Colombia Human and Economic Geography 2006
State located in the northwestern tip of South America. At the census carried out in 1993 the population was equal to 37,664,711 residents, but in the following twelve years it increased by more than a fifth (an estimate of 2005 is reached to 45,600,000 residents). Infant mortality in the period 2000-2005 recorded a value of 26 ‰, furthermore illiteracy has not yet been eradicated (it was 7.5 % in 2005). The urban population is around 76% of the total population, but the urbanization process towards large agglomerations has been reduced in favor of the network of medium and small cities. The main urban center of the country is represented by the capital Bogotá and its agglomeration, which in 2005 had reached 8.35 million residents; followed by Cali (2 million in 1999) and Medellín (1.9 million), both industrial and commercial centers, while Barranquilla (1.2 million residents) remained the country’s main oil port. Administratively, the Colombia is divided into a district and 32 departments, 9 of which were established in 1991 in place of the previous intendencias and comisarías.
As regards the socio-economic indicators, if on the one hand an analysis is possible and can provide a broad picture of the demographic and economic situation of the country, on the other it should be noted that the official statistics, in the case of Colombia, do not reflect the reality of the territory: in this vast country, in fact, there are still several areas involved in episodes of civil war and controlled with difficulty by the central government, where informal activities, smuggling flows and illegal trafficking prevail that distort every calculation. The plan launched by the Colombian authorities to combat drug production has achieved positive results, such as the reduction of areas planted with coca, Indian hemp and opium poppy. The price paid, however, was very high, as the the use of defoliant products has created new and serious environmental problems and, in some areas, has even forced populations to flee. To these forced displacements were added those linked to terrorist and war activities, for which, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, within the Colombian borders there are approximately 2.1 million so-called internal refugees.
According to ebizdir, the economy has suffered from a long period of stagnation, not only due to the dramatic events that shocked the country, but also due to the international situation, particularly as a result of the slowdown in economic activities in the United States in 2001-02 and of the economic crisis in Venezuela, both main outlets for Colombian products. Growth was 2.5 % per year in the period 1990-2002 (but, outside this average value, GDP increased by just 1.5 % in 2002), and only in 2003 did they start to show signs of recovery, with an increase in GDP of 3.7%: the result is largely due to exports, favored by an improved level of raw material prices (except coffee) on international markets. In the productive structure, agriculture has traditionally played an important role, and contributes 14 % to the composition of GDP, employing a fifth of the total workforce. Many large companies (fincas) practice plantation crops, among which the main one is still coffee, even if the quantities produced have decreased (from 845,000 t in 1990 to 678,000 t in 2004); sugar cane, cotton, cocoa and bananas follow. Crops intended for internal consumption or for self-consumption (corn, wheat, potatoes) are instead grown by small and medium-sized farms. Alongside agriculture and livestock, a quality manufacturing sector has long established itself, essentially centered on the agri-food sector; however, there is no shortage of oil refining, steel and chemical plants, and the industry for the assembly of foreign motor vehicles is expanding. As regards the exploitation of mineral resources, oil production prevails (26.4 million t in 2004), the main deposits of which are located in the Magdalena valley, in the Norte de Santander and in Orito; natural gas and coal follow. Most of the commercial exchanges take place with the United States and with other countries of the Andean Community (Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia).