Despite recent political and currency troubles, Brazil remains a key trade partner for Norway.
These ties were established back in the 19th century, when coffee was exchanged for codfish. Yes, Norwegians have been coffee lovers for a long time! Today, Brazil is the world’s sixth largest economy and one of the main markets for Norwegian business.
Norway is the fifth largest foreign investor in Brazil, largely due to the offshore an oil & gas market, although other industries play their part. More than one hundred Norwegian companies are operating in Brazil.
Innovation Norway opened an office in Rio de Janeiro to support this community and ease the process for Norwegian enterprises looking to internationalise.
There’s a strong community spirit between the Norwegian companies in the city, so much so that back in 2006 a group of them got together to form the social enterprise Dream Learn Work. The program offers young Brazilians from less developed areas a chance for a better future through education and training, contributing to meeting companies’ recruitment needs for qualified personnel.
Other companies and organisations operating in Brazil include the Norwegian Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, Inocean, Maritime Robotics, and Scana.
Helle Moen heads up the Innovation Norway office in Brazil and is a vocal proponent of investing in the country. She recently gave a talk on the benefits of doing business with Brazil at DIGS here in Trondheim. We caught up with her afterwards to ask some specifics:
How does Brazil fit into the Innovation Norway strategy?
Brazil is one of the main markets for Norwegian export companies, both within the offshore oil&gas, maritime and seafood sector. At the same time, it is a challenging and complicated market. It is also a prioritized partner for RD&I cooperation for Norway.
Therefore, as Innovation Norway is present in the main markets for Norwegian companies with the objective to help them succeed in the market, Brazil is still a strategically important country for Innovation Norway and the rest of Team Norway.
What is your role, and what's your typical day like?
I am the director for Innovation Norway Brazil, and also consul for commercial affairs at the Royal Norwegian Consulate General in Rio de Janeiro.
A typical day can span from discussions with authorities and organizations in both Brazil in Norway to very to-the –point and concrete discussions with Norwegian companies working in or considering entering the Brazilian market. I also spend time on presenting the market opportunities and challenges to those who are interested in learning more about Brazil – which is a lot of people, in spite of the obvious challenging situation in Brazil.
Can you tell me about some of the projects you're involved in?
Right now we are working on several events: A workshop on safety technology together with our Team Norway partners INTSOK and the consulate general during OTC Brazil, a subsea technology seminar the same week, and a market entry competence program called FRAM Market Brazil Subsea where 8 Norwegian SMEs are exploring the Brazilian market opportunities together. Also, we are planning for an official delegation to Brazil in November, headed by the Crown Prince and Princess, and a big business delegation will have several seminars during the visit.
What sort of Norwegian businesses should look towards Brazil?
Brazil is the world’s 5th largest country, and there are potential market opportunities in all sectors. However, it is also a complicated market, so companies wishing to do business in Brazil need to be aware of the challenges. Of the approximately 120 Norwegian companies in the market, about 75% are in the offshore/maritime sectors, and mainly based in the state of Rio de Janeiro. But we also have big industrial companies in other sectors, and see a growing interest in the seafood and ICT sectors as well.
Can you tell me about the Brazilian business environment?
Brazil is interesting, but challenging. On the World Bank’s Ease of doing business ranking, Norway is number 6, and Brazil is number 130. Thus, any Norwegian company trying to business here need to be aware of the differences, and seek support if they are unsure.
What are the first steps a Norwegian company interested in Brazil should take?
Learn about the market!
There are many ways of getting information, and contacting Team Norway, either Innovation Norway, INTSOK (Norwegian Oil & Gas Partners), Norwegian Brazilian Chamber of Commerce, the Consulate, the Embassy or the Seafood Council, is a good start. We are usually able to either help you directly or identify relevant advisors for you.
Also, talking to one of the many Norwegian companies already present in the market is advised, as their experiences are important to know about.
What is like living in Brazil and do you need to learn Portuguese?
Living in Brazil is great, and Brazilians are generally very friendly and easy to get in touch with. However, it is recommended to learn Portuguese, as English is rarely spoken outside the business community. And you will have a much more interesting stay in Brazil if you can interact with people from all walks of life.