has less value than trust; and trust and human relations are vital to bring to fruition an investment endeavor. That a harsh and real embargo exists – they had no idea about the consequences -, with a harsh and real impact not only on macroeconomics but also on those who are worth the most: the Cuban family.
In my opinion, the in-depth knowledge acquired by these businesspeople after this visit to the island was the most important “asset” – speaking in accounting terms -, the “essential value” for the opportunities, is and will be the persons in Cuba, the people, the protagonists of the changes.