By Thandiwe Kubere

MASERU – Standard Lesotho Bank held its first national youth dialogue, where a pair of representatives from six different institutions of higher learning presented ideas on how Lesotho can transition from being an import-dependent economy to a self-sufficient one. The dialogue was geared towards the country’s economic growth and sustainability through innovation.

To make the event momentous, the six tertiary schools; Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT), National University of Lesotho (NUL), Botho University, Centre of Accounting Studies (CAS), Lerotholi Polytechnic (Fokothi) and Lesotho College of Education (LCE), competed, each with their winning idea, in a bid to WIN a share of a M100 000.

Standard Lesotho Bank’s Head of Personal Banking Teboho Sello, mentioned that the bank saw some of the agonizing challenges this country’s youth encounter, and as a result, the bank deemed it wise to host an event that would bring them together in one setting, where they would share innovative ideas and strategies that would help shape the country’s economy for better. “I head personal banking at Standard Lesotho Bank, looking after a portfolio that spans over 200, 000 clients. This portfolio includes youth, which I regard as one of the important feeders sub-segments that should be given special attention to ensure that we deliver value to the most important fiber of our population, which is youth. We have worked tirelessly to innovate and develop a compelling customer value proposition”, he said. The bank, therefore, decided to hold Standard Lesotho Bank’s first national youth dialogue meant to contribute to meaningful conversations that drive the agenda of youth in the wake of rampant unemployment and hopelessness.

The funds that the institutions were competing for, we purposed specifically towards the welfare of the students in those institutions. They were judged with the following criteria; presentation skills, understanding the problem statement, how the problem can innovatively be solved and the ideas’ implementation and practicality, if the idea could create employment, the financial analysis, as well as how well the participants answered questions.

The first to present was Botho University, which had an idea of climate-smart agriculture (commercial farming). Their idea was inspired by agriculture playing a pivotal role in the economy of many countries. However, climate change and other challenges hinder high production.  They stated that with climatic smart agriculture, the country would use technology, including the likes of AI, to predict drastic weather changes and help in preparation as well as protecting crops. Lerotholi Polytechnic, on the other hand, advised the country to consider vertical farming as this would save a lot of arable land in the country. This is because, with vertical farming, crops grow upward, thus, the land could be used for other purposes. Vertical farming also produces fresh crops all year round and reduces the use of natural resources and pollutants because it requires a minimal amount of water and does not use pesticides.  It also improves urban availability and nutrition and is unaffected by adverse weather conditions, which means reliable year-round crop production.

Then again, LCE and LUCT’s presentation was on chicken production and how it would sustain the country in being import-free. This was inspired by eggs from South Africa being banned in the country due to a disease outbreak. Knowing that eggs and chicken are consumed by many households, they saw high chicken production as a high potential to increase the country’s economy, as well as a way to promote job creation.

Team CAS shared their vision of Lesotho establishing a State-of-the-art Diamond Innovation and Technology Park. The idea provided a picture of how the country could benefit from extracting its diamonds and processing them before exporting them to international markets. Currently, the country exports raw/unprocessed diamonds to international markets, only to import them at a higher price post-processing. Indeed, this was considered a million-dollar idea. The team brought it home.

CAS which possessed a winning idea, acquired the 1st Position out of the six tertiary institutions and scooped the Standard Lesotho Bank’s prize of M40 000.00 directed towards the institution,  M8 000.00 for each of the two representatives, as well as 40GB to be loaded for a duration of 3 months.

On their wall, CAS wrote, “We are proud to announce that the Centre for Accounting Studies has scooped the National Youth Dialogue Competition. Thanks to the CAS Team that coached the presenters to be the best that they were today.”

On the other hand, the second prize winner, NUL walked away will M30 000 for the institution, and M5 000.00 for each of the two representatives.

In third place was LUCT, which got 25GB to be loaded for participants for a duration of 3 months.

All the other participants who were not able to get to the top were given M500 and 1GB for a month, for having participated and sharing their ideas.

Sello shared that they took this call because Lesotho is home and they felt a strong responsibility to drive her growth since youth is an indispensable part of the society, they need to be involved. “We also have in our midst, two ministries as well as BEDCO, who are our partners particularly invited to come and hear from Youth. We have an esteemed and capable panel of adjudicators, who will evaluate the presentations and decide our top winners today. Their credentials are broad, diversified, and impeccable. I must highlight, that we will use an alloy of their evaluation scores together with the voting scores that will be on our social media platforms to pick our winning institutions. The top two winning institutions and their representatives will walk away with amazing prizes today.”

The panel of judges was: Napo Sehloho, who is an accomplished and dynamic Chattered Accountant from CAS. He has innate abilities to decode financial complexities and interpret intricate data using financial ratios. He also had five years of expertise in the Financial Planning and Reporting division at Econet Telecom Lesotho and 7 years lecturing ACCA subjects at Sky Blue Academy; From BEDCO was, Seoli Lempane, an expert in the business development arena, enterprise risk management within banking, he brings product operational administrative and business insight to viability and sustainability of business. He studies theology and general accounting. He also has multiple certificates of short courses he took to sharpen his business skills; Maria Sefuba is a strategic client-focused technology leader from Standard Lesotho Bank. She focuses on delivering technology solutions for organizations to thrive through digital disruption. She is a tech-savvy leader with experience. She holds a master’s in business administration from the University of South Wales, UK.

There was also Keketso Thibeli, who is the Head of Client Coverage in the cooperate and investment banking division, she is a seasoned banking professional who is passionate about business development, nurturing, and maximizing mutually beneficial stakeholder relationships to deliver value. She is zealous about youth development and is currently mentoring some youth. She holds a BCOM honors degree in financial economics and investment management and a BCOM degree in money and banking, both from the University of Free State. She also has a certificate in the senior leadership program.

Tsepang Mngadi, is a highly experienced and knowledgeable Insurance Professional, with over a decade of experience in banking, broking, and bank insurance. She is currently the personal insurance manager at Standard Lesotho Bank. She holds a bachelor’s degree in commerce from NUL and a couple of qualifications from UNISA and Mill Park; From the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports, Arts and Culture and Social Development, was Masefabatho Sula, who holds a master’s degree in industrial psychology from NUL. She works as a Senior Entrepreneurship Officer in the ministry, where her work includes improving SME competencies in delivering capabilities by training entrepreneurship and Management. She is also a “start and master your business” trainer and has been involved in several projects.

 Malatola Phothane is a Head of Client Enterprise Banking and is responsible for the strategic leadership and superior client service for enterprise banking, which is the division that serves small and medium enterprises, which currently make the biggest sector of the business environment in Lesotho. He also has extensive experience in the financial service industry, having worked in the money mobile industry as well as banking since 2010. He holds a master of science in project management from the EAE Business School, Barcelona, Spain. He is passionate about building client relationships, growing people and enterprises, technology, and the art of learning; Last but not least was, ‘Mope Lephotho, who holds a degree majoring in computer science and physics from NUL, as well as an honors degree in computer science from Stellenbosch University. He also has a master’s degree in software engineering and telecommunications engineering from Wits University. With over ten years of experience, his career spanned the banking sector, ICT, and certified project management. He spent over five years at NUL working with young people. Thereafter, he joined the bank as an information systems manager and later head of information technology, and Lesotho Post Bank joined Standard Lesotho Bank’s family as head of digital platforms and ecommerce.