Thursday, February 29, 2024

Discover Uruguay

Uruguay, a country with a population of about 3.7 million individuals, moderate climate, serene landscapes of countryside, rivers and beaches, and located at the southern corner of the South-American continent bordering its two large neighbours and the widest river in the world, is seldom making large ripples in the international press. We Uruguayans are aware of this reality. However, our country if often making headlines within certain specific areas which we are very proud of.

Let’s start with our most popular topic: football. This is a core cultural pillar of our society, which often harnesses passionate responses… even if sometimes a bit overboard. 

Whenever we hear the word ‘football’, the first thing that comes to mind is the name of many of our star players, such as Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Forlán, and countless others. Many people also remember that Uruguay was the very first World Cup Champion in 1930, when the tournament was held in Montevideo. With 17 FIFA international titles under its belt (2 World Cups and 15 Copa America continental titles), we are second on the list of countries with the most international titles. And if we take into consideration the Olympic Gold obtained in the discipline during the 1924 and 1928 games, Uruguay tops the list. 

Let’s continue describing the scenery a little more …. The territory of our country is mainly a landscape blessedwith a native grassland ecosystem, naturally irrigated, that has been feeding large herbivores for tens of thousands of years, and that sustains a unique and duly protected biodiversity. And this takes us to another essential aspect of our country (but surely less known by the public), that maybe, sometimes, makes my land seem like a “no country for vegetarians”: Uruguay is one of the world’s top beef producers and exporters, topping the list when it comes to beef production, exports, and consumption per capita. We export our premium quality meat to more than 150 markets, including those predominantly Halal markets such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Lebanon, with UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait in the pipeline. Even more noteworthy: Uruguayan meat is a luxury organic product by its own right, since 90% of our production chain is based on natural pastures (which also means that forests are not deforested), is carbon neutral, and reutilizes the methane gases it generates, in contrast to the global standards. On top of that, Uruguay took on the commitment to reduce its methane emissions by 30% during the latest COP26. 

When it comes to undertaking actions towards protecting the environment, our country excels in the generation of sustainable and renewable energies, positioning itself on the forefront when it comes to transitioning towards renewable sources, both regionally and internationally. Uruguay does not have natural sources of oil, gas, nor coal, and almost all the energy generated comes from sustainable sources, with around 50% coming from hydroelectric plants, 40% from wind farms, and the remainder divided between biomass, photovoltaic energy and solar thermal. 

As a result, in 2021 the country continued being the leading Latin American nation in the global renewable energy index prepared by the WEF (11th position globally). This same year, the Global Electricity Review recently carried out by EMBER – an organisation focused on the transition of global energies towards clean energies – currently ranks Uruguay among the top 15 nations globally, and 2nd when it comes to wind and solar energy generation.

In words of the group of international experts in renewable energy, REN21: “Uruguay is tremendously successful and an interesting case to analyse because it is one of the countries that has shown that it is worth having invested significantly in wind and photovoltaic solar energy.

Leveraging upon this strong foundation, our country is on track to channel these renewable energies into producing green hydrogen at a much lower cost than other countries with higher electricity production costs. In this sense a call for investors is expected to take place before 2025.

Uruguay has been on the spotlight internationally with regards to its effective dissemination of IT. In 2007, it was the first country in the world to provide a laptop to every primary school student – Plan Ceibal, Uruguay’s national One Laptop Per Child project. 

We are also the top software exporter per capita in Latin America, primarily towards the United States and Japan, covering multiple areas such as software development, business intelligence, financial software, management, logistics, construction, health, traceability, geolocation, e-commerce, and many other specific areas. 

An example of the capacity of Uruguayan software companies is Dlocal (NASDAQ:DLO), a first-technology payments platform that allows global business merchants to connect with billions of consumers in emerging markets, which last April announced operations in three countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia and the Philippines and Vietnam.

Since the year 2019, we are part of the Digital9 intergovernmental group, which comprises the governments of countries that are leaders in digital governance. 

In 2021, leveraging on its human resource know-how and internet infrastructure, Uruguay launched the government program called “Test Uruguay”, which seeks to highlight our country as an excellent location to test new ideas and innovative world-class entrepreneurial undertakings.

At this juncture, and trusting that this very brief summary will peek the readers’ curiosity to learn more about our country and its people, I wish to highlight a unique and key reality of our nation that fills us all with an unwavering sense of pride: Since 2008, Uruguay is one among only 23 countries in the world qualified as a “Full Democracy” (just 9% of the global population) according to the data published by “The Economist Intelligence Unit”. In its  “Democracy Index 2021” our country appears as the only full democracy in Latin America, in 13th place worldwide. This is a true reflection of the distinction made to our country for its low levels of inequality and poverty, for its high per capita income and almost total absence of extreme poverty. In relative terms, our middle class is the largest in the region, representing more than 60% of the population. This is the result of a ling and rich history going back more than 200 years, and despite its unavoidable ups and downs we have developed a deep sense of civic responsibility and a respectful approach to managing dissenting perspectives, based on a consolidated political party system that ranks among the oldest in the world. 

Always confident in our potential and our ability to continue to grow with our global partners, we look forward to welcoming everyone and help them discover everything Uruguay has to offer.

Juan Gervaso, Charge’d affairs, Embassy of Uruguay to Malaysia
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