Susan Segal has been travelling all over Latin America since 1976, first as a banker, then as a venture capitalist, and for the past nine years as President and CEO of Americas Society and Council of the Americas, a hemispheric organization whose members include some of the most important global companies. Segal has seen the continent evolve from a region swamped by the debt crisis of the 80s and 90s to where it is today- a dramatic transformation that, despite the threat of a possible slowdown, "will not turn back."
Segal gets excited when she talks about the changes that have taken place in the region in the last two decades, many of which are still underway. "Twenty years ago countries such as Chile, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Peru were just focused on the macro-economic reforms. Much of that has changed," she said during a recent interview in her New York office. "The policy focus has widened to include challenges like education, social inclusion, and quality employment. Latin America is at a totally different stage of reforms and regional and global integration, through agreements like NAFTA and the Pacific Alliance, have played an important role in that process."
Transformation has also come and it's being reflected in the private sector. As a growing trend, the executive cites how "Latin American companies are investing all over the region and buying other companies in the United States, Europe and Asia." She points to examples in Brazil and Mexico such as Grupo Bimbo, Mexichem and Gerdau. She also speaks enthusiastically about the growing percentage of Latin Americans involved in entrepreneurial ventures like Argentine companies Mercado Libre and Globant, thanks to the development of an ecosystem that is increasingly supporting entrepreneurship in the region. "I get inspired when I think that very soon, some big innovative technology will come out of Latin America," she says.
Still, Segal recognizes that there are many challenges, and...