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The Best Industries in South America to Start a Business for 2021

South America has emerged as a fast-growing economy in recent years. With a growth rate of around 5.5%, the region promises consistent growth, rivalling the Asian Pacific

  • South American exports grew year-on-year totalling US510.5 billion in 2019, up by 10% from 2015. That’s roughly US$1,200 spent on exported goods by each person
  • Latin America leads in global obesity and is the fastest ageing region. 10% of the population was over 60 years old in 2010. This was 21% by 2020
  • According to Statista, international arrivals grew by 55% between 2010 and 2020 with most arrivals coming for leisure
  • Internet penetration in Latin America reached an all-time high in 2019 with 54% of the population connected to 3G mobile bandwidth network

South America has emerged as a fast-growing economy in recent years. With a growth rate of around 5.5%, the region promises consistent growth, rivalling the Asian Pacific. Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia drive the region’s GDP, so consider setting up your business in these three countries more. Here are the best industries to start a business in South America for 2021.

Language Schools: Spanish or Portuguese Schools for foreigners and English Schools for locals

Growth in tourism and expats settling in South America is increasing demand for Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese language schools and training programmes. The amount of overseas training programmes has boomed in the last five years.

International trade and foreign companies setting up South American offices are driving demand for English schools. Its the worldwide business language so is used in offices alongside Spanish and Portuguese. Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and Panama have made English learning mandatory in schools. Unfortunately, many teachers have low English proficiency, between B2 and C2, on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). Students want good teachers, so, anyone with good English language skills could set up a language school or private tuition and earn good money. 

International Trade Importing or Exporting

South American exports grew year-on-year totalling US510.5 billion in 2019, up by 10% from 2015. That’s roughly US$1,200 spent on exported goods by each person, of the 427 million South Americans in 2019. The spending is forecasted to continue growing over the next five years. 

Setting up an importing or exporting company will create huge profits. If you don’t have the finance to buy goods in bulk, cover transportation and storage, or pay international tariffs, you could provide consultancy services for traders. Anything from advice, linking exporters and importers with local partners or government departments, or offering IT, administration, finance, and marketing services will be lucrative too. Consider starting up or investing in Brazil (43.9%), Chile (13.5%), Argentina (12.8%), Peru (8.8%), and Colombia (7.7%) as these countries made up 86% of total South American exports in 2019.

Healthcare

Healthcare has been a strong and growing industry for over the last decade. The majority of companies focus on providing elderly, and fitness healthcare where demand is strong because Latin America leads in global obesity and is the fastest ageing region. 10% of the population was over 60 years old in 2010. This was 21% by 2020.

Global Elderly Population, source DHL
Countries with the Highest Percentage of Obesity in the Population, source DHL

Government and private sector healthcare spending grew massively with the COVID and Brazilian Zika pandemic. More countries looked at manufacturing their own medical equipment, instead of importing from Asia, which contributed 80% of all medical equipment in 2019. Startups or investors producing medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, and importing goods will make lots of money over the next decade. You could diversify by providing traditional herbal medicines which have a strong market in Peru, Venezuela, Argentina and Uruguay.

Travel and Tourism

South America is a vibrant continent with a great environment from beaches to jungles. This draws tourists from all over the world and has made some regions world-famous hotspots like Rio in Brazil, the Amazon across several countries, Chile Blue Caves and salt dessert, Galagapos in Ecuador, Mayan and Inca trail in Peru, and many more. 

According to Statista, international arrivals grew by 55% between 2010 and 2020 with most arrivals coming for leisure. Latina outbound travel to the USA especially continues to increase as middle-class wealth increases in South America. It reached 5% in 2018, and most people departed from Brazil (16.6%), Argentina (14.2%) Chile (14.9%), Colombia (11.6%), and Mexico (7.5%). Although South America lost US$230 billion from tourism due to the pandemic, companies that focus on starting up or investing in the outbound countries will make more money quicker after the pandemic, once borders and international travel opens freely again. 

Internet and Related Services

Internet penetration in Latin America reached an all-time high in 2019 with 54% of the population connected to 3G mobile bandwidth network. With this, the demand for internet-based services has increased, including for global brands such as Netflix or Prime streaming, or IT software like Microsoft.

Percentage of the Latin American Population Connected to Mobile Internet, source GSMA

The pandemic has only made us realise the importance of the digital world. With various businesses shifting to operating online-only, investing in internet infrastructure and related services is necessary. South America needs more international players and entrepreneurs to invest in this sector, particularly in providing content and services. Latin American has the highest scores for content and services after the USA and Western Europe, which is driven by e-Government, mobile apps and social media accounts made available in local languages.

Top Five Latin American and Caribbean Countries by Index and Enabler (2019), source GSMA

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