Youth Employment in Lesotho

Photo: UNDP Lesotho

In Lesotho, people between the ages of 15 and 35 face an unemployment rate of 34 percent, casting their future and that of their country into uncertainty. Young people need jobs. With this in mind, UNDP teamed up with the Government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Gender Youth Sport and Recreation, UN agencies such as International Labour Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund and other partners such as the Commonwealth Youth Foundation to help Lesotho promote youth employment for poverty reduction.

The goal of the youth employment project is clear: to give young people in both urban and rural areas the entrepreneurial training and resources they needed to develop small businesses – and the mentoring to help them succeed.

Starting in early 2007, UNDP enlisted the support of key stakeholders, including youth organizations, businesses and civic groups and sought out strategic partners, with the Government, UN and others such as the Mineworker’s Development Agency. These partnerships has yielded a Lesotho Youth Credit Initiative to provide a micro-financing facility for the employment project’s trainees, hoping to foster an environment where young businesspeople can access credit to implement their ideas, work hard and flourish.

The programme has made steady progress: to date, more than 1,100 young people - over 60 percent of them women - have completed a course on how to start and improve a business. Seventy-four youth groups were established. They have started up more than 200 enterprises, about two-thirds of them with the help of credit provided through the programme. The partnership, cooperating with Lesotho’s leaders, is working to make youth employment a permanent priority of the national government. A National Action Plan on Youth Employment is set to be submitted to the Cabinet for adoption. Legislation establishing a National Youth Council is also underway. The initiative aims to foster a vibrant community of young entrepreneurs running established businesses – and to set off a chain reaction of new enterprises created by increasing numbers of Lesotho’s young people.