Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO) last week awarded a total of M300,000 to three agro-businesses under its Smart Youth Fund project (SYF).
The initiative, which is in collaboration with Lesotho Post Bank (LPB) and Sekhametsi Investment Consortium (SIC), is part of BEDCOâ€™s efforts to breed a new crop of young entrepreneurs who can create jobs and not be job seekers.
In response to the challenge of access to finance for start-up businesses, the project provides funding to youth-owned businesses that show a high potential to benefit other young people.
The three project beneficiaries are Qalakheng Evergreen Farm from Mohaleâ€™s Hoek, which produces maize and vegetable seedlings; Happy C and J Farm from Maseru which produces variety of vegetables, and Our Urban Farm from Berea which produces mushrooms, garlic and chillies.
â€œThe Smart Youth Fund will facilitate access to finance and provide business skills support to high potential Agri-based small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) focusing on producers and aggregators of enterprises that have a direct impact on job creation and the local economy,â€ said BEDCOâ€™s acting Chief Executive Officer, TÅ¡epang Tlali at the awarding ceremony on Tuesday.
â€œI wish to encourage you all to remain committed to your obligations agreed upon with the bank because it plays a crucial role in ensuring that this project will not only remain a pilot but can impact more businesses in the years to come,â€ Tlali told beneficiaries.
Raleaka Morake from SIC explained that they invest primarily in developing businesses to help them reach their potential.
â€œBasotho deserves an opportunity regardless of their physical impairments. We also target youth owned businesses because we believe they are the future of this country. We are here to inspire the upcoming enterprises,â€ Morake said.
LPBâ€™s Head of Business, Liapeng Ponoane, indicated they were guided by the national strategic goals in being involved in the SYF.
â€œWe perceive agriculture as one of the major sectors in the country needing more investment to boost the economy, therefore, we saw a need to invest in agriculture to the extent of involving a specialist to work in collaboration with both BEDCO and SIC in awarding funding to the enterprises,â€ Ponoane explained.
â€˜Mabasia Lepota from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Business Development and Tourism, welcomed the three partnersâ€™ contribution in supporting entrepreneurship development.
She urged other corporates to follow suit as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.
â€œAccess to finance indeed remains a major challenge for many entrepreneurs in Lesotho, however, I firmly believe that through strategic partnerships of this nature between a public and private sector as well as the banking sector, a lot more can be done to change this narrative,â€ she said stressing that similar funds can breed more entrepreneurs.