THE third and final instalment of the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project (BEP) has been launched amid calls for young people to get out of their comfort zones and come up with innovative ideas.
The annual project, which was initiated by the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO), Standard Lesotho Bank (SLB) and Lesotho Revenue Authority seeks to tackle youth unemployment by capacitating them with entrepreneurship skills.
It targets graduates between the ages of 21 and 35, with an interest in operating their own businesses. Proposals are also accepted from qualifying graduates who need funding to expand or start-up their enterprises.
In her remarks during the launch ceremony on Tuesday, BEDCO Chief Executive Dr Makatleho Matabooe urged young people to take charge of their future and not depend on the government to provide them with jobs.
“In as much as it is the responsibility of the government and the private sector to support youths, it is equally important that young people come up with innovative ideas, so they can become entrepreneurs,” she said.
“Young people need to make decisive steps in determining their own destiny, and they cannot achieve that if they don’t make concerted efforts.
“It is high time that youths come out of their comfort zones of expecting the government to always provide for them. We wish to see our youth coming up with innovative ideas, hence the BEP.”
Dr Matabooe indicated that once the third phase of the project was completed, it would be evaluated and reviewed to chart the way forward.
She said the responses by young unemployed graduates in the previous editions had been lacklustre.
“Our experience in the previous editions is that responses have not been as many as expected in spite of wide calls made through various media. We hope that in the third edition our youths will participate in their numbers to ensure the development of Lesotho’s economy that will be recognised regionally and eventually globally.”
SLB Chief Executive Mpho Vumbukani told the Lesotho Times on the side-lines of the launch ceremony that the previous two phases of the project had created much-needed jobs for young people.
He said the project had also ignited an entrepreneurship passion, which in turn would lead to the building of a vibrant private sector which is the engine of economic development for any country.
“As far as we are concerned, we are seeing encouraging signs from the project so far,” Mr Vumbukani said.
“Of course we are going to evaluate the project, but we are happy with how it has changed the lives of some of our previous winners. Such stories are encouraging.”
One of the winners of the first phase of the BEP in 2015, Teboho Moekoa from Kemet Designs, said he had managed to increase the number of employees from two to seven due to the support of the project.
Kemet Designs and Creations, which was awarded M174 000, specialises in handcrafted textile designs inspired by local and African clothing.
“We managed to buy some industrial textile machines and to employ more people in the business with the funds from the project,” Mr Moekoa said.
“The other benefit of the project is that we now have clients that we would otherwise not have without it.”
He said some of the company’s new clients included the royal family, two local diamond mines and even the BEP custodians. Mr Moekoa said they had also relocated from home to a commercial premises in light of the company’s growth.
Phase two beneficiary, Lisemelo Lebina, from Star Farmers said they were expanding their indoor mushrooms production enterprise with the funds from the project.
Star Farmers, an agricultural production enterprise producing mushrooms for the hospitality industry, walked away with M159 850 last year.
Ms Lebina said they were currently awaiting the installation of electricity at their facility to operate air conditioners and humidifiers. She also indicated that they initially encountered a number of challenges related to registering their company which delayed their progress.
“We started out with oyster mushrooms which we used to obtain from the Masianokeng spawning centre. Now we are moving to producing white button mushrooms since we have already secured a market which requires 20kg per day,” she said.