ADEL Portrait : Julian Colombo, political advisor in Argentina
Aged 24 in 2011, he was already Chief of staff for Daniel Scioli, the Governor of Buenos Aires - the most populated province of Argentina, counting for 40 % of the total population with 16 million inhabitants. His main challenge then was “to be young in a relevant position”. He had to fight to get recognized and accepted by his elder peers, and succeeded with “the support of the Governor, through hard work and careful analysis”, he recalls.
He also remembers fondly one of his main achievements of his beginnings. He was part of a team that elaborated and implemented a reform, making free the fertility treatments for couples in his province. “Before the law passed in 2010, it was very difficult for couples to have access to these expensive treatments. Some families sold their cars and put a mortgage on their houses. My governor put up a team and we negotiated with the stakeholders in the insurance sector and the health system, to make sure the fertility treatments became free in the province”.
The launch of a new consultancy firm
Born in Buenos Aires in a middle-class family, he was supposed, as the eldest and only son, to take over his parents’ business, a small manufacture of oil and products for cars. He chose another path. After studying Political Science in Argentina and obtaining a Masters Degree in Public Policy at Georgetown University (Washington D.C.), he worked as a civil servant and a political advisor for congressmen in Argentina for 10 years.
Now, his father holds no grudge nor disappointment whatsoever. In December 2019, this 33 year-old young professional launched TANT, his own consultancy firm. “I was working for several people at once, he explains, so I decided to set up my own firm, so that there would be no conflict of interest”.
One of his main areas of expertise is the relationship between Argentina and Brazil, alongside with legislative and political affairs. “Brazil is our main trade partner. Brazil and Argentina are twin countries both in trade and politics, and we need to strengthen the ties in the productive sectors between politicians in both countries. We advise on how to overcome the political differences between the two current presidents”.
Another important side of his specialization is the Fintech sector. His firm is advising government officials in Argentina on how to deal with companies willing to develop digital wallets and online banks, in order to adapt the current regulations to the market trends in that sector.
A passion for politics
How did he fall in love with politics ? “Both of my parents are not involved, he says, but my geography professor in highschool made us take part in Model United Nations (Model UN or MUN). That’s how I started to get interested in international relations and politics.”
Julian Colombo can get “very upset”, when he sees “how some politicians from all parties manipulate the most disenfranchised people in order to get their votes, providing food and medicine during electoral campaigns”. But his head stays cool when it comes to the crucial topic of the rise of populism in Latin America. He makes his point clear : “I do not agree fully with the way Western professors talk about populism. Being in a country that has had many populist governments, I know the word might have a negative meaning, but some of these administrations have applied some of the most progressive social policies. There is a swing across Latin America between the left and the right : in the years before 2013 the trend was left, and between 2013 and 2018, it was going to the right. The region can swing again to the left, and I am not sure that the populist phenomenon is that simple”.
His fellow ADELs as role models
When asked about his role models, this keen reader of political biographies has only one name in mind : John F. Kennedy, for his approach to politics, youth and fresh ideas. Otherwise, he quotes his peers, “the African guys I’ve met in the Atlantic Dialogues Emerging Leaders programme (ADEL), because of their fight to provide basic needs, such as access to water, for instance. They are more prominent in my view than people with an actual seat at the table.”
When he joined the ADEL community in Marrakech in 2018, he was mostly interested in starting a network with Emerging Leaders from a broader horizon than his contacts, with people from Europe, North America and Africa. “I enjoyed the possibility of travelling to Africa and broaden my vision of public policies applied on the continent”.
He came to Marrakech with his two dreams, strongly intertwined. “One is personal and one is national : I would like to achieve being president of Argentina, in order to overcome the inequalities, especially for the youth. The current state of affairs affects educational opportunities, and I hope I will be able, one day, to solve this problem in my country”. In his opinion, and in his own candid words, he notes that what is really missing across Latin America is a “bigger commitment from the political and business elite to solve our issues. We have lots of people working on different matters, the same guys for 30 or 40 years, with no real political will”. Julian Colombo, a strong personality, is a name to remember.