MASERU – The advent of Information, Communication & Technology (ICTs) has dramatically changed the traditional communication landscape to an extent that everyday life is hugely dependent on ICTs. Business enterprise is not spared from these developments as success of businesses is hugely affected by advances in ICTs. ICTs play a catalytic role in enterprise development.
This is a fact that cannot be avoided as it is those enterprises that are ICT-compliant that succeed in business while those that are not face the wrath of the speed with which information flows and lag behind as a consequence.
The advances in ICTs have realised the decoupling of space and time as swift flows of information globally have reduced the number of hours that one takes to send messages across the world. Within a wink of an eye, information uploaded in the world-wide-web, the internet has reached millions of people (consumers in the business language). This has inadvertently rendered the physical boundaries between countries irrelevant and the cyberspace has become totally flooded.
The worldwide interconnectedness that has come with the use of internet and the resultant facebook, twitter and u-tube have added value to the global interactions and interconnectedness that are suitable for business. These, coupled with high mobility levels across the globe, made interactions even more pronounced as people no longer see the traditional physical boundaries as an impediment.
Communication in the cyberspace
Traditional forms of communication such as letters, telephone and facsimile transmission to mention just a few, have long been surpassed by the introduction of internet-related channels such as the emails, social media such as facebook, twitter, Whats-up and u-tube.
These trends of changes have meant that business could no longer be conducted using the traditional forms mentioned above. As societies move towards being paperless, the hard-copy material on newspapers and newsletter are gradually becoming irrelevant as the move is towards electronic versions. Therefore, measures taken include convergence of hard-copy with electronic to capture all kinds of audiences with various knowledge and information acquisition tastes.
It therefore follows logically to assert that advertising on the newspapers, newsletters and other paper-oriented channels is gradually losing face, hence necessitating adaptation to the ICT-oriented ways of doing business. By the time that a newspaper prepares to go to bed with a couple of adverts, the same advert that is run on the hard-copy newspaper is already flying in the electronic newspapers, which is not by the way, constrained by exorbitant costs involved in printing, distribution and also collection of sales as well as returns.
Electronic advertising, which is where the focus is now has taken a new dimension and has drastically changed the communication landscape, especially for business. However, challenges of internet literacy and affordability still remain at the hind-sight and may impede these technological advances.
Conversely, societies adapt quickly to these advances and make use of the latest ICTs. In the last ten years, it was phenomenal for a granny to hold a cellphone, let alone use it. But a decade later, what is critical is not having a cellphone, but how to enrol for facebook, Whats-up, twitter and u-tube.
The young Turks have rejuvenated the communication sphere and have acted as middle-people in the transformation of societies, including the ones with grannies and the apathetic members of societies. Ten-to-fifteen year-olds now teach their grandparents how to use cellphones and contribute to the value chain in the ICT development sector.
ICT-led Business in addressing the 'Youth Bulge"
A great chunk of every society's population is thrust in youth, which constitutes roughly more than or close to half of a country's population. With youth now vying for entry into business, but being thwarted in the main, by the challenge to identify grand business opportunities and having access to finance, simple-and-easy-to-use means of doing business have become more pronounced than ever before.
Youth form the productive sector of society and have a variety of needs and expectations. The so-called 'Youth bulge' can be defeated by exposing to more business opportunities by identifying niches that address youth problems. Therefore, to capture this sector of society demands that there must be adherence and adaptation to the latest forms of communication, which are ICT-based.
The Youth Bulge is defined as a large population of adolescents entering the labour market and betting strained at the seams of any country's economy and polity, which was designed for smaller populations. This has adverse implications for creating unemployment and alienation unless new opportunities are created quickly enough. A youth bulge is associated with high levels of unemployment and as a result, heightened risk of violence and political instability.
ICT-led business enterprise can act as an answer to the many challenges that can be brought about by the youth bulge as it has the potential to afford youth employment.
Youth must be moved away from seeking jobs in government that is to be employed as service providers working for somebody else, but must be moulded towards being entrepreneurs in their own right. This has the multiplier effect of creating a future economically-independent and self-reliant society.
It is challenging to start a business the traditional way, with demands for a physical office space, staff and also having to keep books of accounts for accountability to stakeholders and shareholders.
New methods, most appropriate for youth are having a laptop equipped with all software, gadgets such as a smartphone, blackberry and other ancillary such as external drives, USBs and a wide array of web-based pads and many others suffice to start a well-run office. This saves the costs of paying expensive rent, paying staff salaries and also paying other overhead expenses such as electricity and water.
Governments are no longer capable of absorbing young people in the civil service. Consequently, it follows that youth's mindset must be on embarking on business so that they are turned into creators of jobs, not job-seekers.
Governments move towards e-government
Most governments are part of the mantra of e-government (Lesotho went to Rwanda and saw how fast the country has advanced in the arena of ICTs and its entrenchment of e-government).
For Lesotho to keep up with this grand initiative of e-government, it must start first ensuring openness of its systems. The advent of face-book, witter, u-tube and others have ravaged the information, communication and technology space and have rendered non-compliant enterprises unsuccessful.
Triggered by these advances, the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) has seized the grand opportunity to use ICTs as catalysts for business success, hence the ICT-led business enterprise project.
The project is intended to play a catalytic role in the business sphere of business by encouraging micro, small and medium enterprises to adopt ICTs in their daily business operations.
Most businesses do not have websites, which could turn out important tools for showcasing the businesses' products and services. With the ICT-led business project, BEDCO intends to create a space for businesses to utilise its dynamic and user-friendly website as a platform for businesses to market their products to end-users.
The first step of the project will be to educate MSMEs on various technologies and the business opportunities that they can tap into when they are business-compliant.
MASERU – Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation
BEDCO) showcased its projects to the public at a breakfast show that was staged with the Thahameso morning programme of Lesotho's only Television Station, Lesotho Television. The event took place on Thursday, 06 November, 2014 at 06:00am – 06:55. The theme of the show, which was 'Entrepreneurship, the gateway to job-creation and poverty-alleviation in the coming years to realise Lesotho's medium and long-term goals contained in the National Strategic Development Plan – NSDP 2012/2013-2016/2017), was witnessed by about 50 participants who had weathered the cold morning.
BEDCO's Chief Executive Officer, Mr Robert Likhang provided a detailed account of the Corporation five projects, Entrepreneurial capacity-building (Ichorise Mohoebi Project),Rural productivity (Iketsetse Project),End-to-end business incubation processes (Qhotsiso Project),Corporate social investment trickle down to promote business (Corporate Enterprise Development Investment Project) and ICT-led business (Khoebo le marang-rang Project).
His discussant was Mr Puseletso Sale, the Chief Executive Officer of Mineworkers Development Agency (MDA). The coming together of the two organisations was solidified by the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two organisations.
Ichorise Mohoebi (Rural Productivity Project)
BEDCO launched its entrepreneurial capacity-building project, Ichorise Mohoebi on 25 November 2013. This was a defining moment for the Corporation as the project was received with a lot of ecstasy by the skills-hungry entrepreneurs who showed in great numbers, registering for the various modules of the project.
Introduction of the project then was an attempt to equip entrepreneurs with skills on how to start, operate and grow their businesses. The project was a result of the Corporation's introspection into its business development programme that had identified challenges such as the stagnation of business enterprise in Lesotho for a number of reasons. One was that those involved in business lacked the requisite know-how and the mechanics of running a business and to grow those already operating to greater heights.
The project recorded a high number of 587 entrepreneurs trained, 348 of which were women, 127 men and 112 were youth. The divisions here are important as they show that the programme catered for the various demographics within society – women, youth and men.
The project trained 35 consultants who added value as trainers for MSMEs who reaped benefit from the project. This pool of consultants will be remembered in the future when training programmes come emerge at the Corporation.
The achievement under Ichorise Mohoebi is evidence to the Corporation's slogan – 'we grow business.' Indeed, we did it under the project and are looking forward to Phase II of the project in anticipation of more entrepreneurs to be trained and developed. The second phase will be more focused and will hinge on agriculture, crafts and green technologies.
Iketsetse (Rural Productivity Project)
Iketsetse is a rural productivity project that is implemented in both rural and peri-urban areas of Lesotho. Intention of the project is to enhance livelihoods of the rural communities. It is a poverty alleviation programme that is aimed at assisting rural communities to engage in self-employment activities using resources available in their areas to produce indigenous products. The programme aims to empower and capacitate rural communities to be economically active and independent.
The project will establish ongoing self-sufficient small-scale income-generating activities for rural communities. It will rehabilitate and empower rural communities by maximising self-employment. It will facilitate small-scale business skills development at community level, maximise sustainable development by utilising local resources whenever possible and integrate local traditional designs and techniques.
In so doing, the project will consequently instil entrepreneurial culture and help rural communities to fain self-confidence starting their own businesses and promote tourism by producing and selling local products made from natural resources, which will increase preservation of such resources.
One of its major aims is to encourage rural communities to take part in issues of waste management in ways that can help them generate income for themselves and to promote value-adding technologies such as quality control and packaging and develop the market both locally and regionally.
Thuso ea likhoebo tse kholo kholisong ea tse nyenyane (Corporate Enterprise Development Investment)
It is universally accepted that corporates have an obligation to act as responsible corporate citizens. This is so because corporates get their profits from members of society, with whom they indirectly have a social contract. Corporates extract minerals and use resources that naturally inhere to citizens. Therefore, there is an obligation that demands of corporates to plough back to society through projects that are intended to contribute to the socio-economic development of citizens.
The principle behind CSI is to take cognisance of the fact that corporates operate within a society (people) and utilise resources (planet) to maximise profits. As a way of showing recognition for and observance of the value of the planet and the people who live in it, corporates have an obligation to strike a balance between their use of the planet for their profit-maximisation by ploughing back to society so that the causal link between the 3Ps (profit, people and planet) is observed.
To ensure success of the project, BEDCO will tap on the Corporate Social Investment projects of other corporates, which are geared towards adding value to societal social and economic development. It will forge partnerships with corporates so that they channel their financial resources towards development of entrepreneurship in Lesotho, there would be positive multiplier effects that could be realised. It will lobby them to invest in enterprise development as a result of the benefits that will accrue to society. BEDCO will administer the CSI funds and resources that would be earmarked for enterprises by corporates, with whom the Corporation will enter into a partnership. BEDCO will craft programmes to which the CSI funds will be directed and the Corporation will be responsible for management of the funds and reporting on how they have been used. It will identify areas that warrant the attention in terms of development and then use the CSI funds to address shoddy areas. In other words, BEDCO will act as an agent between corporates and the entrepreneurs by distributing CSI resources from corporates towards enterprise development.
Qhotsiso (end-to-end incubation process)
BEDCO was established as an incubation centre with both commercial and industrial units where start-up businesses would be nurtured for a certain period of time and then graduate from BEDCO's premises.
The Corporation used to be a location in which entrepreneurs could receive pro-active, value-added support, access to critical tools, information, education, training, contacts, resources and access to finance that may otherwise be unaffordable, inaccessible or unknown.
As an incubator, BEDCO will help micro and small enterprises survive and grow during the start-up period when they are most vulnerable given all assistance by a management team at affordable package. Most incubation programmes take up to 3 years since participants cannot be allowed to be in the programme forever, which used to be BEDCO's practice when the Corporation started.
However, a monitoring action plan upon graduation is also highly recommended to keep track of the performance of the incubatee.
During the incubation period, BEDCO will provide services regardless of where clients are located (provides services in both types). It will ensure that a business idea is germinated, new business established, nurtured and given all the support it needs until it is well established and ready to face the outside world (graduate from the incubation centre).
The purpose of the end-to-end incubation process is to foster entrepreneurship culture ensuring sustainable businesses that can contribute to the economic growth through job creation.
The whole process must be followed to ensure graduation of participants in the incubation programme.
• Idea germination
• Business advisory services
• Technical training
• Business management training
• Business accommodation
• Identification of appropriate stakeholders for support
• Business coaching and mentoring
• Graduation of the business
• Follow – up.