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close this bookOpportunities for Advancement - Women and Industry (UNIDO, 1995, 20 p.)
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Women Entrepreneurs for Industrial Growth

In recognition that women have a high participation rate and disproportionately limited opportunities in certain major manufacturing subsectors, governments have been requesting assistance to foster their entrepreneurship. To this end, UNIDO has devised a thematic programme promoting "Women Entrepreneurs for Industrial Growth". The programme is being applied in a variety of subsectors and settings.

The thematic programme evolved out of an innovative approach to advancing entrepreneurship for women, which was developed in an experimental project in the textile sector in Kenya. An incubator environment was created, assisting individual women entrepreneurs through training in design, manufacturing, mar keting and managerial skills. Production equipment and working capital were also made available for an initial period on the project premises. Though the thematic programme draws from the experience of a number of projects, it was this highly successful endeavor which has provided the model.


The Pilot Project, Kenya: Assistance to Technical and Entrepreneurial Skills of Jua Kali Women in Textiles

Anticipating that 75% of all jobs needed in Kenya's urban areas by the year 2000 will be in the informal sector, UNIDO launched a project in 1991 involving women producing textile and related products in the "Jua Kali" or "hot sun" market. The sector was targeted for assistance because of its exceptional performance in creating jobs. Yet this back-record was being threatened by

limited markets and a glut of unvaried, low-quality products. The project aimed to improve women's entrepreneurial skills, product range and quality, and to expand their market possibilities.

The incubator environment was set up in existing well-equipped training facilities. The institution's existing programmes had hitherto offered no flexibility in terms of scheduling to accommodate women's multiple responsibilities. The course was designed to cause minimum disruption in daily life. Three days a week were spent in the training institution, and the remaining two were devoted to practical application through hands-on consultancies in the trainees' own businesses. The trainees' childcare expenses were covered by the project.


A 6-month training session was conducted. The participants gained experience in such technical areas as new product development, production techniques (such as tie-dye, batik, and use of leather in textile products), prototype manufacture and testing, quality control, and machine maintenance and repair. The business skills included product costing and pricing, market research, packaging, marketing, bookkeeping and management.

The project operated a scheme enabling the participants to obtain training material on credit for thirty days. The scheme was also a training tool. The trainees were taught how to increase the sum using it as initial capital. The project also incorporated a marketing strategy aimed at domestic, regional and overseas markets over a period of three years. Follow-up consultations in all project areas have also been provided.

The project has proved highly successful. It built the host institutions' capacities by training local trainers, and has set an on-going programme into motion. Since 1991, 370 entrepreneurs have graduated. 285 of the graduates have received assistance in domestic and export marketing. 835 new jobs were created as a result of improved and increased production. 50% of the graduates have received credit from

Training Programme for Women Entrepreneurs in the Food-Processing Industry

An extension of their work at home, food processing is a popular and promising subsector for women in small-scale enterprises. This thematic training programme is being conducted in countries on three continents. The programme aims at providing businesswomen with the entrepreneurial awareness, management skills and technical knowledge required for running a viable formal financial institutions, and many have entered export markets.

The project's legacy in Kenya goes beyond the Jua Kali textile sector. The textile project was the starting point for building up a team to provide a generic set of services adaptable to all Jua Kali sub-sectors. The team covers training in entrepreneurship and marketing, and services pertaining to credit. Technical trainers are brought in to cover specific subsectoral subjects.

The Thematic Programme:

This comprehensive set of services was the basis for developing the thematic programme for application in a variety of countries and subsectors.

The first step is to conduct a needs assessment mission, to determine which sector should small-scale enterprise in the food-processing sector. Based on a needs assessment, the programme manuals are adapted to each specific situation, and translated into the local language.


The programme is offered to national training institutions be targeted, to evaluate market potential, and to assess how the capacities of the available infrastructure could be built upon to provide adequate, sustainable support. Workshops are conducted to pinpoint the participants' needs and common concerns and develop strategies for addressing them. The strategies are planned and the training materials adapted accordingly.

The training is conducted in an incubator setting as described above. The subsequent phase involves use of equipment, access to credit, and marketing techniques.

This model has been adapted to local circumstances for application in different countries and subsectors, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. A project is presently being conducted in Tanzania. or small industry development organizations so that they will be in a position to run the courses with no outside assistance by the end of the project.

Tanzania, the country in which the programme is to date in its most advanced stage, provides a vivid illustration of its relevance.

The importance of the food processing sector in Tanzania exceeds the fact that it accounts for 25% of total formal employment in manufacturing and processing. Backward linkages to agriculture stimulate the local production of raw materials. Further, food production and processing address the most basic needs of the population.

87% of the women in Tanzania live in rural areas, producing almost all of the food, including cash crops. The failure to recognize and act on obstacles impeding women reflects the fact that women's contribution to the economy has, remarkably, eluded the statisticians. In particular, women entrepreneurs lack access to training and credit.

The Project

The needs assessment revealed important present and potential local and export markets, and the availability of raw materials. Nine different food product lines were identified as having good potential for Tanzania.

Tanzania's Small Industries Development Organization (SIDO) was selected as the project's counterpart. In response to the entrepreneurs' multiple needs, experts from institutions involved in Women in Development (WID) issues, entrepreneurship and management training, and food processing were also included in the project.

The 4-week Training of Trainers (TOT) workshop which ensued, involved 18 trainers from various public and private institutions as well as from NGOs, and was the first to be held in the country which combined both management skills and technological training.

The adapted Trainer's Manual offers guidelines for participant recruitment and selection, demonstrates step-wise how to conduct the training, and presents proposals for follow-up schemes. In addition to the technical manuals, the programme materials also include a manual on management and entrepreneurship development. The progamme manuals, available in English, French and Spanish, were translated into Kisuwahili and adapted to local conditions.


For the widely advertised first 6-week course, 17 women entrepreneurs were selected, each of whom were running a food-processing business as their main source of income. Trainers from the TOT workshop were able to test-run their newly acquired skills.

The programme takes a hands-on, learning-by-doing approach. A trainer therefore plays no traditional teacher role, acting instead as a facilitator. In contrast to the classical transfer of knowledge through lectures and demonstration, the essense of this concept is to stimulate awareness and offer experience. Practical exercises are conducted under the guidance of the trainers. A follow-up scheme has been established with refresher courses for trainers and counselling services for the entrepreneurs. The network built by the project also includes links to credit institutions, and manufacturers and suppliers of equipment.

At this date, the programme is still conducting training for Tanzanian women entrepreneurs. It is expected to contribute to income generation and job creation through increased quality, productivity, efficiency, and effectiveness in marketing. The success of this entrepreneurship development programme, presently being implemented as well in the Gambia, Central America, and Viet Nam, is perhaps most clearly reflected in the fact that preparatory assistance has been requested in seven other African countries, Latin America, and elsewhere in Asia.

Support to Women Entrepreneurs in SMEs and Micro Enterprises

Small- and medium-scale enterprises have been emerging as front runners in the race for the competitive edge in the private sector and on the global market. Precisely because of their size, SMEs have the flexibility to respond quickly to market changes and opportunities, to develop specialized product niches and to rapidly absorb technological innovations. Such enterprises bring about substantial local capital formation and contribute to improving local living standards, and are a dynamic mechanism for the development of competitive exports. Consequently, SMEs occupy a significant position in the industrial strategies of most developing countries.

Women have traditionally played an important role in this sector. Studies indicate that women are strongly represented both as owners and workers in manufacturing SMEs. In fact, they dominate three important subsectors, with a 91% participation rate in textile, clothing and leather production, 74.6% in food, beverages and tobacco production, and 62% in wood and wood processing (GEMINI, Maryland, 1991).

Because of their flexibility, SMEs are constantly called upon to upgrade technology, improve product quality and production efficiency. The main obstacles are the inability to mobilize resources on their own, and unsupportive environments which often continue to favour large industry. In addition to the business problems shared by all entrepreneurs, women are further constrained by socio-cultural practices, discriminating policies, limited education and legal status. These disadvantages are felt on a practical level in three critical areas.

Skills: Women often lack the skills required for entrepreneurial ventures. Whereas most development programmes operate almost exclusively at the grassroots level, what women entrepreneurs need is upgrading of managerial, technical and marketing skills in a particular manufacturing sub-sector to increase their competitiveness.


Technology: Small-scale businesses often use low-cost technologies which yield products of poor quality, and pose hazards to health and the environment.

Financial Support: Experience has demonstrated that women's loan repayment rates are much higher than men's, yet women still have a far more difficult time obtaining credit.

Entrepreneurship Development

UNIDO's programme for women entrepreneurs is designed not only to enable their greater participation in SMEs, but also to assist them to enter non-traditional, more productive and more profitable businesses and sectors.

Entrepreneurial ventures depend upon the ability to network, with insitutions providing support on the one end, and with markets on the other. UNIDO's interventions pivot around the formation of and support to women's SME associations, and the establishment of interactive networks among these associations and policy makers, technology, credit and training institutions, and potential business partners and markets.

UNIDO provides advisory services to governments to ensure that women have access to facilities and incentives available to SMEs and micro enterprises, and to industrial support institutions, encouraging professional women's representation in their decision-making bodies.

UNIDO offers innovative, tailor-made training programmes combining technical, financial, marketing, managerial and interpersonal skills. The organization also provides assistance in the development and transfer of environmentally sustamable and energy-efficient technologies as well as improved production techniques. Closer linkages and interaction with development finance institutions and the banking system are sought to negotiate innovative credit scheme arrangements better adapted to women's needs.

Examples of UNIDO's widely adaptable projects for support to SMEs are described in detail in this brochure.

Training Programme to Promote Women's Participation in the Modernization Process of China

Within the framework of China's economic readjustment, "Township and Village Enterprises" have become essential to sustainable economic development. These enterprises are small- and medium-scale collective businesses run by individuals and /or local authorities. As many as one-third of these enterprises are rural SMEs. They have had a spectacular impact on rural industrial production, and on job creation. This has been an important development for women in rural areas.

There is a relatively high number of women entrepreneurs and managers in rural township enterprises, especially in the textile and food processing subsectors. However, the introduction of the principle of competition in business has had adverse effects on them. Traditional attitudes about gender and profession still tend to prevail in rural communities. Consequently, in this increasingly competitive atmosphere, women's access to business and management training opportunities, as well as other resources, is diminishing.

In cooperation with the All China Women's Federation (ACWF), UNIDO has launched a programme to develop a comprehensive "Model Training Package" for women township entrepreneurs.

The goal of the project is to provide the ACWF with tailor-made programmes based on modern management knowledge and teaching methodologies, and local trainers prepared to conduct them independently, without external financial or technical assistance.

The "Model Training Package" is being written in Mandarin and designed to address the specific needs of Chinese women entrepreneurs/managers. The course offers experience in production planning, financial management, quality control and marketing. Emphasis is also placed on applying environmentally sound technologies and processes. The course also aims at strengthening the entrepreneurial attitude and self-confidence essential for success in endeavours involving risk-taking, innovation and initiative, and coping with external constraints.


The Project: A preparatory mission was conducted over a period of four months in which participants were identified and training needs assessed through enterprise visits, interviews and questionnaires. During this investigatory phase, two international specialists conducted a one-week needs assessment workshop in Mandarin with a group of 25 women entrepreneurs from Beijing and from the Hebei, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces. Four areas were pinpointed as being of particular relevance: international marketing, strategic management, human resource development, and finance and accounting. The exercises, discussions and evaluations provided essential input to the materials for the Training of Trainers course.

A TOT workshop was then held for 30 Chinese trainers for three weeks in Beijing. Participants received instruction in modern training methodologies and new management methods, and in the preparation of courses and materials. This activity-oriented programme was augmented by a week of visits to factories and discussions with factory managers in Singapore. The interaction between the international consultants and the new trainers is, along with case studies, the most important source of additional inputs for the adaptation of the training modules and methodologies. Three field tests are foreseen in Beijing, Heibei and Shandong, to finalize the training package.

As a result of the project, the training programme will be adapted for, and replicated in, rural areas throughout China to promote female entrepreneur-ship. As the adjustment to new competitive markets is relevant to women entrepreneurs in economies in transition in general, the training programme approach could be replicated in other transitional economies in Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and in CIS countries.

Development and Transfer of Appropriate Technologies

Whether it is for the purpose of milling grains or designing aeroplanes, women need access to new and improved technologies. For women in informal production activities, appropriate technologies can simplify daily work and create or improve income-generating activities. For women in the formal sector, technological know-how enables them to remain competitive by keeping apace with changing skill requirements.

UNIDO has long experience in providing support for the acquisition and dissemination of clean, appropriate technologies to countries at every stage of the development process. UNIDO provides advice to policy makers, and assists in establishing linkages between educational, R&D and science and technology institutions, and industry.

UNIDO's comprehensive, action-oriented interventions are directed at the informal and formal sectors, and rural and urban areas.

Technology and Rural Poverty Alleviation

The majority of women live in rural areas with little or no access to basic utilities and infrastructure. They are involved in traditional, informal production activities, and must often resort to rudimentary and time- consuming technologies, largely as an extension of their role in the agricultural sector. The importance of women for the development of agro-industries is reflected in the fact that most of UNIDO's programmes targeting women are focused on promoting technological and entrepreneurial skills in that area.


Technology can serve multiple purposes for women. UNIDO is involved in introducing improved technologies for the purpose of simplifying women's daily work. For example, technologies have been designed to improve women's traditional food-processing activities, which have not only alleviated the drudgery of everyday tasks, but have also opened up possibilities for generating income through the development of related activities, and the equipment's availbility for a variety of uses.


In rural and small-scale industrial sectors in particular, women users are encouraged to have training in equipment operation, maintenance and repair in order to keep control over new and improved technology.

UNIDO's technical cooperation projects integrate income generation activities, administration and training, and facilitate credit reimbursement schemes to make technologies affordable to users which render their activities safer and more efficient, and their products more competitive.

Technological Development and Changing Skill Requirements

On the basis of extensive, on-going subsectoral studies conducted by UNIDO, recommendations are being made to governments, women's organizations, various intergovernmental organizations and NGOs, on how best to address the effects of technological changes on skill requirements at policy and institutional levels, and on how to prepare women to meet them. The short- and long-term impact of private sector policies and privatisation strategies are also considered with a view to minimizing negative effects on women.

Development and Dissemination of Appropriate Food-Processing Equipment for Rural Women in Sub-Saharan Africa

Women in rural Africa work consistently longer on tasks related to food production than men, yet for the most part they are not targeted for technical assistance.

The hulling and grinding of grains is an exclusively female task almost universally, and among the most time-consuming and physically exhausting daily chores in West Africa. But the introduction of cereal-processing machinery such as mills and hullers have not solved the problems women face, due to the costs involved in purchasing, monitoring and operating the equipment. Usually the equipment is not used for more than a few hours a day, thus generating less income than its operating expenses.

In 1988, UNIDO undertook an exploratory mission to Mali and Burkina Faso to examine what appeared to be a two-fold problem - how to alleviate women's arduous daily work, and how to initiate viable income-generating activities. In fact, they pivoted on the same solution.

This project's purpose was to design and test appropriate technologies for alleviating daily chores, and to devise ways to utilize the equipment for income-generating activities. Members of women's associations were trained to run and manage the equipment and business effectively.

Nuts and Bolts: This project offers a detailed view of what is meant by "appropriate" technology. Because of the difficulty in supplying spare parts for and maintaining foreign equipment, ways should be found to ultilize local resources and produce and maintain the equipment locally. The equipment must be accessible, that is affordable and not involve extensive training for its usage, and utilize inexpensive sources of energy. Another important feature is the appropriateness of technology to nutritional customs, traditional working habits and social work structures. There were also socio-cultural factors to account for. The assessment team's sociologist confirmed that as soon as a new technology is introduced and profits can be made, it is taken over by men.

Multifunctional Equipment: One of the project's great imaginative, resourceful entrepreneurial achievements was the introduction of "multifunctional" equipment usage in order to increase the sustaina-bility of the activities. A pilot multi-purpose trailer was developed, consisting of a basic huller and grinding mill, oil press, generator, and motor. During the milling and hulling period, the trailer can serve as a power source for recharging batteries, pumping and distributing water, and operating oil presses for shea butter, ground nuts or pourghere. The oil extracted from pourghere can also be used as fuel for simple diesel engines. Outside the milling/dehulling period, the equipment can provide power for a variety of small electric tools and machines. These other activities in fact cover most of the running costs of the equipment, thus making it affordable.

The equipment adapted by the project was based on women's traditional processing techniques, so it remained in their hands. The project insisted in fact that all related responsibilities be conducted by women, and that they maintain control. Men also use the equipment as a power source, and have been subcontracted for artisanal work such as the manufacturing of equipment and spare parts.

The Run of the Mill: The project was mainly oriented toward communal utilization, and was therefore addressed to village women cooperatives. The project aimed at stimulating and strengthening community organizations, improving their position in the village at large, and encouraging other joint activities. The participants were trained in ownership, administration, and operations, control of funds, and basic management principles. Further assistance was also given in starting other related business activities, enabling them to utilize or purchase the equipment. To this end, the project field-tested a system for a revolving fund which closely resembled the traditional savings structure.

Over twenty pilot multipurpose trailers have been designed and produced, fostering various related activities, services and employment opportunities in non-agricultural sectors as well. It has brought about a development impetus in villages which is usually only available in towns.

Environment and Energy

The role of women in the management and protection of the environment has assumed a new dimension with the recognition of the position they occupy in the 'environment-development equation' as expressed in the Rio Declaration.

Women are usually concentrated in low-level positions as workers where they are at risk of being exposed to serious health hazards, or as entrepreneurs in small-scale industries where there are often no available alternatives to unclean technologies.

Women are also major consumers of industrial products. In their role as household managers and primary purchasers of food and consumer goods, they are responsible for a multitude of consumption decisions. Since they bear the main responsibility of raising children, they are also instrumental in teaching the present and future generations the economic and social benefits of ecologically sound development.

UNIDO addresses the role of women in manufacturing and ecologically sustainable industrial development by examining and providing advice on issues related to health, safety and working conditions of women workers, and by developing and disseminating appropriate energy-saving, environmentally sound technologies. These issues are addressed in three ways: Awareness creation: UNIDO is promoting databanks to ensure that businesswomen in the manufacturing sector and other women's organizations have access to information on environment- ally sustainable production methods. UNIDO is also prepared to conduct training programmes, workshops, awareness creation meetings and campaigns related to the protection of the environment and new and renewable sources of energy.


The immediate environment: Community organizers are being advised on organized waste management, and on developing economically viable activities reusing and recycling solid wastes.

With regard to women's prominent role in agro-industries, UNIDO has planned activities offering training in enhanced techniques for waste and byproduct utilization and prevention of pre- and post-harvest losses. Assistance can be provided, for example, in producing biogas or biomass from household waste and organic waste from food processing activities.

Production activities: New and renewable sources of energy are being promoted and disseminated. Solar energy use is encouraged in food processing, and clean technologies are being introduced in other manufacturing activities, such as in wet processsing and dyeing methods in the textile and garment industry.

UNIDO is taking measures to ensure that women producers benefit from the clean technology centres it is establishing in developing countries.

Women in the Mainstream: Regional Hides and Skins. Leather and Leather Products Improvement Scheme

To promote the continent's leather industry, UNIDO launched a regional programme jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC) in 1989. The sector was targeted for assistance because of its great economic significance, its deteriorating position, and its enormous unexploited potential. The primary aim of the project was to improve the quality of hides and skins, leather and leather products both for domestic and export markets. The programme was composed of an umbrella project and national projects in ten countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

The leather industry suffers, among other things, from a lack of trained personnel. Particularly because of its close association with the garments sector, the leather sector is attractive for women. Yet due to discriminatory attitudes on the part of employers and managers, and an almost complete lack of opportunity to acquire skills, the number of women employed as specialized workers, managers and entrepreneurs was very low. In 1991, a Women in Development (WID) compo- nent was introduced into the programme as a necessary measure to build a skilled work force for the leather industry and improve women's opportunities in it.

The WID Component

The first task of the WID expert was to identify appropriate measures and activities to enable women to benefit fully from the programme.

The assessment of training needs led to the preparation of training programmes integrating entrepreneurship, management and technical skills. A campaign was also conducted to create gender awareness in the sector by sensitizing managers, employers, project personnel, and industry associations. This campaign culminated in workshops and a major seminar, analyzing women's employment patterns in the leather sector, as well as legislative and socio-cultural factors which influence their involvement.

The WID expert identified prospects and constraints for women in the leather industry and made recommendations in both a regional overview and case studies for each country. The studies were undertaken in the enterprises participating in the project.

The expert found that in Ethiopia or Sudan, for instance, women also work in tanneries, which are regarded elsewhere as an exclusively male domain. In the other countries, most women are confined solely to stitching and making leather products. Interviews with tannery management in these countries uncovered prevailing attitudes such as certain activities being unsuitable for women, and assumptions such as men and women being incapable of working side by side. The approach of the WID project was to intervene directly to initiate activities for integrating women in the leather industry. This often involved convincing factory managers of women's equal capabilities, and persuading them to offer women training and jobs. In one such instance, a group of single mothers were trained and then employed by a footwear producer in Zimbabwe. Another footwear producer in Zimbabwe trained a group of women for two months, and then offered them a subcontract. The project provided them equipment on a revolving loan fund basis. The group has become a cooperative, and produces 120 pairs of stitched uppers per day for a local factory.

The WID project also located women entrepreneurs and incorporated them into the leather projects in their respective countries. Three particularly promising women entrepreneurs were sent by the project for training at the Central Leather Research Institute in Madras, under the condition that in future, they would employ women.

The WID project has helped to increase the actual number of women involved in the African leather industry and to expand opportunities for them.

Participation of Women in Manufacturing: Patterns, Determinants and Future Trends. Regional Analysis. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)

UNIDO's global patterns typology study on the participation of women in manufacturing (1992) is a unique achievement in the evolution of a systematic approach to data collection and analysis for identifying strategies and plans of action to advance women's participation in industrial development. One purpose it serves is to enable comparisons among groups of countries sharing similar characteristics, with regard to gender issues and actions taken to address them. To provide a more specific strategic basis, five regional analyses have been conducted, with plans of action projected up to the turn of the century. These are the only existing studies of this kind.

The ECLAC Region The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Study is presented here as an illustration of the approach. Women's participation in economic activities is determined by interdependent relationships between economic, social, demographic, traditional/cultural/religious, and legal/institutional systems. Variables and indicators were used to characterize the situation of women in each of those systems.


The multivariate statistical techniques which were used made it possible to group the countries into five clusters that correspond to five different patterns of female participation in manufacturing. These patterns were projected against regional economic and industrial trends expected up to the year 2000. Constraints on and possibilities for enhancing women's participation in manufacturing and in the systems which support this participation, were identified for each group, and pattern-specific strategies and plans of action were then developed.

A Sample Country Cluster:

A closer view of one of the clusters will provide a picture of the kinds of factors taken into account, and some of their implications. The countries in Cluster 1, namely Argentina, Chile, Panama and Venezuela, have an established industrial base and a relatively high level of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. However, the structure of the manufacturing sector is atypical for the region, notable in particular for the absense of strong textile and food sectors. The participation of women in manufacturing is correspondingly well below the regional average. However, that participation is diversified, and includes high technology branches. The group shows the highest female primary enrolment rate in the region, but only average figures for the representation of women in parliament. For the social climate with regard to women, the level of gender sensitization is indicated by such factors as what international conventions have or have not been ratified. This cluster has approved a good number of international conventions; however, for the most part the recommendations have yet to be put into practice. Trends for the future are indicated by factors like trade agreements. Recent regional trade treaties are predicted to promote growth in the services and manufacturing sectors for this country group, and the strategies proposed in the study aim at women being able to take full advantage of this growth.

The overall strategies for Argentina, Chile, Panama and Venezuela centre on promoting the recruitment of women for the productive sector, providing support services for women to achieve equal access to employment, and improving their qualifications through needs assessment and training.

Plans of Action: The overall strategies designed for each cluster are augmented by detailed plans of action. They are consolidated in a table to facilitate regional coordination, so that a greater impact may be achieved.

The six systems considered in the conceptual model have generated six areas of activity: studies, legislation, sensitiztion of the entrepreneurial sector and of society, support mechanisms, human resource development and industrial infrastructure. A set of interrelated industrial activities was identified for each cluster, that in itself constitutes a programme of action to be undertaken by UNIDO together with other national and international organizations. UNIDO is in the process of translating these proposals into programme initiatives.