By: Mpho Shelile

MASERU- The Lesotho Entrepreneurship Hub and Seed Financing Facility (LEH SFF) under the Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion (CAFI,) had on Monday reported on the inroads that the project had recorded.

Giving account of their work to the World Bank Regional Vice President Dr. Victoria Kwakwa, CAFI said it has supported 50 local enterprises.

In his remarks, Mr. Chaba Mokuku the Project manager indicated that to achieve the goal of a flourishing ecosystem that would allow sustainable growth and resilience for enterprises in Lesotho, great strides have been taken by both government and project stakeholders towards developing an optimal business environment.

Stating that Entrepreneurship is a powerful driver of economic growth, innovation, and job creation. Recognizing the untapped potential within the demographics of women and youth, there has been a growing emphasis on establishing entrepreneurship hubs specifically tailored to their needs, also explaining how they can have a transformative effect on society and the economy.

The Minister of Trade, Industry, and Business Development Hon. Mokhethi Shelile alluded that before the COVID-19 pandemic, the business industry of Lesotho was already fragile, but it was during the COVID-19 pandemic many businesses closed down.

Hon. Shelile further stated that mostly women and the youth working in jobs such as travel, hospitality, and entertainment, experienced significant downturns, which also led to widespread job losses. Lockdowns and restrictions on business operations forced numerous companies to cut costs, resulting in layoffs and furloughs. “The funding from the World Bank through Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion (CAFI,) in April 2023 could not have been more opportune, as it enabled the government of Lesotho to begin to effectively tackle some of the challenges I mentioned above,” said Hon. Shelile.

Furthermore, he indicated that the project aims to strengthen the private sector in creating employment, and also fostering sustainable economic growth.  He indicated that this initiative is indeed a vital step towards job creation and employment, Hon. Shelile concluded by stating that they appreciate the commitment the World Bank has shown and continues to show Lesotho, towards the success of the CAFI project.

Mrs. Ntšepeng Tšita Tikiso the Deputy Program Manager, shared that they are excited to be hosting Dr. Kwakwa and to update her on the progress they have made thus far. She stated that she has an idea of what the ESOs must be feeling because she is an entrepreneur herself, stating that they have identified the problem and have come up with solutions.

She commended the ESOs for not only coming up with solutions that benefit them but also the entire country, “We are grateful for the support the government of Lesotho through the World Bank has portrayed to the entrepreneurship ecosystem of our country,” she said.

Tikiso emphasized that this is not business as usual, but is about change. She further stressed that they want this enterprise to contribute to the economy and create jobs.

She then outlined the achievements relating to the milestones included in their enterprises getting an invite to partake in the upcoming event that will take place in South Africa. Also one of their fashion enterprise landed an invite to a fashion show in London. She indicated that progress has been made in accordance with timelines set.

When given the slot to give a brief description of their Business from Barali Clothing and Fabrics (PTY) LTD, Miss Palesa said that Barali was inspired by the terrible material used for uniforms that she used to wear back in High School. “I can proudly say that we produce custom made clothes, I really thank God for the funding that we are going to get, I can say that it is really going to change our business for the better,” she said.

She stated that before the CAFI project she had just two employees, but she is very happy to announce that she will have 4 more employees added to her team after the project, and that she will be able to have a turnover of one million maloti annually. Which means that she will be able to create more jobs in the future. “I would like to specially thank the ESOs for their mentorship for I would not have made it this far without their input,” said Palesa.

The World Bank Regional Vice President Dr. Victoria Kwakwa in her remarks stated that one of the most challenging aspects most countries face is having a creative and dynamic private sector which creates jobs for Lesotho’s huge population. Stating that it is possible to evolve from an economy that is dominated by the private sector to an economy that is driven by entrepreneurial private sector as well as the youth. “The World Bank should be thanking you instead of you thanking us, we appreciate your input,” said Dr. Kwakwa.

She urged all enterprises to challenge themselves to do more, to set higher targets, and to push themselves as far as they can go. Stating that she knows some of it may be hard but they need to keep in mind that everybody starts small and they should allow themselves room to grow.

“At the end of this project I want us all to say that through the project so many jobs were created and that we have all contributed to the economic transformation of Lesotho,” she said. She went on to state that sometimes the journey they are on might get tough since it may be one step forward and two steps backwards, it may not be an easy direction but as long as it is a positive one all will work out in the end.