UNCTAD Empretec – Inspiring entrepreneurship

UNCTAD Empretec1 (UNCTAD, 2020) promotes entrepreneurship and enhances the productive capacity and international competitiveness of SMEs in developing countries. The Empretec programme is implemented through its national centres, established in 40 countries. Empretec’s core product, the Entrepreneurship training workshop, promotes behavioural changes that helps entrepreneurs put their ideas into action and helps fledgling businesses to grow.

One of the best programs I’ve ever been. It was an eye-opening experience for me because I realized what I have to do more to become successful (or more successful) in my business.Marcus Schmidt, CEO, Siedler Alarm

Empretec enhances entrepreneurial skills and competences

The objective of Empretec training workshops is to develop entrepreneurship. In practice, this means developing a set of specific competencies and practices that can be acquired and applied by entrepreneurs. Training is delivered by 600 local, certified trainers and by a pool of approximately 30 international, master trainers. All trainers are themselves entrepreneurs.

Target beneficiaries include micro, small and medium sized businesses; youth entrepreneurs; women entrepreneurs; and intrapreneurs2. The Empretec programme targets SMEs with a track record of good business performance, potential entrepreneurs with promising business ideas, and start-up companies with bankable project proposals. Training should lead to SME growth, linkages with larger enterprises including MNEs, job creation and increased investment. Empretec also supports and promotes entrepreneurship among women and provides tailored mentoring and training. The Women in Business Awards also contribute to realizing these aims.

Empretec trains managers or intrapreneurs to identify business opportunities. It also trains employees to adapt to changes, like downsizing or outsourcing, or those who have lost their job and would like to start their own businesses. Empretec also participates in the Global Entrepreneurship Week (Global Entrepreneurship Network, 2020) with the aim of inspiring young people to embrace innovation, imagination and creativity.

Empretec contributes directly to SDG 4 and its target 4.4 to substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship by 2030. It also supports SDG 8 and its target 8.3 to promote development-oriented policies for productive activities, decent job creation, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation and in support of micro, small and medium enterprises. In addition, Empretec supports the achievement of the 2030 Agenda more widely, as it contributes indirectly to progress towards SDGs 1 (no poverty), 2 (zero hunger), 5 (gender equality), 10 (reduced inequalities), and 17 (partnerships for the SDGs). See the UNCTAD Toolbox (UNCTAD, 2015) on entrepreneurship development for more details about the link between Empretec and the SDGs.

Entrepreneurs train entrepreneurs in Empretec training activities

Empretec has active training centres in 40 locations around the world. Since its inception in 1988, Empretec has successfully trained over 477 000 people, or empretecos, helping them to found or expand businesses and create jobs in the process.

Figure 1. Cumulative number of empretecos trained
(Thousands of persons)
Source: UNCTAD Empretec.

Since 2014, Empretec has collected activity and outcome statistics on a regular and systematic basis. Between 2014 and 2018, more than 4 000 workshops have been held at which more than 103 000 people were trained.

Table 1. Number of Empretec workshops and persons trained
RegionCentresWorkshopsNumber of people trained
2014 - 2018201420152016201720182014 - 2018
Sub-Saharan Africa177906 1446 9285 9395 1824 90929 102
Latin America and the Caribbean153 32612 29917 28014 94113 82814 85973 207
Central Asia112752196-72264
Western Asia3233659332-22512
South-Eastern Asia28-176---176
Total404 16919 00324 49821 12119 01019 862103 494
Source: UNCTAD Empretec.
Note: See appendix 1 for workshops per year and figures per country.

Latin America and the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for the bulk of this capacity development, accounting for 80 and 19 percent of the workshops, respectively, and 71 and 28 percent of all persons trained, respectively.

Map 1. Geographical distribution of Empretec training centres
Sources: UNCTAD Empretec.
VERY useful as it focused on me as a person. It forced me to take a hard and honest look at myself and the way I do things and defined precisely strong and weak points.Stephane Ferraton, Head of Procurement, Swiss Federal Railways in 2016

Empretec’s Women in Business Awards focus on women’s role in advancing the SDGs

In 2008, Empretec launched the Women in Business Awards for developing countries. The award is granted every two years to women who have participated in Empretec training to become outstanding businesswomen. Table 2 shows that African and Latin American countries account for the majority of entries (47 percent and 44 percent respectively). Despite a modest number of entries, Western Asia, in particular Jordan, has been very successful, garnering four podium positions, including two first places, in 2008 and 2014.

In 2018, civil engineer Uneiza Ali Issufo won the Women in Business Gold Award. She is the founder of ConsMoz Ltd., a construction company based in Nampula, Mozambique. She was awarded this prize for her commitment to quality, sustainability and environmental protection, as well as her pioneering leadership in a traditionally male-led sector. After participating in an Empretec entrepreneurship training workshop in 2017, Ms. Issufo was able to expand her business so that it now employs 800 people and lands large building contracts demanding top quality and green credentials.

Table 2. Women in Business Awards
RegionNumber of entriesNumber of
top 3 rankings
2008201020122014201620182008 - 20182008 - 2018
Sub-Saharan Africa1423101525251128
Southern and South-Eastern Asia00102141
Latin America and the Caribbean918261721161075
Western Asia123554204
Source: UNCTAD Empretec.

Empretec is a stepping stone on the way to more business activity

About half of the Empretec centres have followed up on the business activities of empretecos at three and twelve months after the workshops. Participants have been followed up on four measures: sales, number of employees, profitability of the participants’ businesses and number of businesses started among the participants.

Table 3 shows the average percentage increases reported by centres. The follow-up shows that after the workshops, empretecos have increased their business activity on all four indicators. Over the 5-year period from 2013 to 2017, the average increase over three months ranges from 12 per cent for the number of people employed to 25 per cent for the number of new businesses created. The corresponding numbers after twelve months are 34 and 38 per cent.3

Table 3. Business activity among empretecos after the Empretec workshops
(Percentage increase from baseline, at follow-up times of 3 and 12 months)
3-month follow-up
12-month follow-up
People employed1311814153744283327
New businesses10221544332737312963
Source: UNCTAD Empretec.
Notes: Numbers displayed are arithmetic averages of improvements (in percentage) reported by centers at country level. Reports that were not in the form of percentages are excluded from this average. On average the numbers are based on 8 reports (range 5–11). See appendix 2 for figures per country.


  1. Empretec is a Spanish acronym which blends emprendedores (entrepreneurs) and tecnología (technology). The term was introduced in Argentina in 1988.
  2. Intrapreneur refers to a manager within a company who promotes innovative product development and marketing
  3. Unfortunately, no control groups are available. Therefore, the growth figures presented here cannot be compared with enterprises in same sectors and size classes that did not participate in Empretec


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