BEDCO awards M5 million to youth entrepreneurs

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Bereng Mpaki

FIFTY young entrepreneurs last night walked away with M100 000 each in seed capital to develop their high potential business projects.

The entrepreneurs were named winners in a business plan competition conducted by the Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO). The project was supported by the African Development Bank (AfDB) under the Economic Diversification Support Project (EDSP).

Initially launched in 2019 with 10 innovative winners pocketing M100 000 each to develop their business projects, the second round of the competition saw the number of winners increasing to 50, taking the total prize money to M5 million.

Speaking during the awarding ceremony, BEDCO chief executive officer (CEO), Idia Penane, said the competition aimed to tackle youth unemployment by supporting them with grants to start micro, small to medium businesses (MSMEs).

She said the competition was mainly targeting youths and women.

“Despite being future economic drivers, our youth remain largely unemployed after graduating from school,” Ms Penane said.

“It is though initiatives like this that we hope to bridge the gap and enable the youth to take a leading role in job creation.

“I therefore, take this opportunity to congratulate the winners of the 2021/22 Business Plan Competition.”

She advised the winners to be resilient as the business journey they were embarking on would not be easy. Instead, it requires grit, patience and determination.

She added, however, that the business training which the winners have undergone in the process of qualifying for the seed capital, combined with mentorship and business incubation support they will receive, will equip them for success.

Ntsotiseng Thokoana, one of the competition winners from Qacha’s Nek, said she was excited to be named one of the winners among over 1000 applications.

She said her poultry project would play a significant role in neutralising the monopoly of poultry suppliers in her district.

“I am overwhelmed by winning this competition because I never saw it coming. I only entered the competition after completing my tertiary studies in 2021 due to boredom.

“But now that I have won, I see this as a big opportunity for me to start a business that will create jobs for my fellow women in Qacha. The business will also help increase the number of players in the poultry industry to bring healthy competition,” Ms Thokona said.

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