THE creation of the new Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing marks a new dawn for enterprises in Lesotho. The new ministry came about following a split of the former Ministry of Trade, Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing.
The new Trade and Industry ministry is headed by Joshua Setipa while Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister is Thabiso Litšiba.
Stakeholders have viewed the split in a positive light, expressing hope it would stimulate the stagnant enterprise development sector in the country.
On Tuesday this week, Mr Litšiba intimated that government was determined to ensure enterprise development thrived and becomes a true engine for the economic development of the country.
During his first official visit to the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) following his appointment, Mr Litšiba unveiled the government’s plan on enterprise development.
Mr Litšiba was accompanied by senior ministry officials, heads of departments and other key staff.
BEDCO is a government parastatal established by the BEDCO Act of 1980 as amended, with the primary responsibility of establishing and developing Basotho-owned enterprises.
In his address to the management and staff of the corporation, Mr Litšiba said BEDCO would be a major role-player in the new ministry since its core mandate is the establishment and development of Basotho-owned enterprises.
The minister also pledged to equip the 35-year old parastatal with financial resources and “any other support” to fulfil the mandate conferred by government to the agency.
He also challenged BEDCO management and staff to be amenable to change if the corporation was to realise its objectives, further noting that change was inevitable.
Mr Litšiba also challenged the management to constantly monitor and evaluate the efficacy of the corporation’s business models.
“If a business model you are currently using is not working, do not stick to it, change it. It is about time people became amenable to change as it is inevitable and happens at an incredible speed,” said Mr Litšiba.
The minster also called on more collaboration within BEDCO and its allies that are in the Small Enterprises Development, Cooperative and Marketing ministry.
He also highlighted the need for the avoidance of duplication of efforts, which he said was a liability for any organisation willing to bring about change in its sphere of operation.
The gathering also resolved to bring to an end the solo approach to work, which some said had characterised the previous ministry, to be replaced by collective planning and closer collaboration.
Enterprise development is undoubtedly the bone-marrow of every economy in the world. This assertion is premised on the notion that the private sector is the main employer more than any other sector in a properly organised economy. The private sector has all the skills, knowledge and expertise required to drive the economy.
In instances where the public sector remains the dominant employer, it highlights a problem with the structure of that economy in the long-term. The public sector should only act as a catalyst for the private sector to thrive and ultimately create jobs.
Up to 65 percent of Lesotho’s enterprises profile consists of micro businesses, small enterprises 20 percent, while medium-sized enterprises account for only 12 percent.
Large-scale enterprises make a mere three per ent of the total business enterprise sector of the country. This is according to the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) Report, released in 2010.
In terms what these enterprises offer, either in services or products, 75 percent of the mentioned enterprises are in services, 24 percent in manufacturing and one percent in the primary industry.
In 2006, Basotho owned 69.4 percent of the country’s enterprises, with Asians owning 16.5 percent, South Africans 5.9 percent and others 8.2 percent.
Enterprise development is gradually gaining prominence around the globe and this is manifested in the manner governments now take entrepreneurship seriously. Some governments have gone to the extent of creating separate ministries that deal specifically with small enterprises.
Lesotho is among the few countries in the Southern African region, and even in Africa, to have a ministry whose mandate is geared towards small enterprise development.
* Sithetho is the Communications & Stakeholder Relations Manager at BEDCO.