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BEDCO powers business dreams



MASERU-DO you dream of starting or taking your company to greater heights? Are you a young person under 35 or a woman under 40?
The Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO) this week launched the Business Plan Competition (BCP) that will see aspiring and established Basotho business entrepreneurs tussling it out for a chance to win a share of M1 million as well as training and business support.

The competition is part of the corporation’s Promoting Enterprise Development (PED) programme which aims to help small businesses with finance, training, mentorship and incubation.
The competition opens on November 12 and closes on December 8.

The idea is to help start, nurture and support small businesses so they create jobs and contribute to the economy’s diversification.
The ultimate goal is to create an economy anchored on the private sector and wean it off its reliance on the public sector. The PED is financed by the African Development Bank with technical support from the government’s Economic Diversification Support Project.

The programme was established to assess and develop the current Business Development Service (BDS) market growth strategy.
The strategy that will come out of the assessment will be used to support the second mission of the PED, which is to help “nurture start-up businesses and entrepreneurs through development of a strategy and implementation plan for business incubation”.

The business plan competition, which is the third aspect of the PED, seeks to encourage “young and innovative people with credible business ideas to gain access to the required business support”.
The competition is targeted at Basotho youths and women interested in manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and renewable energy.
BEDCO’s acting chief executive, Pesha Shale, said the first phase of the competition will shortlist 110 businesses that will be trimmed to 20 and then 10 finalists who “will have an opportunity to win cash prizes”.

“Expectation is that 50% of these (businesses) should be women-owned,” Shale said.
The completion will cover an eight-month cycle that will include submission of the business plans, as well as training on how to improve and pitch them to potential investors or funders for the last 20 entrepreneurs.

He said in addition to getting a share of the M1 million start-up or business development support, the final 10 will receive incubation and entrepreneurship development training.
The panel of judges will be drawn from local and regional experts.
Shale emphasised that the competition “is open to people in all districts and should not be seen as a Maseru thing”.

He said Lesotho is in the race to diversify its economy and alleviate poverty.
Lesotho’s economy, he said, is dangerously reliant on the public sector which can no longer create new jobs and boost economic growth.
Lerata Pekane, the Principal Secretary of the Small Businesses Ministry who is also chairman of BEDCO, described small and medium businesses as the key drivers of employment in the private sector.

Pekane said small and medium businesses account for 85 percent of employment but contributed only 16 percent of GDP because they are not getting adequate support.
“We should not forget that most of these businesses are informal,” Pekane said.

He said the contribution of these businesses to the GDP remains low because there has not been a strong link between big and small business.
“Even in government they were excluded because of formalities.”
Chaba Mokuku, project manager of the Economic Diversification Support Project, said the competition fits well into the several initiatives to diversify the economy.
“It’s urgent that we diversify our economy,” Mokuku said.
“The government cannot absorb more people because the wage bill is already huge and SACU revenues are sliding. We need to find new areas to create jobs and generate revenue. The answer is in growing the private sector,” he said.

Staff Reporter

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