CAFI opens opportunities for youth again



MASERU – Lesotho’s government, through the Lesotho Entrepreneurship Hub and Seed Financing Facility (LEHSFF) under the Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion (CAFI), is once again providing an opportunity for youth to enrol in a life-changing six-month incubation programme. All enterprises keen on advancing their businesses can choose from fiveEnterprise Support Organisations (ESOs) to submit their applications to by May 8, 2024.

This incubation programme was facilitated by five selected ESOs, namely; Limkokwing University, NUL Innovation Hub, Basotho Enterprises Development Cooperation (BEDCO), the Entrepreneurs Network (TEN), and Gem Institute. The CAFI Project, a six-year initiative led by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Business Development, and Tourism, aims to enhance access to business support services and financial products for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and entrepreneurs, with a particular focus on women and youth.

The project, funded by a US$45 million (about M800 million) loan from the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank, began in 2022 and is scheduled to end in 2028. Additionally, there is a $7.5 million support grant, bringing the total funding to $52.5 million. Furthermore, a separate grant of $950,000 has been received for the horticulture initiative from the India, Brazil, and South Africa (IBSA) Fund.

The primary objective of the CAFI Project is to improve the accessibility of business support services and financial products for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs, with a particular focus on women and youth. To gauge the effectiveness of the project, specific indicators have been established.

 These include tracking the number of women-owned and youth-owned enterprises benefiting from private sector initiatives, the amount of financing accessed by women-owned enterprises through the programme, and the percentage of women-owned and youth-owned enterprises supported by the programme that experience increased revenue and employment.

The overarching goal of this project is to strengthen Lesotho’s emerging entrepreneurial ecosystem and enhance access to early-stage funding for start-ups and innovative SMEs, with a specific emphasis on businesses owned by youth and women.

This will be achieved through the implementation of various activities such as the establishment of an Entrepreneurship Hub and Seed Financing Facility. These initiatives aim to enhance the quality and range of integrated start-up business support services and improve access to early-stage funding.

One of the key deliverables of the project is the incubation of up to 500 start-ups and innovative SMEs over a period of five years. As a result, enterprises with innovative entrepreneurs are now invited to submit applications for a six-month incubation period.

“If you are an innovative entrepreneur with a great idea to run a business (new or existing) that has a huge potential to grow and create employment, visit the Cafi website to stand a chance to be capacitated by either of the 5 ESOs,” CAFI organisers announced, adding that application deadline is due on May 8.

CAFI, which also run the famous Lesotho Enterprise Assistance Program (LEAP), established a Horticulture Incubation Hub in Mahobong to expand creation of fruits farms building on the successes of Likhothola, Maoamafubelu and Likhetlane. It also establishes a Disaster Risk Financing for MSMEs during emergencies, improve government to business services and financial inclusion.

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