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BEDCO boss calls it quits

Bereng Mpaki

BASOTHO Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO) CEO, Idia Penane, has resigned.

Ms Penane left the organisation on 13 May 2022 for greener pastures abroad.

She joined the corporation in March 2020 and leaves before the end of her three-year employment contract.

BEDCO’s head of business enablement, Tšepang Tlali is now the acting CEO.

In an interview with the Sunday Express on Friday night on the sidelines of her classy farewell ceremony at ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre, Ms Penane said some of her highlights include striking new partnerships with the private sector to tackle micro, small to medium enterprises’ (MSMEs) challenge of access to seed capital.

She said they are were able to bring on board the African Development Bank (AfDB) to sponsor BEDCO’s Business Plan Competition, which was piloted with 10 winners who each won M100 000.

The competition then increased the number of winners from 10 to 50 after the AfDB partnership, increasing the total sponsorship to M5 million per year.

Applications for the second installment of the competition from interested young entrepreneurs are currently open.

BEDCO has also partnered with Sekhametsi Investment Consortium, which pledged a M300 000 interest-free revolving fund for startups during Ms Penane’s leadership.

“When I came in at BEDCO many people did not know what BEDCO was all about and its job. The government was even contemplating shutting it down, but now there has been so much happening in terms of setting up strategic funding partnerships to help businesses with seed capital,” Ms Penane said.

The partners had also doubled their efforts in following up on BEDCO beneficiaries to ensure their survival in the cut-throat business environment.

Ms Penane urged the government to support BEDCO with relevant resources so that it can adequately deliver on its mandate of developing enterprises.

“BEDCO is one of the crucial public institutions that has badly suffered neglect from the government over the years. I plead with the authorities to provide it with the necessary support to carry out its work,” she said.

On his part, Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister, Machesetsa Mofomobe, praised Ms Penane saying she had managed to turn around the struggling public institution from obscurity back to relevance.

“She has done extremely well since she came in. If it was up to me, I would not let her go, but sadly I cannot get in her way,” Mr Mofomobe said.

“In just over two years I have witnessed BEDCO grow from being just another mediocre government agency to fully changing the perception of the nation about itself and entrepreneurship.”

The Minister said that during Penane’s tenure, she had launched a couple of interventions for MSMEs to get access to finance and this was commendable.

The government had also seen a significant scale-up of MSME support programmes and introduction of other relevant offerings during this period.

“I have witnessed that even the BEDCO staff have gained much confidence and work ethic under her leadership. I want to express my deep appreciation for everything that ‘M’e Idia has done. I wish you every success in your future endeavours.

“I am delighted that where your career is taking you places you in a position where you will represent Lesotho as a whole and I am confident that we will be well represented,” he added.

Mr Mofomobe conceded that BEDCO has been neglected and needs government support.

“Both BEDCO and the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) are very serious, and if we as the government do not give them the necessary attention, it means we are not serious about their respective mandates.

“We need to have a clear economic plan in collaborating with these two institutions after the Covid-19 economic impact. We cannot recover the economy where the private sector is not being empowered through these institutions.”

Mr Mofomobe said that he was working on facilitating BEDCO to becoming financially independent as funding constraints were among its major challenges.

“I have asked cabinet to approve a property portfolio for BEDCO so that it can develop income generation ventures in order to become financially independent.

“Sometimes when government coffers are dry, BEDCO does not get its subvention, but through establishing its own income generation projects, it can be financially independent,” the Minister added.

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