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Ministry calls for youth entrepreneurs

Mpeshe Selebalo
MASERU — The Ministry of Trade and Industry, Co-operatives and Marketing has urged youths to venture into business — such as co-operatives — and complement government efforts in creating much-needed employment.
Addressing delegates from Lesotho, South Africa, Uganda and the United Kingdom who were attending last week’s five-day Youth Co-operatives Forum at the ‘Manthabiseng Convention Centre, Assistant Minister Khotso Matla said co-operatives worldwide had not only weathered the recent global economic crisis but were now providing millions with job opportunities. 
“Throughout the world, co-operatives have not collapsed the way other commercial organisations such as banks and other big companies have done. This is because of the manner in which co-operatives are run and controlled by their dedicated membership,” said Matla.
Matla made an example of one of Lesotho’s success stories — Boliba Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society — which was founded 10 years ago by just 50 members.
“The co-operative was formed by people who had lost their jobs and each member made an initial contribution of M12 500. It started with an asset base of M650 000, which has since grown to the current M65 million.”
Matla added young people should be inspired by such enterprises, which he said contribute immensely to the country’s economic growth.
 “You should take advantage of existing guidelines in operating sustainable co-operatives. I also urge you to make business connections at this forum and exchange ideas with your counterparts from other countries,” said Matla. 
Mervyn Wilson — principal of the Co-operative College in the United Kingdom — told delegates the economic meltdown had made it difficult for school leavers to enter the formal job market, hence the need to take co-operatives seriously.
“Young people are now worse off because it is especially hard for them to enter the job market. Unemployment levels among young people are increasing because of the global economic crisis. Youth co-operatives can help provide employment and encourage working together, towards entrepreneurship,” said Wilson.
Wilson emphasised the importance of education for the success of any business enterprise — including co-operatives — saying youths should learn from the mistakes of failed enterprises.
“I know there has been some frustration in starting your enterprises but, through learning from past mistakes, you can make a success of your co-operatives.”
Co-operatives, he added, were of great significance to the economic growth of a country, especially in the aftermath of the global economic crunch.
“People should not just wait for government intervention; they should take matters into their own hands and start their own business ventures. The United Nations has even said co-operatives have improved the lives of over half of the world’s population.” 
The Commissioner of Co-operatives, ‘Maphamoli Lekoetje noted that the spirit of entrepreneurship is high among local youths, as evidenced by their increased involvement in co-operative enterprises.
“All the registered youth cooperatives don’t receive any financial assistance and have been sustainable. We have not deregistered any since this Youth Forum was formed in 2007 with three registered co-operatives, and this number has since risen to the current 16 enterprises from all over the country,” said Lekoetje.
She said those interested in joining or forming co-operatives would receive training from local and international experts.
“Unlike other co-operatives, youths can have such diverse operations ranging from entertainment to tourism.”
Mohau Makhoathi, from Villetec Co-operative in Maseru, said it is important for youths to work together in uplifting their own living standards.
“We are a multi-faceted co-operative involved in catering, selling clothes and savings. We started operations in February 2008, and have 21 members; our organisation continues to register significant growth with each passing month,” said Makhoathi.
The forum ended on Friday.

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