AS reported elsewhere in this edition, the 2015 edition of the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project ended with three youth-owned businesses walking away with M500 000 start-up capital which they will split among themselves.
The project targeted graduates between the ages of 21 to 35 with an interest in operating their own businesses. Proposals were also accepted from qualifying graduates who needed funding to expand their start-up enterprises.
Kudos to the Lesotho Revenue Authority, Standard Lesotho Bank and Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation for initiating the project which will go a long way in instilling an entrepreneurial culture in Lesotho. The Mountain Kingdom needs more initiatives like the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project to stem the high unemployment rate and emerge from the tentacles of acute poverty.
It will require the leadership and coordination of government, although the private sector and society at large have an integral role to play. Government has shown its commitment to foster the growth of budding enterprises with the split of the former Ministry of Trade, Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing. There is now a Trade and Industry ministry headed by Joshua Setipa and the Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing minister led by Thabiso Litšiba. Budding entrepreneurs now have their own champion in government in Mr Litšiba and he will need to rise to the occasion.
This is because small and medium enterprises need direct governmental support and tailor-made solutions to some of the challenges they face. These include lack of start-up capital, markets and the regulatory environment among others.
A robust ecosystem for entrepreneurship in Lesoth will need strong links between the public, private and voluntary sectors and Minister Litšiba has his work cut out in this regard.
While ensuring the coordination of disparate stakeholders is challenging, it is by no means insurmountable.
To encourage more entrepreneurs in Lesotho, a belief needs to be cultivated in the populace from a young age that entrepreneurship is a valid and respectable career choice. This should be contrasted with the tenderpreneurship culture that has become all too pervasive in Lesotho and the rest of the African continent.
We can ill afford any more fly-by-night business people who are only interested in making a quick buck leaving Lesotho poorer.
Our young people should be taught that establishing a business is inherently risky, and that entrepreneurs who fail should not be the object of ridicule. Studies have shown that entrepreneurs who have failed before have shown higher rates of success than first-time entrepreneurs.
To engender a culture of entrepreneurship, there is need to get local role models to participate in events and campaigns. Even religious and political leaders have a role in urging their followers to embrace entrepreneurship. Games and competitions at schools can also give students the chance to find out what it is like to run a business.
This will inspire a new generation of entrepreneurial talent. Only through effective education can our economy thrive when entrepreneurs drive innovation and growth.
Women, young people and immigrants can also make a huge contribution. The winning proposals in the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project also included women-run enterprises and that is an encouraging sign. Supporting previously marginalised groups can broaden the entrepreneurial base and accelerate success.