Post by Gobi Dasu, founder of learningdollars.com.
President Vicente Fox is responsible for reducing the poverty rate in Mexico from 43.7% in 2000 to 35.6% in 2006. And as I am currently pursuing a PhD in HCI at Northwestern I had the pleasure of hearing his talk and meeting him.
1) Wealth Disparity in Mexico ranges from 20K per capita incomes in the North to 4K per capita incomes in the South
Although I was somewhat skeptical of this comment made by the ex-President, it is not implausible. The GDP per capita of Mexico is around 9K and the countries south of Mexico all have GDP per capita’s around 4K. I’m curious if there is a racial correlation as well. I have been to Oaxaca in the South, Mexico City in DF in the middle, and Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco in the lower North, and I must say that the trend somewhat agrees with what the President said, though I believe there must be nuances as there are dangerous and poor towns in the north particularly near the US border.
2) President Vicente has “American” blood and is part “American”.
I was shocked to see the President actually gesture that half of his body is “American” and the other half “Mexican”. He qualified that with saying that his grandfather is from Cincinnati. That being said it did feel more like an “Ich bin ein Berliner” type of comment, appealing to strong US-Mexico ties.
3) Manufacturing jobs are not going away from the US to Mexico, they’re going away Period.
I thought this was an apt point, though I wished President Quesada went further than just high level on “innovation”. There are tons of unemployed or underpaid mechanical engineers, civil engineers, and in general well-educated-in-math individuals throughout urban areas of Mexico that end up driving Uber or doing less tech-heavy work. I wanted to ask President Fox his thoughts on a startup niche that Mexico could compete well in and leverage all its underused talent without losing them to brain drain. I wanted to ask him whether this could propel Mexico from 9K GDP per capita to developed status of 15K GDP per capita. Unfortunately the questions were prepared in advance and there was no free forum. The man did seem like the kind of guy who would be down for free forum questions though.
4) Algorithms are power.
President Fox said “logarithms” but I’m pretty sure what he was talking about were algorithms when he described how tech giants are able to tell us what to do and give us exactly what we want. He in particular emphasized the importance of individual liberty and ability to choose independently as opposed to on the whim of an algorithm or government.
5) Mexico and Latin America are rising.
This comment was interrupted by roaring applause, started by the fellow behind me.
President Fox said that no matter whether the trade partner is the USA or China or the rest of the world, Latin America is rising up growing at at least 6% per year. I thought this was a great comment, though I would have loved to hear more about cutting edge technology, industry, and advanced research. He did a great job presenting Mexico’s strength in agriculture and manufacturing. I believe however, in addition to these traditional disciplines it will be important for Mexico to leverage its relatively well-educated population (compared to South Asia, Africa) to compete in Information Technology and the Healthcare Industries (beyond pharma manufacturing), because that’s where the money is at today. It would have also been good if he touched on PROGRESA and conditional cash transfer as a way to train millions of Mexican youth in STEM fields. Still, the overall sentiment of his talk and emphasis on innovation seemed to resonate with such specific missions.
6) Free trade between the United States and Mexico is important.
He said millions of Americans depend on agriculture grown in Mexico and that a million plus grain farmers in the US depend heavily on Mexican customers.
7) President Fox is 76 and very happy, able to enjoy each moment of life. He is a philanthropist and major influencer in Latin America and perhaps based on this talk all the Americas.
What do you think can happen in Mexico? Can we take the ex-President’s vision and translate it to a more modern tech-heavy context and market? Can well-educated “hipster” developers in Mexico City help train millions of Mexican youth into software engineers? Can they together “eat” traditional industries and make that last 6K per capita GDP growth happen so that Mexico can achieve developed status?
BTW, if you’re a software developer in Mexico or Latin America reading this, please apply to join the Learning Dollars talent network, apply here: learningdollarstalent.com/apply.