In the afternoon, after most of the stalls had been allocated appropriately, we were invited to congregate within the spacious and elegant Convention Centre for the official opening of the Entrepreneurship Expo.
The Program Director warmed the crowd with the rich history of Lesotho for the PS of Small Businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing. In return, Mr Lerata Pekane made a brief but powerful speech observing protocol and concluded by the invitation of his Minister to the stage.
The Honourable Mr Chalane Phori addressed the audience eloquently, making valid points with an essence of provocativeness and practical examples. Additionally, he mentioned a few things they were working on, which included the selling of wool and mohair, as well as the meat processing plant that was among pipeline projects.
I was moved when he stated the unequivocal fact that the general public should be invited to participate in Entrepreneurship Expos with the inclusion of high school students so that entrepreneurship does not become a fall back option from unemployment.
It goes without saying that building a profitable and sustainable business takes time, which becomes expensive when the siren of unemployment is deafening the ears and the accompanying red flashing light blinding judgement.
The content of the speech was charged patriotic fervor which was exemplified by him encouraging the wear local (seshoeshoe) Wednesdays. He made an example of how he was challenged by someone stating that we did not produce the seshoeshoe cloth. His response was that most chickens are not incubated in the country yet people are nonetheless enlivened to buy them as Basotho chickens.
Into the bargain, he made it crystal clear that production was of paramount significance while quality will follow. Before stepping down, he declared the event as officially opened on behalf of the Prime Minister, who was still held up in official government business.
Next on stage was Mr Monyamane, the President of The Entrepreneurs Network. He gave a special thanks to the sponsors and individuals who had supported the initiative from birth. He told a touching tale about his recent observations on privilege. The take home message was that the expo was not about making ourselves feel good and the usual romanticism of entrepreneurship, but rather about being as real as dying and then being reborn from the experience. It was not about the hype. It was about sustainability and growth.
Last on stage was the CEO of BEDCO, Dr Makatleho Matabooe, she outlined an extensive list of pros for attending the expo, not only for individuals, but also for businesses, among them being to inspire and motivate entrepreneurship among the youth. Moreover, she viewed expos as enabling networking and partnering opportunities among businesses.
She expressed satisfaction about BEDCO having switched the stance from competing with to promoting Small and Medium Enterprises. She further mentioned how it would be a praise worthy accomplishment if two out of every ten civil servants would be brave enough to start their own businesses.
The Program Director declared the official tour among the stalls with an assertion for people to actually buy and not merely feast their eyes.