By Thoboloko Nts’onyane

MASERU – The micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are emerging at the driving force of innovation and have exploited the digital landscape.

Last week, Basotho owned MSMEs competed in a World Bank, Thinkubate IAAP and Innovation Bridge competition.

These MSMEs have carved a niche for themselves and have revolutionized the business ecosystem.

The digital ecosystem challenge served as a platform for Basotho MSMEs to demonstrate their capabilities and entrepreneurial capabilities.

Participants hail from various sectors, including agriculture, technology, e-commerce, and digital services, the competition was a platform to showcase the groundbreaking ideas and visionary concepts. The event aimed to foster innovation, collaboration, and growth in the digital sphere while offering participants exposure to a diverse network of industry experts and potential investors.

Girls Coding Academy, with its mission to empower young girls in the field of technology, showcased a pioneering solution that garnered immense praise from the judging panel. Their project focused on bridging the gender gap in the tech industry by providing comprehensive coding education and mentorship programs to aspiring female developers. The academy’s innovative approach, coupled with their commitment to inclusivity, resonated strongly with the judges, ultimately propelling them to victory.

In this pitching, Girls Coding Academy emerged as the winner while Tethics Inc came second. The winner walked away with the package prize which includes uncapped internet for 24 months, landline telephone with a dedicated number for their office as well as website and domain hosting services. The second prize was the uncapped internet for 24 months, domain and website hosting and these prizes are sponsored by Vodacom Lesotho.

Those battling for the prizes in the competition were Legacy Brands, Enrooler Home Service, Rare Disease of Lesotho Association (RDLA), Kingdom Diagnostics and KT Business Solutions.

The judges were John Matlosa, the Global Entrepreneurship Network’s Managing Director (MD), Nts’epeng Ts’ita Tikiso BAM Group of Companies Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Grace Legodi a Cape Town based Investment Officer.

Speaking at this hybrid event, Minister of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism Hon Mokhethi Shelile reiterated his ministry’s commitment to support the business.

He thanked the World Bank and the stakeholders for the support of the business environment in Lesotho through their facilities.

For his part, Yoichiro Ishihara who is the World Bank’s Country Representative for Lesotho said the projects should be implemented in order for Lesotho to reap the benefits.

Ishihara said the World Bank is supporting many initiatives in Lesotho including those in agriculture.

He said they are interested in supporting the smallholder businesses that are creating employment opportunities in the country.

The CAFI (competitiveness and financial inclusion project) Project Manager which is the successor of the Private Sector Competitiveness and Diversification Project, Chaba Mokuku said the pitching event represents collaborative efforts to strengthen the regional entrepreneurship ecosystem.

He further noted that it will foster economic growth within the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) bloc.

The World Bank Group had approved a $45 million loan about M857 millon to Lesotho to increase access to business support services and financial products targeted at MSMEs and entrepreneurs, especially women and youth.

Also, countries such as South Africa, Namibia, Eswatini, and Botswana are part of this project.