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January 21, 2015

Cheering on Businesswomen Who Support Industry Clusters in the Philippines
JICA provides training in Japan for Filipina entrepreneurs and managers

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JICA recently held training in Japan for women expected to be central to industry clusters in the Philippines.

Today we are in what is being called throughout Japan a revitalization of regional industry. Traditional methods of promoting regional industry that rely on luring large companies to rural areas are not working. Experiments in so-called industrial clusters are moving forward in various parts of Japan.

These are “from within” initiatives in which regionally established small and medium sized companies, universities, research institutions and the like form their own independent networks and promote voluntary innovation like in the Silicon Valley, the center of the IT industry in the U.S.

In the Philippines, small and medium-sized companies account for 90% of the total number of firms, but their proportion of domestic production is lower than 40% because of the lack of an environment conducive to creating innovation and upskilling in such areas as business management techniques.

To improve this situation, first it is necessary to get stakeholders in clusters that include small and medium-sized businesses involved and clarify the skills individuals have and what the market needs. Then, by strengthening the connections among stakeholders, a foundation can be created for upskilling and innovation in the cluster as a whole.

In particular, it is necessary to devise a strategy and train personnel while keeping in mind the need to strengthen the value chain to effectively carry out everything from product development to procuring materials, manufacturing and sales.

Using the Japanese experience, JICA is carrying out an industry cluster formation project with the aim of promoting Philippine small and medium-sized companies. As one aspect of this project, women who are expected to form the core of Philippine industry clusters participated in a training session in Japan Nov. 5-15.

JICA is focusing on the activities of female entrepreneurs and managers expected to play an increasingly central role in industry cluster formation in the Philippines. Eighteen businesswomen, including Philippine government employees and entrepreneurs active in the handicraft work and information and communication technology clusters, were invited to Japan for women entrepreneur training and education. In the training, participants learned about characteristics of the Japanese market, Japanese business types and other information that could serve as hints in expanding Philippine businesses in the future. They also held discussions with women from Japanese companies who could be future buyers or partners.

Businesswomen participating in the Yokohama Women's Business Festival 2014 in Yokohama included some from Cebu City, which has entered into an MoU with the City of Yokohama relating to technical cooperation. The festival was the second joint initiative between JICA and the City of Yokohama in the field of assistance for women, coming on the heels of an African Women's Entrepreneurship Seminar held in January 2014.

Filipinas who finished the training said such things as "I encountered Japanese business ideas I can use in the Philippines" and "the opportunity to exchange views with energetic Japanese woman entrepreneurs and managers was motivating."

"The idea of figuring out market needs and then establishing 'satellite shops' for testing and developing products was eye-opening. In Japan it may be commonplace, but it is rare in small and medium-sized companies in the Philippines, so I would definitely like to try it," said Blesila Lantayona, assistant secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry's Regional Operations Group, who led the training.

“Seeing universities and research institutes jointly carrying out market research and product development with companies, and local governments proactively working to stimulate small and medium-sized companies was impressive. I felt that there is a need in the Philippines for industry, government and academia to strategically stimulate industry clusters," said Leonor B. Paningbatan, chief trade & industry development specialist in the Department of Trade and Industry's Region 3 office.

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