Youth and women enterprises stand a chance to win M10 million in seed capital with the second cohort of the Business Plan Competition (BPC) by the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) following launch of the second cohort of BPC together with the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing through the Youth Development Project (YDP) on May 12, 2022 in Maseru.
The second phase of the project will see funds disbursed to 100 youth and women enterprises.
The first cohort of 50 was launched in November 2021 and awarded in April this year and the second cohort has just been launched this month where enterprises will also be provided with incubation support to ensure that their businesses grow.
BEDCO received funding from the African Development Bank (AFDB) under the Promoting Enterprise Development (PED) component of the Economic Diversification Support Project (EDSP) to enhance support to Basotho Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMES).
This follows the successful implementation of the PED project which had three components being, a business plan competition, and business development support and business incubation.
Speaking at the launch, BEDCO Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Idia Penane stated that out of the 50 winners 46% were male and 54% women.
Penane said that, it is a fair representation across the country emerged from the results with 70% of the winners being from Maseru, 10% from Berea, 8% Leribe, 4% Mafeteng, 4% Mokhotlong, while 1% was from Qachaâ€™s Nek and the remaining, 1% from Quthing.
She said the majority of winners were from the agricultural sector at 44% with manufacturing at 36%, technology at 8%, tourism at 6%, and renewable energy at 2% with other sectors at 4%.
â€œA number of observations and lessons learnt were made with the first cohort including the fact that, most applicants and winners were from urban areas hence the intention is to strengthen the marketing and communication efforts in rural areas to encourage more participation in these areas,â€ Penane said.
She said the youth in the rural areas are not as technologically savvy as the youth in the urban areas especially in Maseru, hence the need to bridge the technology gap, in which BEDCO will be exploring interventions and exploring ways to assist those who may struggle in partnership with other stakeholders like the first cohort.
Penane said the largest percentage of submissions were in the agricultural sector with similar products which will require additional interventions to ensure synergies and to improve value addition along the value chains.
â€œThese lessons reveal that there is still a lot more work to be done and we commit to continuously learn and strengthen our interventions in order to effectively deliver on our mandate.
â€œThis contribution that the government is making through the support of the AFDB is but a drop in the ocean of hoards of unemployed youth that we have in our country. We are vigorously looking for other partnerships especially with other parastatals, corporates and other experienced businesses owners to support Basotho youth and women businesses,â€ said Penane.
In the first component of the PED project which was launched in 2019, 10 youth enterprises in four priority sectors under the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) II were funded with M100 000 each, to establish and develop their enterprises.
Meanwhile, Minister of Trade and Industry, Thabiso Molapo noted that, the second cohort offers aspiring entrepreneurs a good opportunity to unleash their potential by kick-starting their ventures and honing their business skills.
Molapo said the initiative comes at a right time when Lesotho is facing serious socio-economic challenges including, scourge of poverty and high rate of youth unemployment which result in growing inequality gap between the rich and the poor. â€œThis is by far the biggest and most transformational intervention by government in addressing lack of access to finance especially for women and young entrepreneurs.â€