MASERU – The Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing hosted the BOLESWA Tripartite Youth Cooperative Exchange Forum from December 10 to 14 at Lehakoe Hall.
The Tripartite Youth Cooperative Exchange Programme came about after youth from the three countries, Botswana, Lesotho, and Eswatini, upon realising that youth unemployment is a huge problem, got together to organise a forum where young people could share ideas on how best they can contribute to the development of their countries’ economies through cooperatives.
This year the forum was held under the theme: “Using Cooperatives As An Economic Stimulus In The SADC Countries”.
Speaking at the forum on Monday, the Deputy Minister of Gender and Sports, Youth and Culture Rethabile Mokaeane, who was representing Small Business minister Chalane Phori urged the tripartite youth co-operators to unite for the sake of their countries’ economic growth as unemployment is SADC’s biggest challenge.
The Commissioner of Cooperatives in Lesotho, Maphamoli Lekoetje, said the forum was initiated in 2012 when Lesotho was commemorating International Cooperatives Day.
She commented the youth from the three countries for being catalysts of youth cooperatives.
A cooperative is an autonomous association of people united voluntarily to meet common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
Lesotho currently has 19 registered youth cooperatives under the umbrella body called Lesotho Youth Cooperative Alliance.
In an interview with Public Eye, the Deputy Chairperson of the Botswana Youth Cooperative Alliance, Boitumelo Tselaesele, said the forum offers the opportunity for the tripartite youth to exchange ideas on how to tackle unemployment and that the forum really lived up to its intended purpose.
The fact that youth cooperatives in Botswana have increased is a sign that initiatives like this were bearing fruit.
“What I have learned, however, is that we still have a long way to go as far as instilling in people the spirit of cooperatives in these three countries. We have to advocate for unity for the success of our cooperatives hence the forum of this nature.
“I am therefore grateful to the Ministry of Small Business Cooperatives and Marketing because its support shows that Lesotho’s government is hands-on in as far as supporting and empowering youth is concerned,” Tselaesele said.
The BOLESWA Youth Cooperative Exchange Programme was in full force to support the theme of this year’s forum.
Some of the activities included discussing the ways in which sustainable Youth Cooperatives could be created and debating on the topics such as “the value of saving in Cooperatives VS the normal institutions”.
The forum also had a cultural night and competitions for Mr and Miss BOLESWA 2018, as well as sports challenges.
Hezekiel Twala from Eswatini told Public Eye that he was eager to gain more knowledge as to how cooperatives could be used to promote the economy of a country. He said he was highly motivated by success stories of the youth from other countries and was looking forward to exchanging ideas on how to improve cooperatives as well as the challenges they face.
He added that youth cooperatives in Eswatini are a new phenomenon and they are following Lesotho which is a pioneer in the sector.
“I like that Lesotho also has cooperatives’ schools and Eswatini has just joined the trend as it has recently opened its own. I hope my colleagues, especially those who are attending a forum of this nature for the first time learn something and actually take the knowledge back home to educate other youth,” Twala said.
Lipuo Palime, a member of the “Ipopeng Makoattlane” and Lesotho Youth Cooperative Alliance said as Basotho co-operators they are pleased to be the hosts of the prestigious forum.
She said she admired the leadership skills of the Botswana and Eswatini youth when it comes to cooperatives which could easily be a vehicle for creating employment.
“I am glad because it seems our advocacy has worked since we have 460 youth participants, having increased from 300 and in Lesotho we have a total of 192 youth co-operators. It is high time that Basotho youth realise that we cannot all be employed therefore cooperatives are a way to make it in life,” Padime said.