The fight against youth unemployment is complicated by among other things, politicisation of government interventions. This view reigned at the web-based youth unemployment symposium held by Development for Peace Education for youth in its working areas of Lebakeng, Seforong, Khoelenya, Kuebunyane, Hloahloeng, ‘Mamaebana, Senekane and Polihali on Wednesday the 4th November, 2020. The activity provided interaction between the youth and the officers from the Ministries of Development Planning; Small Business Development and Gender, Youth, Sports and Recreation.
The meeting discussed the provisions of the National Development Strategic Plan 2017-2022 for youth development. The Ministry of Development Planning, through the Director of Policy and Planning, Ms. Mahlape Moseme explained that the strategic plans are meant to reflect the country’s growth trajectory as outlined in the Lesotho National Vision 2020 document. She reported that youth had a higher unemployment rate at 29.1% when compared to the overall unemployment rate that was at 22%. She reported that the National Development Strategic Plan focused on the sectors of agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and technology and innovation as key to economic growth and employment creation. However, the Ministry of Development Planning is only responsible for development of national plans and it is the line ministries that respond to the issues by developing programmes.
A representative of the Ministry of Small Business Development, Marketing and Cooperatives, Ms. ‘Matšenki Mohapeloa reported that while they have initiatives meant to support small business, these are not necessarily directed at youth but at all people who want to start a business, but she said that the Department of Cooperatives includes some youth cooperatives. She explained that the partial credit guarantee scheme for small businesses has the same requirements as those of banks as it is run through banks with the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing only acting as guarantor on loans made by the banks.
Mrs. ‘Mabataung Rabolinyane of the Department of youth at the Ministry of Gender, Youth, Sports and Culture had a more promising message for the youth as the department has a number of initiatives aimed at both giving youth the work experience, exposure and contacts necessary for them to enter the workplace and support to start businesses and expand existing business initiatives. The nearly 120 youth gathered in eight community libraries were excited at what she said, but were concerned that government in Lesotho tends to politicize every initiative as a result of which people with no political party affiliation are left out of such initiatives. Mrs. Rabolinyane agreed with them and said they are currently working on laws and policies meant to allow the department to enter into working arrangements with civil society organisations and therefore improve direct engagement with youth across the country with no political interference. She also said that they are working towards the full implementation of the youth council which is expected to bring youth issues to national platforms and allow broad dialogue between youth and leaders.
She strongly encouraged youth to approach her office and said that they can always find a way to make initiatives work, including by facilitating technical support for strong business ideas; providing goods for business start-ups to the value of M40,000, providing use of greenhouses for youth in agriculture and programmes that are meant to promote youth employment. The youth asked several questions that pointed to awareness of existing programmes and some of them said they have approached the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing for financial support for already existing businesses or for marketing support but indicated that the requirement that they be part of a group, organisation, company or cooperative limits their possibilities as they find that the people they work with do not always have the same interest or drive for the business to succeed. Mrs. Rabolinyane gave out her cellphone number and encouraged the youth to make appointment to meet with her about their ideas and to continue to engage with her on social media. All participants agreed that the success of the meeting will be measured by the number of youth who are able to get business support from any of the government initiatives.