Dave’s Tip No1: Understand the local flow and do business with people who ‘get it.’

Graham Greene’s ‘Our Man in Havanais brilliantly funny.  Written in 1958, he takes the mickey out of the British secret service’s MI6.  They were shown up to be gullible and inept, falling for a Pommy bullshit artist, Jim Wormold, who fooled them into thinking sketches of vacuum cleaner parts were plans for a ‘supergun’.  The secret service lads were given the run around over a supposed Missile Crisis, four years before one actually happened for real.

I think I met the real Wormold on my trip to Cuba last week.  James (for that was his name), a Scotsman, sat next to me on the short flight from Cancun to Havana.  From his bag he proudly produced a stash of ‘Cohiba’ branded e-cigars. You couldn’t make it up.

E-CIGARS!!!!  Now call me an old traditionalist, I just about get the whole e-cigarette thing – helps you give up, only problem is you look like a dick sucking on a fairy-lit Christmas tree.

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America’s been caught napping in its own backyard.

If the US government thought their 55-year trade and financial embargo against Cuba would preserve Cuba for the United States of America they couldn’t be more wrong.

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Cuba’s internet is changing fast (it needs to).

I’m no fan of state owned telecoms companies.  They’re generally where ambition goes to die.  They stifle innovation.  And customers never get a good deal when there’s a monopoly.

But Cuba’s Telco chief Maya Arevich Marin, President of ETECSA, has rather impressed me.

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Can’t believe another year has gone by.  I’m not usually into dwelling on the past but 2015 has been a standout year.

I went to Cuba for the first time, fell in love with the country and the people, and realised there’s a gigantic opportunity there to create something sustainable, and to scale, that will benefit Cubans and global investors.  We’re building a fantastic business in Cuba, with some excellent local partners who have the rare benefit of being long-established and well-respected Cuban business people.  I anticipate great strides ahead in the coming 12 months.

I stepped down from the boards of my London AIM listed companies: concluding with, at the end of the year, AfriAg, Rare Earth Minerals, Bacanora Minerals, Inspirit Energy, and Evocutis (one of the AIM pioneers dating back to 2003).  Some people were surprised by this.  But I’ve never made a secret of the fact that my job is to rescue dying or dead businesses, nurture fledgling businesses, get them into shape and get them funded, and in due course hand over to long-term professional management teams for the next stage of their growth.

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Today is a big anniversary for Cuba.  One year ago to this day, Presidents Obama and Raúl Castro announced to the world that their countries would try to kiss and make up.

After the immediate euphoria it dawned on people that the world wasn’t going to change overnight.  After all, the US embargo is enshrined in law so it’s going to take Congress to do something about it.  And it takes two to tango.  The Cuban government will also determine the pace at which US relations ‘normalise’. And Congress is Republican controlled with a large, deeply entrenched anti-Cuba lobby.

On the US front there has been some progress including, in the words of the US Embassy, “the direct transportation of mail, the environment, regulatory changes and counternarcotics efforts.”  So far so good..

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In my experience, there are three types of people in business. Those that make things happen, those that watch things happen and those that wonder what the $*&@ just happened.

The last bunch don’t hang around for long. I’m in the first lot.

But anyone who tells you business is easy is either lying or trying to pick your pocket. Or both. Believe me, it’s damn hard. Spotting opportunities, working the margins.

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So what to make of the Cuban economy?

Back in the 50’s Cuba was a major trader with the world – exporting molasses, cane sugar, tobacco and coffee.  $2.2Bn to the USA alone, at today’s prices.

But the 55-year US embargo have taken its toll.

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My mate Gordon Mott was Chief Editor of Cigar Afficionado. And we both agree that a good cigar, a real Cuban Cohiba of course, has health giving properties and can be just what the doctor ordered at the end of a long day with a large glass of Cuba’s best Havana Club rum.

Did you know that Cuban life expectancy is approximately what you would expect in North America and Western Europe, and infant mortality in Cuba is lower than the USA?

And it’s a little known fact that Cuba has a surprisingly decent, if not a world-recognised health service and biotech industry.  And healthcare is free for Cubans, unlike much of the rest of the world.

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If you want a taste of Cuba – I thoroughly recommend you watch this.

Make yourself a cup of tea, put your headphones on, and be transported to one of the greatest countries in the world.

Through its representative offices in Havana, Travelwelcome and InCloud9 currently provides the bespoke services of a specialist Cuban ground handler which works with other specialist travel companies around the world to assist with tailor made trips in Cuba for their clients.

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Although Obama has struck a political deal to bring this wonderful country in from the cold, and Kerry announced to the world both countries will “stop being the prisoners of history”, the US embargo and travel restrictions are still in place.

In spite of this many American travellers have realised now is the time to go.

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