. . . pushes more projects for jobless youths

SLB lives up to its motto: ‘We have heard you’

’MASENTLE MAKARA

MASERU - Standard Lesotho bank’s motto “We heard you”, is not just a catch phrase but a summary of the commercial bank’s spirited endeavours to arrest unemployment and poverty among Basotho.Poverty and increasing unemployment have become a stubborn headache for policymakers to such an extend that many official take every opportunity to tackle possible solutions.

Finance minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro, while tabling the 2018 /2019 fiscal year budget speech earlier this year also dedicated a lot of thought to the scourges of poverty and unemployment. “Poverty, hunger and joblessness are high and even higher amongst the youth in this country,” Majoro said.

Standard Lesotho Bank (SLB) recently launched the Entrepreneurship Development Project, which comprises plenty of entrepreneurship initiatives mostly among youths. Business Eye had a chance to sit down with SLB Head of Enterprise Banking Teboho Sello on Tuesday to discuss the project, among other similar endeavours.

“In March we launched the entrepreneurship development project because our strategic intent as a bank is to be SMEs-focused because we want to see youths growing,” Sello said. Sello added they endeavour to help small enterprises to ensure they know they will employ more people so as to put an end to unemployment.

Under this project, there are a number of initiatives:

    Bacha entrepreneurship project Enterprise hub Local supplier development Lioness of Africa Skills development programme
The bank has partnered with the Entrepreneurship Network through which they have already sponsored projects to the tune of M160 000.00. “Entrepreneurship Network is an organisation that seeks to develop SMEs in Lesotho. They create a platform where SMEs can display their products and even those who don’t have products yet can also come to pitch their ideas so as to attract investors present at the exhibition.”

The reason why Standard Lesotho Bank decided to sponsor the Entrepreneurship Network because it is preaching the same gospel as the blue bank by SMEs with in the Mountain Kingdom. “SMEs are very close to our heart as Standard Lesotho Bank.” Last year the bank spent M54 million in funding the SMEs through loans.

“But on the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project, we are giving back to the community as a corporate social investment initiative. That is where we have partnered with LRA (Lesotho Revenue Authority) and BEDCO (Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation). We are targeting young entrepreneurs between the ages of 21 and 35. When they bring their business proposals we then assess them and give them money.”

Bacha Entrepreneurship Project started in 2015 and ended in 2017 making it a three-year term project. “We assisted about 10 youths with about M1.5 million. This was phase one of the project and 9 of the businesses are still continuing to date. Some of them became successful and are even exporting to other countries and participating in international shows and exhibitions.”

On Thursday this week the Bank together with BEDCO and LRA launched and signed a memorandum of understanding of the phase 11 (Two) of Bacha Entrepreneurship Project. Delivering his remarks, the Chief Executive of SLB Mpho Vumbukani, said: “As the biggest stakeholders in the promotion of business development in Lesotho, we have combined our efforts and established a united front to say ‘its about time that we take it on our shoulders to build the future on this country’”.

“I am saying the future with emphasis because the future starts with the young men and women we call youth who are roaming the streets looking for opportunities everyday in our country with little or no success,” Vumbukani added. Vumbukani noted that at the time the project commenced, they felt that they cannot sit back and watch youth unemployment spiralling out of control and they are convinced that to fix this dilemma, entrepreneurship was a way to go because it is becoming obvious that the government cannot create employment without the support of the private sector and parastatals.

“This year alone, we have set aside M1.9 million to drive business development in the country and BEP is one of the beneficiaries of this initiative…” On the on the other hand, LRA Commissioner General Thabo Khasipe said the initiative is going to contribute to Lesotho’s economic development by eradicating unemployment.

“When we started we focused mainly on graduate youths but now we are going to sponsor even youths who only have high school certificate. We want to fight poverty and instil an entrepreneurial spirit in young people,” Khasipe said. BEDCO Chief Executive Dr ‘Makatleho Matabooe said as a trio comprising SLB, LRA and BEDCO they have studied the ups and downs of the phase I of the BEP.

“We were patient enough to study the ups and downs of the whole project as we launch phase two today. We looked back to see where we slipped so that we can move forward without the same challenges,” Matabooe said.She noted most youth did not apply for the sponsorship across the country which made the project look like it was exclusively for Maseru youth. Therefore they have decided they will now see to it that the project is known countrywide through advertisement on media and roadshows and other means which would influence more youths to apply.”

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