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Cash injection for youth-owned businesses



MASERU – TEN youth-owned businesses stand a chance to win M200 000 each in funding, thanks to a fresh initiative by the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project (BEP). To qualify for the funds, applicants must be between the ages of 21 and 35, in possession of a high school leaving certificate and have been operating a business for at least two years. The project is a brainchild of Standard Lesotho Bank, Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (Bedco) and the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA). A total of M2 million is available under the project. Speaking at the launch, Standard Lesotho Bank CEO, Anton Nicolaisen, said the three organisations remain committed to the development of an entrepreneurial spirit amongst the youths. Despite the economy starting to open up and inroads being made towards going back to normal, Nicolaisen said the same challenges remain. “We remain confronted with the same old challenges in our economy – being rampant youth unemployment and very few opportunities for the youth to claim a stake in the economic development of Lesotho,” Nicolaisen said. The bank, he said, aspires to be a partner for growth hence the decision to partner with the two organisations to help deserving entrepreneurs to start and develop sustainable businesses. Idia Penane, Chief Executive of Bedco, said nearly 75 million youth are unemployed globally. “According to the World Bank, unemployment of the youth population aged between 15 and 24 years has been increasing faster in Africa than in other parts of the world,” Penane said. Lesotho, she said, like other countries of the world, is faced with the problem of high youth unemployment. “While the number of university and college graduates increase year to year, most of these graduates are not able to get employment,” Penane said. To address these challenges and in fulfillment of its mandate, Bedco collaborated with the LRA and the Standard Lesotho Bank to instill an entrepreneurial spirit in youths towards job creation, poverty relief and reduction of social vulnerability. “Since its inception, BEP has funded 17 youth-owned businesses with a total of M2.9 million provided by the two partners through a business plan competition,” Penane said. “To date the success rate of the project has been around 70 percent and it has generated 56 jobs,” she said. The BEP, she said, has also provided 145 aspiring entrepreneurs with business skills. “During this round, which encompasses phase three and phase four, the BEP will augment the Bedco Enterprise Development Programme that was launched last year, which is funded by the African Development Bank, particularly the youth development component,” she said. In these two phases 50 young entrepreneurs will be capacitated and at least 10 will get a share of M2 million and be incubated to ensure sustainability and growth. “Through this round 10 youth enterprises will be developed and an estimated 30 jobs created.” This will go a long way in addressing the high rate of youth unemployment which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the Commissioner General of the LRA, Thabo Khasipe, that the issue of high youth unemployment negatively affects individuals, families and communities. “When there are no jobs, crime rates go up, poverty rates also increase and communities become peace-less,” Khasipe said. He added that it also becomes difficult for the revenue authority to collect revenue from businesses and individuals. “I would like to appeal to some agencies to come and join us in this fight so that the impact can be greater,” Khasipe said. “I would also like to urge the youths to be innovative as the days of (securing formal) employment are quickly becoming a thing of the past,” he said.

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