THE government recently began a technical training for 20 business consultants to improve enterprise development in the country.
The training, which was organised by the Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO), is meant to upgrade the skills of business consultants to pass on to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME’s) for a greater impact on the country’s economic development.
The initiative is being implemented under an African Development Bank (AfDB) financed Economic Diversification Support Project – Promoting Enterprise Development (EDSP-PED).
BEDCO enterprise development officer, Tšepo Shava, said the training is meant to upgrade the existing skills of business development service providers (BDSP) to ensure that they provide improved services to facilitate impactful development of MSMEs.
“The training was for business development service providers to equip them with technical skills to increase their capacity to train their own clients who happen to be MSMEs,” Mr Shava said.
“In other words, this is a trainers’ training aimed at capacitating BDSP’s to provide a uniform quality of service to their clients, such that a client will get the same quality of service from any of the 20 trained BDSPs. This is done to support MSMEs to improve its impact on the economic development of the country.”
He explained that the majority of local businesses are “survivalist” micro-enterprises, with the majority of MSMEs having acquired business skills through informal means. He said this limits their potential for growth and expansion opportunities.
He explained that unlike in the past where it seemed as though BEDCO was competing with private BDSPs in equipping MSMEs with business management skills, the organisation is now switching to a facilitator role where it will engage the BDSPs to conduct trainings.
“Today the attendants are learning one of the five modules that address some of the challenges that have been revealed by a research on the BDS ecosystem in the country. They will be taught the other modules that complete the training later this year.”
He said the research also revealed that the BDS market is fragmented and there is a need for better coordination to enable BDSPs to share resources for better impact in assisting MSMEs.
He added that the quality of services by most consultants has been found to be providing generic services with no specialisation.
For her part, the enterprise development manager of the EDSP, Matšepang Polaki, said that promoting enterprise development (PED) also includes business incubation and mentorship. She said this is done to ensure that MSMEs graduate to medium and large enterprises through capacity building of business development services in the country.
Following completion of this group’s training, 10 of the BDSP trainees will be selected for a pilot engagement where they will train and mentor yet to be identified MSMEs, she said.
She added that these would be selected through a business plan competition with focus on youth and women, where high potential start- ups and existing MSMEs with a direct impact on job creation and the economy will be considered.
She explained that emphasis has been placed on MSMEs because they play a crucial role in employment creation and poverty alleviation.
“The government in its National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) has identified the private sector as the engine for economic growth and diversification. Within the private sector, emphasis has been placed on the development of MSMEs which indicated that BDSPs have been sidelined in expediting enterprise development in the past.”
One of the workshop trainees, ‘Maneo Seekane from business coaching organisation, StartSmart, said she applied for the training to be equipped with more business training skills to remain relevant and responsive to the needs of her clients.
“It is important for my organisation to remain in touch with the changing needs of the market so that we can deliver the quality of services that add value to the development of MSMEs,” Ms Seekane said.
She indicated that some of the common needs from her clients include market for their products, while others struggle to meet the market requirements.
“Many clients have no idea whether their enterprise is making a profit or loss, which points to the lack of basic business management skills.”
Another trainee, Matšeliso Ranthako, from On-Point Business Services said MSMES often encounter challenges of lack of finance, lack of management skills and lack of business networks.