Nicaragua: Doing business & staying in touch

Doing business in Nicaragua

Suits are usually worn for meetings at financial institutions but a smart shirt and trousers/skirt are acceptable for all other meetings. Punctuality is important, although typically meetings start late. Small talk is an integral part of most meetings but topics such as politics, religion or socioeconomic issues are best avoided, and the host should be left to turn the conversation to business. Meetings tend to end naturally rather than at a set time, and it’s perceived as rude to rush off without stopping to chat. Knowledge of Spanish is an advantage, although many businesspeople speak English. Ask at the embassy for interpreter services. The best time to visit is December to April but bear in mind that hotels are often fully booked around Easter week, Christmas and New Year.

Office hours

Mon-Fri 0800-1700. Some offices close for an hour at lunchtime (around 1230-1330).

Economy

Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, with widespread poverty (42.9% below the poverty line in 2009) and an estimated unemployment rate of 7.2% (2013).

Inflation was at an estimated 7.4% in 2013, although GDP grew by an estimated 4.2%, largely due to an increase in demand for Nicaraguan exports and increased consumer spending at home.

The Dominican Republic-Central America-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) has been in effect since April 2006 and has improved export opportunities for many agricultural and manufactured goods. Close to one-third of GDP is derived from agriculture, timber and fishing, and livestock and dairy production has been growing steadily. Export products, especially coffee and gold, have benefited from the recent rise in international commodity prices. Around two-thirds of Nicaragua’s exports are to the US.

Struggling with a high public debt, Nicaragua has relied on a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The most recent programme ended in 2011 and they are currently in negotiations for a new programme. It also depends heavily on foreign aid and remittances from Nicaraguans living in the US, Costa Rica and elsewhere, which reached over US$1 billion in 2012. Foreign direct investment is also on the rise.

GDP

US$11.28 billion (2013).

Main exports

Coffee, beef, gold, sugar, peanuts.

Main imports

Consumer goods, machinery and equipment, raw materials, petroleum products.

Main trading partners

US, Venezuela, Mexico, Costa Rica, Canada.

Keeping in Touch in Nicaragua

Mobile phone

Roaming agreements exist with some international mobile phone companies. Check with your provider before travelling. Coverage is limited to urban areas.

Internet

Internet access is available in all main towns.

Post

Most larger towns have an Enitel telecommunications and postal office.

Post office hours

Mon-Sat 0900-1730.

Media

Nicaraguan media represents both pro- and anti-government views. There are several television networks and over 100 radio stations. Cable TV is available in most urban areas.

Edited by Jane Duru
Newsletter