Tshimologong Precinct is excited to welcome 14 Enterprise Support Organisations (ESOs) from Lesotho for the ESOs second cohort Capacity Building Programme. This programme is for the Government of Lesotho, through the Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion (CAFI) Project under the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Business Development, and Tourism (MTIDBT) which is currently establishing the Lesotho Entrepreneurship Hub and Seed Financing Facility (LEHSFF). The objective of the LEHSFF is to strengthen the nascent entrepreneurial ecosystem in Lesotho and to improve access to early-stage finance for start-ups and innovative SMEs.

The selected ESOs will be provided with a tailor-made capacity building programme. The objective of this ESO Capacity building programme is to ensure that these ESOs are adequately trained and resourced to deliver world-class incubation programmes to Lesotho’s most promising startups and SMEs under the LEHSFF banner. Tshimologong Precinct has partnered with AfriLabs and the Wits University’s Wits Entrepreneurship Clinic to deliver the capacity building programme that will enable the ESOs to provide incubation support services to start-ups and SMEs in Lesotho in 6-month long incubation cycles, over the next 5 years.

Tshimologong Precinct, wholly owned by the University of Witswatersrand aims to develop and support world leading African digital entrepreneurs is the lead partner in this project. Edwell Gumbo, the Director of the Wits Entrepreneurship Clinic and Head of Enterprise Development at Tshimologong Precinct and the Project Lead says: “South Africa and Lesotho have a long-standing bilateral relationship and friendship. There is a common language and appreciation for each other’s cultures. Our people are connected to each other through language, identity and economy. With our experience of designing and delivering impactful incubation and acceleration programmes which over the years have yielded startups that have scaled in the province, nationally and regionally, we feel honoured to be able to contribute towards the development of ESOs, startups and SMEs in Lesotho that will contribute to the development of Lesotho, the region the continent and the world.”

The LEHSFF will allocate grants starting with the top 5 selected out of the 14 shortlisted ESOs to carry out incubation support programme for the second cohort of startups and SMEs. Each of the selected ESOs will receive up to US$30,000 for each cohort the ESO is engaged in, while each startup and SME will receive up to US$7,000 in grants for services to improve their competitiveness. The first set of 9 ESOs was identified in September 2023, of which 5 commenced support to the first cohort of 50 startups and innovative SMEs through a 6-month incubation program with the ESOs that started in November 2023. The second cohort follows suit on the success of the first cohort. The next cohorts are to run in June 2024 and August 2024 respectively where ESOs will be selected from the capacitated pool of ESOs from the 1st and 2nd cohort.

Over the last decade, AfriLabs has blossomed into Africa’s largest and most inclusive innovation ecosystem, connecting over 400 tech & innovation hubs across 53 African countries and 230+ diaspora cities. With a vibrant community exceeding 1 million strong – startups, entrepreneurs, developers, and innovators – AfriLabs empowers stakeholders through capacity building, research, networking, and access to funding.

Nanko Madu, the Director of Programmes at AfriLabs explains that the mission of AfriLabs is to support innovation hubs and their communities to raise high-potential entrepreneurs that will stimulate economic growth and social development in Africa. We achieve this through capacity building, financing, networking, policy advocacy, and providing insightful, reliable data. She says, “We have no doubt that this initiative will contribute towards the success of startups and SMEs in Lesotho”.

The 14 ESOs arrived in South Africa on the 21st of March and will undergo the capacity building until the 27th of March 2024 which will also entail visiting other hubs in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

About Tshimologong Precinct

Founded in September of 2016, as a Wits University investment in the tech and digital future of South Africa and the continent, Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct works with academia, corporates, international agencies and government across all spheres to unearth, upskill and promote digital talent. Tshimologong Precinct focusses its efforts in three areas: incubation of enterprises, digital skills training and creating a marketplace for start-ups.