By T’soloane Mohlomi

MASERU – The government of Lesotho in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme is in preparations of launching the National Youth Entrepreneurship Mentorship Programme.

The programme is expected to mentor and engage aspiring young entrepreneurs on various business skills, and assist them in developing the overall business acumen demanded in order to run successful enterprises which can have a positive economical impact in the future.

Speaking at the Pre- launch ceremony held at Avani Maseru on Friday, the Minister of Gender, Youth, Sports, Culture and Social Development, Mr Pitso Lesaoana, said it was important to listen to the youth and most importantly try to decipher the messages which they were trying to convey. He said all so many times in the past, especially in Lesotho the grievances of the youth had been ignored and overlooked.

With the youth of Lesotho accounting for 40% of the population, and with 26.66% being either unemployed or underemployed, the Minister said as most sectors were represented on the day, it was important for them to acknowledge that indeed the adult population was as a matter of fact at the mercy of the youth. With some working adults being on the verge of retirement it was important to prioritise the youth as they were indeed “the current and the future”.

Highlighting the importance of the mentorship programme, Minister Lesaoana said initiatives such as this one could play a great role in empowering the youth and equipping them with the necessary skills to elevate to greater heights.

“In addressing the elephant in the room, just to make an example, I once received a report regarding the president of Bacha-Shutdown, and I was told that the movement was radical and hostile. In attempting to understand the issue I just asked a simple question of whether, the leadership were ever landed a fair ear; whether they ever sat down with them as to hear what their concerns really were.

“In aiming to uplift this country we should work hand in hand with them. He can’t see me on the streets and not greet me, we are starting to be friends, with some things they have came out to say youth weren’t properly consulted, and indicated that something’s aren’t and won’t be accepted without their blessings and that is fair,” he said.

In essence what is significant about the programme is that it aims to connect all the existing pieces to ensure structure and unstructured connection between a mentor and mentee. In Lesotho there traditionally exists elements of mentoring such as volunteering, apprenticeship, internships and coaching which form the current landscape in Lesotho.

The main aim of the programmes are to share the mentorship programme rollout strategy to find areas where stakeholders can position themselves within the programme through integration of programs, partnerships, collaborations and resource mobilization in order to fund the implementation of the programme and to also establish funding in agreement committees.

 The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) resident representative, Dr. Jacqueline Olwenya, after engaging some of the youth present at the launch, reiterated and established that of the 40% percent of youth in Lesotho, about 26.66% were either unemployed or underemployed, she said the reason for that could be attributed to skills mismatch, limited job opportunities and a constrained private sector which was ineligible of creating jobs.

“If we look at the reasons articulated for the predicament facing youth, particularly in the context of Lesotho, it is evident that this programme which is to be launched very soon will give Basotho youth the opportunity to address most of the identified constraints. In the Lesotho National Youth Entrepreneurship Mentorship programme, the skills mismatch mentioned earlier which is a direct result of the type of education Lesotho offers which may not produce the kind of graduates needed in the labour market.

“So maybe we are producing a lot of graduates suited for white collar jobs, but what we currently need right now are entrepreneurs, who can be self employed and create opportunities for other individuals as well.  So this programme is not only an opportunity for us to mentor the youth and move them towards being  creators of opportunities and employers, but this is also to mould entrepreneurs who can be able to think out of the box and have an impact on the economy,” she said.

In addition she said there were so many youth initiatives in Lesotho, making an example of one in the Ministry of Finance, which is a key sector of the economy. But with regard to this particular youth mentorship entrepreneurship programme, Dr Olwenya said, what was special about it was the fact that it gave mentors the opportunity to engage directly with mentees.

A past business mentee,Ms Nteboheleng who’s a young entrepreneur from Leribe said her mentors in business played a vital role in her business growth.