The common association of Medellin, Colombia with “drugs,” and “homicide” has been out of synch with reality for years. I recently spent a week in Medellin with various entrepreneurship organizations and the Mayor’s office and saw with my own eyes that “dynamism” and “entrepreneurship” better describe the city that Mayor Sergio Fajardo began to revolutionize in 2003 with beautifully designed new public libraries set in the rankest barrios, replete with advanced IT, and alongside micro-lending programs.
Fajardo’s administration has coalesced a strategy of inclusive prosperity with a coalition of universities, new private equity funds, the non-profit ProAntioquia Foundation, the local power utility (EPM) and other large companies, a social cooperative, Comfama, private entrepreneurs, and some diaspora Medellinians, to support the development of an environment conducive to entrepreneurship. Although I don’t think the numerous innovation centers will directly lead to vibrant businesses in the short run, they send a strong signal to the public legitimizing Emprendedoress. Fajardo’s strategies, including a whopping 40% budget earmark for education and $17 million a year to stimulate entrepreneurship of various kinds, are successfully driving out drugs, creating optimism, and have reduced violence to where Medellin is safer than Washington D.C. and many major US cities.