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‘SMME policy the way forward’

 

Bereng Mpaki

THE Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PSFL) has called on the government to capacitate the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) to foster entrepreneurship in the country.

In an interview with the Sunday Express this past week, PSFL Chief Executive Officer Thabo Qhesi said a well-equipped BEDCO would enable the development of Basotho-owned enterprises in the country.

“BEDCO should be beefed up in terms of resources for it to be able to play a meaningful role in entrepreneurship development and business counseling,” Mr Qhesi said.

He said although BEDCO had facilities in a number of districts, they needed to be transformed into functional units that did not only focus on providing rental space for enterprises but foster the development of start-ups into established enterprises that could contribute to the country’s socio economic development.

Mr Qhesi said the government should do more to avail funds to support business start-ups as commercial banks were risk averse.

“On the issue of access to finance, the government should never make the mistake of relying on commercial banks for financing small enterprises,” he said.

“Business start-ups are the responsibility of the government because they are very risky for commercial banks to invest in.”

Mr Qhesi also lauded the government’s launch on Wednesday of a small, micro and medium enterprise (SMME) Policy which seeks to chart a way forward for small enterprise development.

While launching the policy, Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister Thabiso Litšiba described it as the “pathfinder” to the development of Basotho-owned enterprises.

Among issues the policy intends to tackle are the coordination of all intervention programmes for SMME development, which were currently fragmented across a number of ministries.

The minister said other issues included access to finance, entrepreneurial training and skills development, institutional and regulatory framework, use of technology in business, and infrastructure development.

Mr Litšiba added that the reforms would also include the organisation of the informal sector with a view towards including some of it into the tax bracket.

He said financing interventions like the partial credit guarantee schemes had not yielded benefits to small businesses because their requirements were too stringent.

“Existing financial mechanisms are not helpful since they sponsor bankable projects and therefore they tend to be too strict to be accessed by many entrepreneurs,” said Mr Litšiba.

However, arrangements are being made to introduce other means to support small entrepreneurs.”

He also revealed that an entrepreneurship centre would be established within BEDCO to foster entrepreneurship in the country. The initiative, the minister said, was prompted by the realisation that entrepreneurship intervention programmes were scattered across a number of ministries hence it was difficult to determine their impact.

“Currently, there are numerous intervention programmes in different ministries on SMMES. However, there is no coordination among them, so it is difficult to determine their impact. The policy is therefore meant to address such issues,” Mr Litsiba said.

To reinvigorate the cooperative movement in the country, the minister said Lesotho Cooperatives College (LCC) would be transformed into a training institute only for people directly involved in the operation of cooperative societies.

He said the institution had, for a long time, been used as a bridging platform to get into other tertiary institutions to its detriment.

“LCC’s training programmes will focus on equipping cooperative members and not people who will not contribute directly to the cooperative movement in the country,” said Mr Litsiba.

 

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