By Thoboloko Ntšonyane
MASERU – The recently launched youth empowerment initiative could prove to be a beacon of hope to the upcoming youth innovators and entrepreneurs as was evidenced in this past week.
Dubbed SEBABATSO Youth Empowerment Initiative (YEI), this is a Prime Minister’s Office initiative that is supported by the United Nations (UN) and its agencies.
This youth initiative aims to connect youth-led enterprises and innovators with the investors as well as the mentors to guide them for sustenance of their goals.
SEBABATSO YEI is a call to action to address the youth unemployment rate and also offers the youth the platform to connect with the investors, appreciate business related laws and policies as well as how to navigate them.
Last week saw 30 Basotho youth drawn from all districts walking away with bonanza prizes ranging from M18 000 to M90 000 being those in fourth position and overall winners respectively. This road shows and boot camps to drill and equip these youth with tools of trade culminated in the pitching exercise that saw those who managed to impress the investors walk away with the capital seeds to plough back in their businesses.
‘Mabataung Rabolinyane, one of the organisers who is also the Senior Entrepreneurship Officer at the Department of Youth said while preparing for this initiative they had to ensure that everyone was included – youth entrepreneurs and youth innovators.
The Prime Minister Ntsokoane Matekane said the support of this initiative has captured the investors even beyond the borders and they had pledged their support. “We had fruitful interactions with them, it is my hope and prayer that our efforts have fallen on fertile soil and will bear fruits towards emancipation and empowerment of our young people.
“The recent World Bank report on youth aspirations and challenges survey reveals that at least 67 percent of youth are experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety as a result of the mounting unemployment and poverty… This and other factors call for immediate and inclusive intervention, hence this initiative.”
He said he aspires for this initiative to become an annual installment.
The PM told young people that business is a journey that requires patience and ambition above all. He commended them for their innovation and ability to articulate coherently their ideas before the potential investors and mentors.
Matekane added: “This translates into the right footing from which you will reach greater heights in your business trajectory. There are however, notable obstacles that we have identified and made suggestions to address through policy dialogues that we have conducted. We undertake to address all those through proper channels and mechanisms, through a united effort we shall continue to harness the capacity and the resources of the State, the private sector and other development partners to respond to the immediate future needs of our youth.”
UN Resident Coordinator in Lesotho Amanda Khozi Mukwashi said the commitment should be tangible and must be evidenced.
She recounted a passionate story of a young woman who came from remote areas of the country just to participate and showcase her products in this initiative, hoping that it would mark a turning point for her small business. The UN Resident Coordinator mentioned that this young woman, whom she did not name to protect her privacy, eagerly seeks success for her business.
“She heard about this initiative; she heard that the Prime Minister had made a call to young people across the country and said come and show your innovation; come let us talk. She looked at her situation … and she said I have left my children with the neighbour so that I can come here, I took whatever money that I had because I knew that this call, there must be something good there for young people and I need to show my innovation and my creativity…,” she commended the courage of her convictions.
Mukwashi said that she even requested a small pitch to showcase her talent and also sought help to secure the market for her business after which she will go back to her village and employ other young women like her.
The Minister of Communications, Science, Innovation and Technology Hon Nthati Moorosi promised that the Lesotho Television will have a special programme tailored for the youth enterprises.
The Minister highlighted this initiative has ignited the youthful seeds within the young people.
“I saw a lot of hope … .I am here today to confirm one thing to you, all your pitching has been worthy and interesting enough…. You might not have been picked as a winner, but please know that you are worthy” she said, adding that failure is part of innovation.
Moorosi told the youth that any innovation that does not go through pitfalls and challenges will not stand the test of time as entrepreneurs can only learn from their mistakes in order to perfect their craft.
There were two winners who each walked away with a staggering $5 000.00 (M90 000.00). They are ‘Mamothibe Mothibe and Bokang Matlosa.
Matlosa said their factory produces soft drinks and concentrated fruit syrups.
For her part, Mothibe hails from a family business that specialize in cow milk production. She said their company is also involved in recycling waste from other farms.
Second prize winners
In this category the winners secured $3 000.00 (M54 000.00) each. They are Mosebetsi Rapitso and Limpho Thoahlane.
Third prize winners
There are six winners who each received an investment of $2 500.00 (M45 000.00). They are Lerato Masupha, Thikhoi Molapo, Morokane Semoko, Lipontšeng Makhosane, Mokhethi Phohlo and Tšoanelo Tonkha.
Fourth prize winners
In this category, 20 exited the stage taking home $1 000.00 (M18 000.00) each. They are Nthomeng Leuta, Reitumetse Lekhera, ‘Matšepiso Majoro, Rethabile Lesenyeho, Katleho Mpopo, Moliehi Lekhooa, Keitseng Monyane, Kabelo Serobanyane, Lenkoe Moorosi, Mochesane Mpali, Mamello Makhobotloane, Keneuoe Nkuebe, ‘Mamoleboheng Nkhabu, Bonyane Motokoa, Maliba Hae, Telang Skhosana, Thato Mphale, ‘Mapuleng Mokhathala, Moipone Matjeea and Boitumelo Makunyapane.
As if this is not enough, among the winners, 10 have been selected to attend the upcoming Youth Conneckt Africa in an all-expense paid trip courtesy of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Lesotho. This is a platform that empowers young people through enhancing their knowledge, experiences and skills while also investing in their ideas, innovations and initiatives.
In the Youth Conneckt Africa which is slated later this year in December at Nairobi, Kenya these enterprising Basotho youth will compete for prizes with their equally competitive counterparts from the continent.
“We need to believe in our young people; we need to invest in them; we need to walk beyond words and rhetoric,” stressed the UN Resident Coordinator.
She urged the young to be determined and persevere if they need to see their businesses flourish. “This young woman showed me that necessity is the mother of invention, that sometimes you might think that you are down and out but you are not. Stay steadfast, you need to believe in your dream, believe in your identity, believe in who you are – what you stand for and what you want to achieve and then go for it.”