United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO)


UNIDO is the specialized agency of the United Nations that promotes industrial development for poverty reduction, inclusive globalization and environmental sustainability.

Description of Activities on AI

Project 1: Empowering SMEs in Developing Countries through Artificial Intelligence

The initiative originates in the framework of the Inter-Agency Working Ground on Artificial Intelligence (hereinafter referred to as “IAWG-AI”), established during the 40th High Level Committee on Programmes (HLCP) session, and co-led by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). The IAWG-AI has the mission to deliver concrete outcomes on Artificial Intelligence (AI) aimed at enhancing UN system-wide policy coherence and programmatic coordination.

During the inception stage of this project, a gap analysis carried out by the HLCP found a lack of collaborative system-wide efforts on supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the field of AI. A further gap analysis found that the availability of knowledge products that support the adoption of AI by SMEs in developing countries is especially lacking. The recommendation was made to further efforts including identifying requirements that would be specific to AI businesses, compiling technical recommendations on conducting legal and policy assessments, and developing clear frameworks and guidance for Member States. This proposed initiative is a significant step in this direction, and it is key for us to note this gap in the market to focus work upon.

The purpose of this initiative is to improve the competitiveness and sustainability of SMEs located in developing countries by promoting their innovation and digitalization. By developing a set of Artificial Intelligence technical recommendations and a toolkit specifically tailored to SMEs in developing countries, the initiative aims at raising awareness on the potential of AI and fostering its adoption and application among the target group—SMEs in developing countries, with a particular focus on formal businesses as opposed to informal businesses.

Project 2: Promoting sustainable bush-processing value chains in Namibia

In Namibia, the vast majority of the population is engaged in agricultural production as subsistence farmers, yet due to low productivity levels, only half of the country’s food demand can be met through these activities, while the other half is met through imports. Since Namibia is one of the driest countries in sub-Saharan Africa, concerns about issues related to water management and shortages, waste generation and pollution are growing. In addition, the agricultural activities are threatened by bush encroachment, a form of land degradation that can be found worldwide, but much more frequently in arid and semiarid rangelands. While bush encroachment constitutes an immense challenge, it also provides opportunities: by utilizing biomass, agricultural productivity becomes storable, thereby strengthening the drought resilience of farmers.

The project’s aim is to strengthen important sources of food and income through processing and converting invasive bush species into animal feed and charcoal utilizing it in agricultural, livestock and water management practices. Direct outcomes of the project encompass provision of 4IR and digital tools in supporting targeted, responsible and sustainable bush thinning and subsequent processing leading to value addition and job generation. In line with the Strategic Action Plan launched in 2020, a convergence of feasibility and market intelligence study, NGGP, a special purpose production plant, is being operationalized for manufacturing of high-value livestock feed, coal, chips, Arabic gum and other selected products utilizing Acacia species. Through these measures, higher levels of agro-industrial productivity will be achieved, resulting in a better local and regional supply of animal feed, energy, and other bush-based products, that will further facilitate improved competitiveness, import substitution and exports of food, relying, inter alia, on better quality meat and dairy products.

Related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)