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Last week, on October 4th, Basotho, and dignitaries from near and far away countries that came with well-wishes for Basotho, gathered around Setsoto Stadium in large numbers as the Kingdom of Lesotho celebrated its golden jubilee of its independence.
As speeches echoed significant progress the country has made thus far, the Independence Day celebrations served as a reminder of the long journey the country has traversed since its independence from British rule in 1966.
Of course, like any other country journeying from colonial rule to independence, there are bound to be immense developmental challenges faced by the country.
Challenges like unemployment, high levels of poverty, inequality, lack of access to education, health care and clean water, as well as other socio-economic challenges remain common amongst countries with a similar colonial past.
Could social entrepreneurship be key to alleviating some of these developmental challenges?
As the country celebrates its 50th independence and looks at finding ways to tackle these challenges, perhaps this is an opportune time to consider (or even re-consider) the impact of social entrepreneurship in creating jobs, alleviating poverty, growing the economy, and ultimately changing people’s lives.
Social entrepreneurship is, in a way, a survival tactic for the poor.
By definition, social entrepreneurship endeavours to systemically solve social problems using ways that are inclusive, innovative, sustainable, and scalable.
In addressing some of the stated challenges, many countries are embracing entrepreneurial values to mobilize people, resources and innovative practices in ways that will result in greater impact.
By virtue of it targeting social problems to solve, and its pursuit of social change, social entrepreneurship pushes up the priority list for any nation pursuing a developmental agenda.
Social enterprises, in particular, are permeating the mainstream consciousness and increasingly gaining recognition as catalysts of social and economic change in under-developed and developing countries.
Though social entrepreneurship means different things to different people, there is at least some agreement that social enterprises are organisations that have an economic, social, cultural or environmental mission aligned to public or community benefit; they trade to fulfil their mission; they derive a substantial portion of their income from trade, and re-invest the majority of their profit or surplus back into the organisation in the fulfilment of their mission.
The notion of social entrepreneurship does not provide a magic solution but rather addresses some of the constraints faced by charity-based models that tend to trap the poor in a vicious cycle of dependency.
Such models are employed by traditional non-governmental organisations or development agencies. It introduces slightly different business models and opens up different avenues of funding.
It also brings a motive of profit to the course being pursued.
Due to of its unique ability to mix social and economic objectives, it is better suited to respond to the multi-dimensional nature of social issues.
It also creates potential for empowering people to be productive and to take charge of their own destinies.

Who is a social entrepreneur?
Although there doesn’t seem to be consensus on what exactly defines a social entrepreneur, it broadly means an entrepreneur with deep social consciousness-oriented approach to business; one who applies business techniques or strategies to solve social or environmental problems in a manner that is financially sustainable.
Social entrepreneurs are inherently agents of change in their communities, and are driven by the mission to pursue new possibilities and opportunities for their surrounding.
It goes without saying, therefore, that social enterprises are often started by people whose passion it is to make a difference.
It tends to be less about the business and more about the impact the business will have in addressing social or environmental issues that captures their imagination.
In other words, as much as they make profits, social entrepreneurs measure positive returns to society.
Social entrepreneurship and the effect of self-transcendence
At the peak of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, in his revised expanded model, is self-transcendence — the motivational step beyond self-actualization.
Self- transcendence is a desire that drives social entrepreneurs to experience and serve that which is beyond the individual self.
Scholar Prof Saatci of Okan University’s Department of Management Social Entrepreneurship Research Centre, and others, conducted a comparative study on both social and commercial entrepreneurs, and found that social entrepreneurs tend to have higher scores on self-transcendence dimension compared to the commercial entrepreneurs.
It can thus be posited that self-transcendence could better unleash the potential of social entrepreneurs and facilitate their exposure to complex social problems.
Those who experience it are likely to be more alert to opportunities for social business innovation and to generate impact in tackling social problems.
The effect of the value of self-transcendence on opportunity recognition is pro-social and needs to be cultivated for socio-economic progress.

So why is it important to cultivate social entrepreneurship?
Social enterprises create an opportunity to address many complex societal problems, and like many other countries, Lesotho is in need of platforms for innovative and impactful solutions to some of the most pressing social issues.
Although these problems may be daunting for any society, there should be a deliberate embrace and support of social entrepreneurs tackling these issues head on.
In the eyes of social entrepreneurs are challenges instead of problems, and through challenges these entrepreneurs see opportunities to drive positive impact in their communities and to generate financial returns while doing so.
Cultivating social entrepreneurship is, in essence, creating self-reliance, self-sustainability and large-scale impact.
It is to offer opportunities to individuals or groups to use their ability and resourcefulness to create socio-economic value on a sustainable basis.
To illustrate this value, one may invoke the social wisdom “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”.
Social entrepreneurship takes this further by building infrastructure to lay foundations and transform industries so that more people can benefit at a large scale in a sustainable manner.
Perhaps there should be recognition that social entrepreneurship is not a linear, uniform process.
There are multiple contexts, challenges and conditions in which it occurs. Equally, social entrepreneurs have unique needs and goals to pursue. The challenge, therefore, is for social partners to create an enabling environment and deliberately invest in the development of sustainable social enterprises that would contribute in realization of development objectives of the country.
There are different ways other countries are employing to cultivate social entrepreneurship. These range from providing access to an array of high-quality resources to help them achieve their objectives — both from the point of view of financial performance and positive social impact; to making available appropriate market incentives; research and development; training; and enterprise incubation where an entrepreneur is assisted in the form of developing a business model for the enterprise or preparing and linking them up with impact investors or other sources of financing.
Lesotho’s challenges are not necessarily unique to it. Development challenges are inherently too complex and require catalystic approaches that are multi-dimentional in nature.
Social entrepreneurship offers one approach, but needs multi-stakeholder collaborations and support spanning different sectors and communities for it to thrive and generate lasting impact.
l Fundisile Serame holds masters in Business Information Systems from Tshwane University of Technology. She is a Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) alumnus. She has extensive training in the IT sector both in the private and public sectors.

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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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