An imminent free-trading agreement with the USA puts Mexico's footwear industry in a position to increase its export trade enormously. The industry is dominated by small firms which are limited, however, by unstable supplies and little knowledge of the export market. This article, describing the results of a survey, reveals how some firms have attempted to overcome these limitations by developing backward and forward linkages with suppliers and with retailers. It also describes the important role of the associations of entrepreneurs in providing training, credit unions, and the exchange of information essential for the footwear industry developing as a system.
This article examines what can be done to support networking among small businesses when sectoral clusters do not already exist. A UNIDO project in four countries – Bolivia, Jamaica, Honduras and Nicaragua – has fostered networks among small businesses in a given subsector by preparing groups of businesses; consolidating groups and supporting an initial joint project; identifying weaknesses; and helping to implement joint strategic projects. Many of the changes in ways of working that have occurred have resulted in improvements to product quality and reliability, enabling the groups of businesses to move up market. Networks of businesses are also more easy to assist with training and other forms of support than individuals. Associations of networks can also represent their members' interests at the national level by lobbying.