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An invisible economy in Latin America and the Caribbean?

This is a guest post by Felipe Buitrago, consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank, related to his awesome new book about the Orange Economy. I plan to write more about this later, but take a look first.

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The overnight expansion of Nigeria’s GDP by 89% on Sunday April 6th would be the most dramatic economic improvement in history by any measure, except that it was merely a statistic update of the base year from 1990 to 2010, as explained by The Economist. However, the nature of this statistical adjustment comes with a one-off opportunity to visualize the dramatic impact of new technologies and the direction they are taking the overall economy, in Nigeria, in Africa, and, indeed, the whole world.

What calls my attention is that two of the new big players in Nigeria’s economy are communications and films; both were practically non-existent 30 years ago. Combined they represent almost 11% of Nigeria’s GDP in 2013. Communications takes the lion’s share of this ‘new’ economic engine, but with 120 million mobile subscribers it could not be expected less. What is relevant, is that today most of this subscribers are using ‘dumb-phones’, but rapidly catching up with a growing market for ‘smart-phones.’ Combine it with the fact that Nollybood is nowadays the largest global producer of feature films in the world, and make the math for the potential of this combination in the next five or ten years.

But, what does this have to do with Latin America? Well, that marriage between the new technologies and creative contents for tablets, smart-phones and the oncoming “wearable gadgets” like Google’s Glass, hold one of the keys for the regions 10 million youth that join the labor force every year. And that is pretty much the argument of my previous post on the opportunity of the Orange Collar Workers.

Making visible the potential of this marriage should not depend only in the serendipitous chance of a faraway country realizing and very outdated statistical system. It should be the objective of a conscious effort to build a truly Orange Economy.

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