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Local entrepreneurs partake in BOLESWA forum

Dec. 19, 2019 3 min read

MASERU – Lesotho youth entrepreneurs are back in the country after participating in the BOLESWA Youth Cooperative Exchange Forum, in Selibe-Pikwe, Botswana last week.

This was announced on Tuesday by the information officer in the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing, Makalang Mokere. According to the Department of Cooperatives in the ministry, the forum which attracted 89 participants from Lesotho was intended to offer a platform to youth cooperatives and accord them an opportunity to share ideas amongst themselves and learn from the presentations by business experts and government officials.

The Botswana, eSwatini and Lesotho tripartite dialogue is a circulating business exchange programme held annually and also features sport and entertainment competitions. From the last week meetings, Lesotho youth cooperatives team leader Thabo Mothibeli counted 11 milestones he said were agreed on and set as goals to be achieved by the forum.

They were listed as; promotion of value addition cooperatives activities, promotion of indigenous skills and activity among cooperatives, acceleration of job creation especially for youths, harmonisation of best practices among cooperatives and promotion of exchange programmes, promotion of climate smart practices by youth cooperatives and promotion of social responsibility among youth cooperatives, including awareness creation on health related challenges.

In addition, the youth forum approved promotion of cooperatives education in all sectors of the economy as well as promotion of cooperatives growth through creativity and innovation linking with the New Generation Cooperatives (NGOs.) “We also agreed on improving business skills including market research, promote and increase access and variety of start-up capital and encourage establishment of youth desk in cooperatives departments,” Mr Mothibeli further showed.

All the points were drafted after the three countries engaged in debate on the topic “Producer loan vs Consumer loan” with Mr Mothibeli advising that loans should be attained for production purposes and not for purchasing fancy stuff. The forum also shared the ideology of establishing savings and credit cooperatives.

Mr Mothibeli added: “We put before the forum the challenge of job creation in Lesotho and how best can we use asset-based approach to produce market oriented goods like bottling of water, which is a natural resource our country has.”

He said: “Many businesses in Lesotho fail to withstand challenges because most youth seek market after developing the business. A wise businessman learns and establishes the market before pursuing a business idea. Youths need to be equipped with necessary skills for them to become entrepreneurs.”

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There are 55 registered youth cooperatives in the country assisted by the ministry working closely with other organisations, including the Lesotho Youth Cooperative Alliance (LYCA). The cooperative groups are tasked with inspiring and promoting youth cooperatives and build socio- economic development by working regionally, nationally and internationally.

“LYCA works closely with high school pupils across the country to develop on their business ideas and offer business counseling among others,” explained the Commissioner of Cooperatives in the ministry, ’Maphamoli Lekoetje.

She further showed that cooperatives were fundamental for eradicating hunger and reducing poverty, in that they were a powerful means of supporting marginalised groups like youth and women. The Department of Cooperatives also announced that Lesotho would commemorate the International Cooperatives Day in May next year.

The event will include local youth forum and exhibitions where all coops will bring their different products to the public for marketing.

The day was declared by the United Nations in 1995 to raise public awareness on the invaluable contributions of cooperative enterprises to reduce poverty and create employment. It is annually celebrated by International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) under which Lesotho is a member.

“ICA is aimed at increasing global influence to promote cooperatives as a specific value-based business model and also to develop strong cooperative enterprise for local and economic progress so as to improve capacity building, strengthen inter-cooperation, consolidate and build strategic alliance,” Mrs Lekoetje said.

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