By: Thandiwe Kubere
The Basotho enterprises development corporation (BEDCO) hosted an awarding ceremony of three Basotho-owned youth agri-businesses with their equal share of M300 000 revolving fund. This is through the smart youth fund project which was officially launched in April 2022 with the aim of supporting youth and providing them with easy access to finance.
The smart youth project was founded in collaboration with Sekhametsi development trust and Lesotho post bank. Opening the event, the acting chief executive officer of BEDCO, Ts’epang Tlali, expressed his gratitude to the key players who made this ceremony possible with the common goal of creating a sustainable revolving fund intended to help small and medium enterprises in Lesotho. “This is intended to help them access funding that will aid and support their growing agri-businesses. The result of us being here today is to announce and award M100 000 to each of the three enterprises which have successfully met the requirements”, he said.
Tlali declared the access to financing as a remaining challenge to many entrepreneurs in Lesotho. “However, I firmly believe that through strategic partnerships of this nature between public and private sectors a lot more can be done to change this state”, he said. He thanked Sekhametsi development trust on behalf of BEDCO for supporting and injecting M300 000 required to bring this project to life. On that note, he acknowledged Lesotho post bank of their role as the integrational part of the project team and the work ahead on the management of funds.
He said he hopes each of the beneficiaries is aware of the work before them in their roles as the current and future contributors to the economy of the country. “I hope you will also take advantage of the incubation program because it is designed to help you make the most of the funds you have received and to guarantee that the businesses get the support they require to develop accordingly.” He further encouraged them to remain committed to their obligations as this will play a crucial role in ensuring the project will not be stagnant but help other businesses in years to come.
The project is one of the interventions under the BEDCO’s youth development project set to reduce the rate of unemployment among the youth and aiming to build a generation of entrepreneurs who can stimulate change and prosperity by becoming job creators as opposed to job seekers. The ultimate goal is to assist with access to finance and contribute in the economic development through the projects and incubation services.
Even though the main focus was on youth ranging from the age of 18 to 35, the project did not only target youth but businesses in general with the potential to grow and create more jobs. The youth development project manager, ‘Majubere Mofolo emphasized that there are businesses which are not particularly owned by the youth but have potential for growth and generate employment due to the exposure and experience that came with years in business.
After allocating funds to the beneficiaries, they go through the incubation process where they are assisted on how to utilize the funds they have received and get equipped with business development skills in order to run sustainable businesses. Mofolo said the funds are not grants which are just awarded to businesses. This is because the money has to be fully payed back and revolve to assist more businesses.
In order to minimize the risks, the initiative does not support potential ideas but enterprises which are up and have been running for a minimum of two years and have the potential to grow into bigger businesses. “We are focusing on existing and registered businesses. Our role in the projects as BEDCO is to implement, administer as well as oversee that the projects are carried out as they should”, she said. The key role of BEDCO is to offer business development services in Lesotho to ensure their success.
After the project was launched in 2022, applications were issued out for completion. Nthati Nyabela who worked particularly with the smart youth fund and oversaw the project said after going through the competitors’ business plans, they carried out evaluation processes including site visits and checking out how the business has been operated. She urges anyone who aspires to be part of the initiative to just start and venture into business, do a feasibility study and service their demand. “Of late people are interested in organic products so the best way is to start producing those and do away with chemical fertilizers, especially if it is in horticulture.
Another thing is to associate with experts who are already in the industry so as to learn and gain more skills”, she said. Getting funding is no longer hard so what is essential at this point is to pay attention and be keener to learn about business. She said one should not shy away from asking about how to properly write a business plan and seek advice on how to carry out business. Developing a business is never easy but the trick is; to be disciplined, focused, hardworking, and to never give up.