Think out of the box, youths urged

Think out of the box, youths urged

Rose Moremoholo

MASERU

A business training consultant with BEDCO, AbielMashale,this week called for “radical action” to address youth unemployment in Lesotho.

Mashale was speaking at this year’s launch of a competition by the Bacha Enterprise Project (BEP) that seeks to strengthen youth-owned businesses in Lesotho.

The BEP, which is a joint project of the Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO), Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) and Standard Lesotho Bank, will give M500 000 in capital to three youth businesses out of 25 that have entered the competition.

This is the second time the BEP has invited business-minded Basotho youths to compete for start-up capital with the aim to boost small and medium enterprises.

Mashale said Lesotho has the highest rate of youth unemployment in Africa.

“This calls for radical action,” he said.

The crisis, Mashale said, called for an innovative approach to address youth unemployment.

He also blamed Lesotho’s education system saying it is failing the nation because it does not provide skills that respond to the economic needs of the country.

“There is no teaching of entrepreneurial skills. Basotho are known to be copycats because one idea can spread across as a wild business idea because they don’t like to think,” Mashale said.

“Through this project we are challenging youths to think more out of the box and come up with sustainable projects.We have examples of countries that are sustained by SMMEs. We therefore encourage the spirit of entrepreneurship among youths.”

The project, spearheaded by BEDCO, is meant to create jobs for unemployed youths as well as increase Lesotho’s tax base.

Mashalesaid at least 7500 youths graduate from tertiary institutionsannually with only 50 percent getting jobs and 60 percentof the employed go into subsistence farming while the remaining 40 percentgo into the formal employment sector.

He said the textile industry and the government are the biggest employers, “but this does not bring any good for us because these very factories which do not pay well are owned by foreigners who only pay rent, utility expenses and salaries while the rest of the money is shipped out of the country”.

“Our government does not produce or trade in anything while we have the highest wage bill,”Mashale said.

ManyathelaKheleli, Standard Lesotho Bank marketing manager, said SMMEs are the engine of the economy in many countries and “if we are going to have unemployed graduates who have been equipped with skills and are aware of the trending business ideas (but do nothing about it) this (training) would be a waste”.

“We want these dreams and skills to become a reality. You are in the forefront to make it happen,” Kheleli said.

Kheleli said the competitors will have to take this project seriously if they want to come top.

“We have had issues of one project that was among the top three having problems with licensing because what they are doing as a business has never been done before and has never been licensed before and so the licensing process lengthened,” he said.

TšepangMncina, a Public Relations Officer at LRA, said what they were doing as LRA was to produce more businessmen who will be faithful to pay tax in order to give more opportunities to other Basotho youths.

“We are starting a journey where some will succeed and some will fail but that will not be the end. LRA as an organisation has a CSI policy to give back to the community and that is what we are doing by offering youths this opportunity,” Mncina said.

“We are interested in sustainable businesses that will increase tax collection,” she said.

One of the competitors who also participated in the first competition, TšosaneLebina,said he would work hard this time to increase his chances of winning.

Lebina has been running a mushroom project for the past two years.

Last year Lebina was in the Top Five missing the award by a whisker. But he did not give up.

“I knew that there were some parts of the project proposal that I did not put much effort into and this time around I came prepared and very armed,” he said.

Lebina believes his downfall last year was because his research on the method of planting mushrooms was not detailed enough. He had also not explained fully how he intended to sustain the business in the long run.

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