In a bid to develop entrepreneurs, Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO) has embarked on an initiative dubbed Women Mentorship program (WMP) to empower women businesses, announced this week.
BEDCO Chief Executive Officer, Idia Penane said WMP is not side-lining other entrepreneurs in general but is just a pilot phase unit to assess the progress and future for the program.
According to Penane, BEDCO is involved in the development of MSMEs which appear in the National Strategic Development Program II (NSDP II) under Priority Areas in Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development project and there is a growth of 250 small and 50 medium businesses and Micro Business Development Project which include the growth of 1000 micro businesses.
Penane said that, BEDCO through the Entrepreneurship Development Project is going to enhance entrepreneurship amongst youth and women.
She said youth development project has the Business Plan Competition, Business Idea Pitching Program and Women Mentorship Program so far.
“We are going to improve enterprise development effectiveness by implementing an Incubation Strategy, by implementing E-Commerce Platform Development and implementing an Entrepreneurship Promotion program,” Penane said.
BEDCO Youth Development Manager, Majubere Mugandani said WMP falls under the Youth Development Project as one of the initiatives which has access to finance and business incubation.
“BEDCO believes the youth needs access to finance in order to establish their businesses,” she said.
She said the business incubation identifies gaps and challenges for entrepreneurs and designs interventions and mentorship for each one of them.
“This is one of the processes that works even globally because people who have mentors are different from the people who do not have mentors in businesses. Mentorship is going to help members to incorporate with experienced people in business,” she said.
She said they are piloting with women because they have learned that, women face a lot of challenges in business than other entrepreneurs in terms of growth and other challenges.
She said there will also be a signing of contracts and goal setting in late July as well as periodic check-ins until the closure of the mentorship relationship in July 2023.
For his part, BEDCO Executive Head of Enterprise, Lemphane Lesoli stated that, the program is about showing the growth of the business industry in Lesotho, adding that the program was encouraged by comments of women during the previous BEDCO women’s day commemoration saying that was what pushed BEDCO to initiate the WMP as a way to reach out to the developing entrepreneurs especially those who are members of the Youth Development Project.
BEDCO WMP is aimed at assisting upcoming entrepreneurs with interest of growing their businesses through the footsteps of those who are already in business.
BEDCO also invited potential mentors as the starting point to include their views and opinions for the piloting phase.
According to Fin-scope 2016, 59% of MSME owners in Lesotho were women who are trying to pave their way up the chain. Furthermore, BEDCO’s plan for the mentor and mentee to at least meet once a month and the mentorship program will take one year.