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Entrepreneur gains skills from YALI fellowship

Letuka Chafotsa

Moratuoa Hlongwa
Moratuoa Hlongwa

RECENTLY returned local entrepreneur, Moratuoa Hlongwa, said she benefited immensely from US President Barack Obama’s initiative, the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), held in Washington DC.

Ms Hlongwa was part of 25 young business leaders from Africa who engaged in a six-week programme in August at Yale University School of Management centred on business, entrepreneurship and community service.

Relating her experiences as one of the 2014 YALI fellows, Ms Hlongwa — who is the founder and managing director of corporate branding consultancy firm, Image Evolution Lesotho — said she applied for the programme to get the training and mentorship needed to grow her business.

Ms Hlongwa, a chartered accountant and a certified image consultant, said she gained a lot of insight into social entrepreneurship, the vast uses of technology and branding in businesses.

“The YALI Washington Fellowship was a life transforming experience,” Ms Hlongwa said, adding that she learnt a lot from classroom sessions, networking encounters with other African fellows, the Yale community at large as well as during the presidential summit.

“The branding and marketing sessions, among others, were very instrumental to me as an entrepreneur running an image and branding business.

“I gained more insight into other methods I can implement and services that I can offer in my business and am now pursuing collaborations with other African fellows,” she added.

On how she qualified as an applicant for the fellowship, Ms Hlongwa said: “I fit the description of the candidate the fellowship was looking for and possessed the skills required which included leadership skills, entrepreneurship and community service demonstration.”

Having served her articles at Moores Rowland Chartered Accountants, heading the Internal Audit department at Nedbank Lesotho, becoming a partner at New Dawn Chartered Accountants and thereafter also being a member of the Central Bank of Lesotho Audit Committee had earned her the “vast experience and technical competences in leadership that were required”.

Ms Hlongwa said she qualified on the community service requirement because of her role as a member of the Barali Business Association which raises awareness on breast cancer and raises funds for the Lesotho Breast Cancer Network through such initiatives as the annual “Maseru Pink Race” event. She is also a former Lesotho Planned Parenthood Association volunteer and helps feed the homeless and underprivileged as a member of the Soup Kitchen initiative at the Maseru United Church.

Speaking about her plans going forward, Ms Hlongwa said she is currently working on an expansion strategy for her image and branding business.

“I also look forward to sharing the skills I gained with the youth and entrepreneurs as well as promoting wellness, volunteerism and involvement in social activities so people can be active and avoid obesity and the attendant health complications,” she said

Ms Hlongwa urged young Basotho to take up the opportunity to apply for the 2015 edition of the fellowship.

“It is a life transforming experience and a great opportunity for continual development and mentorship, it presents many benefits like the opportunities for seed funding, experiencing the business and lifestyle culture in other parts of the world,” said Ms Hlongwa, adding that it also offers networking and collaborating opportunities with other young leaders in Africa and the United States.

President Obama launched YALI in 2010 as a signature initiative that supports young African leaders as they work to spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the continent.

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