Defence and security market in Colombia 

Industry highlights


GDP's allocated towards military expenditure in 2021


country in Latin America to become a NATO global partner in 2017


Total government budget allocated towards military expenditure in 2021


State-Owned-Entreprises managed by the Defence Ministry's Social and Corporate Defense Group (GSED)


increase of military expenditure in 2023

The security situation is Colombia is complex with a peace-process still in progress and on-and-off negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN), instability in territory previously-occupied by the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) due to drug trafficking, illegal mining, infrastructure-deficits and the presence of rebel groups, as well as the threat of heightened conflict in and migration from bordering Venezuela.

In Colombia, there are several nexuses between the defence/security and the information communication and technology (ICT) and infrastructure sectors. Foreign Direct Investment in Colombia's defence sector is prohibited, however Canadian companies have found creative ways to distinguish themselves in the market through innovative partnerships. The main government players include the four principle forces (Army, Air Force, Navy and National Police), the Ministry of National Defence, the Joint Command, and the group of 18 state-owned-entreprises known as the Grupo Social y Empresarial de la Defensa (GSED), which are run by the government at arms-length. Also, each major city maintains a defence secretariat and local component of the National Police, which manages purchasing independently.

Colombia's Ministry of Defence annual budget totals approximately CAD $10 billion. About 15% of its defence spending is allocated toward capital expenditures and acquisitions, with the remaining 85% spent on operations (salaries and benefits, training, etc.).

Key opportunities for Canadian defence and security companies in Colombia:

  • Aircraft: Army, National Police have procured Canadian aircraft. SATENA (a GSED company) has ongoing aircraft requirements as demand for tourism increases.
  • Shipbuilding design, engineering services, and components: Navy acquisitions for the on-going frigates construction (PES and POC), integrated coastal surveillance radar system.
  • Infrastructure: major projects led by the MoD: Cyber Agency, relocation of Cartagena Naval Base, repurposing of MoD-owned Hotel Tequendama.
  • Training & Simulation: out-of-country flight training for aircraft simulators, ground vehicle systems.
  • Ground Vehicle Systems: for all the Armed forces.
  • Remotely-piloted Systems & Autonomous Technologies: Army and National Police have expressed interest.
  • Information and communication technology (ICT): security monitoring and access solutions, computer-aided dispatch systems, secure communications.
  • In-Service Support: Canadian companies are leaders in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) for aircraft and ground vehicle systems and part replacement in Colombia.

Notable challenges for Canadian defence and security companies in Colombia:

  • A large percentage of the public service are contractors. Given the added regular rotation among uniformed officials, this situation means a frequent change of decision-makers, so maintaining and building business relationships is an ongoing challenge. Canadian companies are therefore encouraged to have an in-country Spanish-capable presence in order to navigate the market and build relationships with buyers and decision-makers.
  • Spending in defence and security projects often span decades and are susceptible to evolving domestic and international security risks, changing priorities, political maneuvering and economic factors, in particular commodity prices. Canadian companies invested in Colombia in the long-haul are often the most successful.
  • Law 80 dictates that Colombian government contracting agencies must select contractors through a public competitive bidding process (typically found on Colombia Compra Eficiente's website). There are a few exceptions to this rule established in Article 24 of Law 80, including government-to-government contracts.
  • Perceived corruption and lack of transparency are factors in commercial activities, and while the country is taking measures to address both, the systems for public tenders can still lack transparency and are not necessarily reliable. It is important that Canadian companies follow the tender process closely and bring to light any irregularities as soon as they are observed. It is often too late to raise concerns after the contract is awarded.
  • Foreign competition in the sector is expected to continue. The US is a prominent supplier in part given the political relationship and the provision of equipment and services through cooperation projects. Israel is also important. Germany, France, South Korea and China are also active. Since some foreign companies provide equipment and services at or below market value, Canadian companies are most successful when they are cost competitive, have a niche product or service not produced elsewhere or explore innovative approaches to partner with Colombia.

Colombian business landscape:

  • Colombia has adopted a policy that requires offsets for government defence contracts in excess of USD $1 million, worth 10% of the contract. The discharge period is 10 years and since FDI in the sector is prohibited, technology transfer is often the preferred approach for offsets. The offset policy is currently being reviewed and changes are to be expected in the next years (lead, calculation and focus could change).
  • Export Controls are governed by Section 3 of the Canadian Export and Import Permits Act, which gives the Government of Canada the power to establish an Export Control List (ECL) to control the export of military and strategic goods and technology. An export permit is required before an item included in the ECL may be exported from Canada, including to Colombia. This requirement enables Canada to meet international commitments, such as preventing the proliferation of missile technology and biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. For further details, see the relevant sections of the Guide to Canada's Export Controls Colombia is listed on Canada's Automatic Firearms Country Control List, which permits certain weapons without an export permit. For weapons, ammunition, and explosives, INDUMIL authorization is required for all imports.
  • Recently, the government-to-government model offered by the Canadian Commercial Cooperation (CCC) has been a successful vehicle to help position Canadian expertise and differentiate between competitors. The contracting process with the CCC is cost effective, flexible, timely, and comes with assurance of the Government of Canada that contracts will be performed as negotiated, guaranteed. In addition, the CCC has a memorandum of understanding with Colombia's Ministry of National Defence to facilitate government-to-government contracts between Canada and Colombia.
  • Most defence and security contracts are signed with government entities. While financing support could be incorporated into the contract, Export Development Canada (EDC) does not provide financing for the export of weapons and weapon systems. For non-defence related contracts with governments and government owned entities, depending on the credit worthiness of the buyer, EDC may require a sovereign guarantee before considering financing support.


Canada's defence and security relationship with Colombia is longstanding and consists of military cooperation, security capacity-building assistance, and commercial partnerships. Canada and Colombia are both represented by defence attachés in the other's country. Canada and Colombia have a memorandums of understanding (MOU) on defence cooperation (2012) and in 2009, the Canadian Commercial Corporation signed an MOU with Colombia's Ministry of Defence, allowing Canadian suppliers to equip the Colombian forces via a government-to-government contract.

Colombia is a priority hemispheric partner for the Canadian Department of National Defence (DND) and became a member of DND's Military Training and Cooperation Program (MTCP) in 2011. Under MTCP, the Colombian Armed Forces have access to training in areas that promote Canadian democratic principles. NATO and Colombia have concluded a partnership agreement with a view to strengthening dialogue and cooperation to address shared security challenges. Despite geographical distance, cooperation has been developing progressively since 2013 in a number of areas including military education and training, maritime security, good governance and building integrity.

Canadian Companies in Colombia

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