MASERU – United States Acting Deputy Chief of Mission to Lesotho, Erika Lewis, last week handed over a new tools lending resource for entrepreneurs involved in the construction sector. This through a grant awarded to Rise International Lesotho to the tune of US$8 061 (more than M120 000) towards establishment of a ‘Tool Library’ for entrepreneurs in the build environment industry. Rise International is a non-profit social enterprise that works towards a world where sustainable social enterprises, created by local entrepreneurs from low income countries, are supported.
They have been piloting an innovative learning-by-doing programme in Lesotho called in loco since 2017 with a view to expanding to other African countries in the future. The ‘Tool Library’ is intended to facilitate entrepreneurial activity and improve skills in carpentry, joinery and welding, with the hope that projects assisted with these loaned tools will bring positive social change in the communities served and facilitate job opportunities for skilled and unskilled labour.
Speaking at the event Lewis stated that efforts to strengthen the business ecosystem in Lesotho through the recently signed Millennium Challenge Corporation compact and support for expanded exports from Lesotho to the United States under the African Growth and Opportunity Act. She said the US is committed to working hand-in-hand with the private sector, civil society, and government to drive investment in innovation and creative solutions. “This grassroots project, which will build skills and opportunity, is a perfect example of what we can accomplish together,” she said.
Lewis further expressed her delight to know that Rise has been working to help communities in Lesotho for the past five years and looks forward to future collaborations with Rise. Rise Country Director, Reitumetse Nthako, elaborated that it is a pleasure to have been a recipient of the US Embassy Self Help Grant which has enabled them to buy 69 tools in three different categories; power tools, bricklaying, and carpentry tools.
Through this ‘Tool Library’ they are able to help all the pioneers who have graduated from their in loco programme, as well as other Basotho youth who have businesses in the built environment, to excel and reach their fullest potential. Furthermore, their overall vision as Rise is to see job seekers become job creators. Grants are awarded once a year to projects that demonstrate local initiative and self-sustainability. Typical projects in Lesotho have included: classroom construction, pit latrines, boreholes, agricultural projects, and construction of health clinics and community centres.
Nkopane Sehapi, the Manager of the Partial Credit Guarantee Fund (PCGF) said in his remarks: “I would like to thank Rise International for keeping their promise of assuring the position of humility, commitment, dedication, and determination to uphold and defend the interests of current and future Basotho entrepreneurs.” Sehapi said it has been a very crucial year for entrepreneurs to come back in full operations since the Covid-19 pandemic, let alone the crop of start-ups to make breakthroughs in business.
PCGF and the Ministry of Small Business, Cooperatives, and Marketing in collaboration with Rise will soon launch a one-of-its-kind model to assist graduates, businesses and informal businesses countrywide. The project was made possible by the vision and commitment of Rise International with financial support from the US Embassy through the US Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund.
Since 2010, the US Ambassador’s Special Self-Help Fund has provided over US$600 000 in grants to local groups and schools in Lesotho that are working to improve the basic economic and social conditions of their communities. As part of Rise’s mission to build an active entrepreneurship ecosystem for Basotho youth, there are plans to provide tools that young aspiring entrepreneurs can work with and help their businesses grow.
Towards that end, rise plans to set up a fully-equipped ‘Tool Library’ for entrepreneurs to improve their carpentry, joinery, and welding skills, and also utilise them on construction projects. As one of eight projects selected for support through the US Ambassador’s Special Self Help Fund in 2021, the ‘Tools Library’ is a unique support service to the private sector, advancing efforts by both the United States and the government of Lesotho to invest in youth and reduce unemployment.
The primary beneficiaries of this ‘Tool Library’ are young Basotho entrepreneurs aged between 18 and 35 who are in the process of setting up their own businesses in the built environment. They are a mixture of carpenters, electrical and structural engineers, construction workers, plumbers as well as other artisans and craft workers. Some will have been through Rise’s in loco fellowship programme and others will be upcoming entrepreneurs wanting to set up their own businesses in the built environment in order to earn a living.
The secondary beneficiaries will be vulnerable communities with whom Rise partners and through the in loco fellowship designs and builds much-needed infrastructure to improve the quality of lives by solving a social need. As a result of this project, Basotho entrepreneurs in the construction industry will now have an additional avenue to gain the important technical skills and resources needed to establish successful businesses in Maseru.