MMB fires youth dreams
MASERU – WHEN Sello Malataliana, 26, flunked his Political Science and Public Administration degree exams twice, he knew his calling lay elsewhere.
Malataliana says he got tired of repeating classes at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).
And so he packed his bags and sought solace in the land.
But there was one problem; apart from his fiery enthusiasm he had no experience nor expertise in any agricultural venture.
He also did not have any capital to kick-start the business.
When he began farming, nature appeared to conspire against him. His first farm produce failed.
Malataliana says he learnt a few lessons from his failures and all he needed at that point was capital to start all over again.
When he wanted to apply a loan, local banks were not forthcoming. He thought the lamp to a successful future had been effectively extinguished.
Help, however, came from an unexpected source.
The Maluti Mountain Brewery (MMB) offered him an opportunity to access capital in an ambitious programme that seeks to support youth projects.
The scheme is called Project Kick Start.
Malataliana wrote an appealing business plan and last week he received a M90 000 grant from the MMB to start his own business.
“I had already started practising agriculture at home, though drought was a major challenge,” he says.
“I did not stop but rather bought shade-nets to protect my crops against the scotching sun and the production was quite amazing.”
“However, I saw the need to have a green house, borehole for irrigation and shade-nets which would cost me M93 000. That was when I sat down and wrote a business plan and applied for Kick-start.”
“Agriculture is one of the good businesses people could invest in though it requires a lot of patience,” he says, adding that his irrigation was poor because of lack of equipment and so he ran at a loss.
“Thanks to MMB for the cheque. I have hired five people to grow cabbages already and I am willing to hire more during the course of the year and this M90 000 grant is going to change a lot of Basotho lives,” he said.
Over 750 applicants from all the 10 district of the country applied for the grants but only 124, including Malataliana, have undergone training on entrepreneurship so that they could qualify.
To date a total of 14 companies have benefited from the project. Project Kick-start is the MMB’s flagship programme under its Corporate Social Investment Programme, which is aimed at accelerating growth and social development. Kick-start aims to support young people who have good business ideas with funding to start or improve their businesses.
MMB launched its Third Round of Project Kick-start in June 2016.
After the screening process, the judges’ shortlisted 41 companies which were represented by 54 candidates to undergo training on entrepreneurship offered in partnership with the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) under its Student Training for Entrepreneurship Promotion (STEP) and the Ministry of Sports and Youth.
Secretary General for UNESCO in Lesotho, Palesa Motsi, said though others did not win or qualify for grants they are winners and have to pursue success using entrepreneurial skills.
“I advise you to search for alternative sponsors in the country to pursue your dream, it’s about financial muscle that others are left out if it wasn’t because of that you could have been all winners,” she says.
MMB has pumped in M3 million under the programme. Another company that benefited is Beat and Tung which won M50 000.
Another one is Heavenly Touch which was awarded M60 000 to start a soap manufacturing business. Green View Vegetable Farming was awarded M90 000 to start its tomato production business. Apex Pictures won M75 000.
A new wool and mohair company, Centre for Sheep and Goats, won M70 000 to improve wool and mohair quality production.
Bataung Construction was awarded M70 000.
Speaking at the award ceremony, Development Planning Principal Secretary Majakathata Thakhisi Mokoena said youth unemployment is a big concern for the government.
“Youth empowerment is not only a critical concern for the Ministry of Gender and Youth, Sports and Recreation, but for the government as a whole,” Thakhisi Mokoena said.
“It is imperative for the Government of Lesotho to leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and address the latent risks of unemployment and social instability,” he said.
Thakhisi Mokoena said the government will not achieve much without the support of the private sector.
He said this initiative is a seed funding initiative which is aimed at reducing the alarming unemployment figures in the country.
“Not everybody can be employed by the government hence others have to create jobs for other unemployed people and improvement of their countries’ economic status. Entrepreneurs are critical for the economy of every country,” he said.
“We should all aspire to having the youth as good citizens, moulded by dynamic cultural and religious values, so that they can take their rightful place in society and fully participate in the economic and socio-political development of a peaceful Lesotho through individual and coherent group self-motivation,” he said.
The MMB Managing Director Mopati Mpedi said under the programme they are building small home-based businesses that allow self-sufficiency and reduce reliance on big firms and the government for employment.
“Since the launch of Kick-start in 2013, we have received an overwhelming 2 300 applications from youths all over the country, which is testimony to the high levels of unemployment in the country,” Mpedi said.
“To date, we have trained a cumulative 124 young Basotho in entrepreneurship in partnership with a local consultant and UNESCO. We have funded fourteen businesses with an 86 percent success rate,” he said.
He further said the impact of Kick-start goes beyond the participants who receive the grants. The training which is offered by UNESCO allows the Kick-starter to get funding from other donors.
“Whilst we aren’t able to fund all the participants, we leave them with winning business plans which they can use to solicit funding and with hope which keeps their dreams alive,” he said.
Hear Sense Company walked away with a M20 000 cheque out of eight companies that it was competing with. Owner of the company, Teboho Frantši, said the company is going to offer health services but specifically dealing with ears only. “Though we are young developing entrepreneurs, our project is exclusive and gives us opportunity to introduce people to it,” Frantši.
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