Opportunity Cuba: Return on Social Investment


As the nearly 55 year embargo against Cuba comes to an end we are left speculating what the future for economic cooperation might be. We are years away from seeing a Cuba as a robust “near-shoring” option like Costa Rica, but early, sensible efforts can help speed the transition. Without knowing the intricacies of the political breakdown we can observe several maxims that have helped many businesses succeed in other developing economies worldwide.

Cuba is not your personal money tree.

The old methods of plundering developing countries for resources are nonstarters. For Cuba to be a vibrant economic partner American business must enter into the theater with good will in mind. Any successful interaction with Cuba must be a social enterprise; helping to build the infrastructure needed for Cuba to be self-sustaining.

We’re not the only guest at the dinner table.

Despite this being a fresh new market for U.S. companies, other countries have been conducting business with Cuba during the entire embargo period. Going into Cuba thinking that you are the only game in town is a strategy for failure. Do your homework, know who the players are. Likely your industry is a very tightly knit clique that runs on deeply held, decades long relationships. Remember this fact when you consider options in Cuba… the barrier to entry is likely higher than you anticipate.

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We Americans have a bad reputation for hubris, we like to think that we have all of the answers. Not to mention, as America has transitioned into a services based economy, “having all of the answers” is our business model. Moving into Cuba with any plan that dictates the future will not work. A more effective strategy comes out of the trending desire for collaborative commons. American businesses can play a crucial role in partnering with Cuban business leaders, fostering exciting ecosystems of young innovators and administering micro financing for local entrepreneurs. Also, do not be blind to the reverse innovation- the lessons the Cubans can teach us about business.

Understand: these efforts will not bear immediate fruit. But, five, ten or fifteen years down the road when Cuba is a strong economy and a strategic economic partner, your company will see a compounding Return on your Social Investment.

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