TechnoServe's Believe Begin Become 2007 Officially Launched in Swaziland

Swaziland's National Business Plan Competition Believe Begin Become is continuing its entrepreneurship development program again

MBABANE, SWAZILAND, APRIL3, 2007 —TechnoServe, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and supporting companies from Swaziland's private sector officially launched Believe Begin Become 2007, Swaziland's National Business Plan Competition, today at the Mountain Inn amongst a crowd of corporate executives, entrepreneurs, private sector sponsors and stakeholders.

After a highly successful opening year in 2006, USAID has committed to supporting another year of this comprehensive training, mentoring and network-building program. Last year's competition attracted applicants from across the four regions of the country and produced graduates, finalists and winners who all regard the program as being a crucial catalyst in starting their businesses.

TechnoServe Swaziland Country Director Leslie Johnston states, "The passion and commitment of the 227 applicants in last year's competition clearly demonstrated the entrepreneurial spirit which we believe will help grow the Swazi economy. We commend those hardworking individuals who completed our rigorous 'mini MBA' training program and are well on their way to launching impactful businesses."

Johnston also recognised the sponsors who have committed themselves to supporting the program this year. She said such support from the private sector is a critical component to the program's success. Last year Believe Begin Become received remarkable cash and in-kind support from both local companies and individuals.

Among last year's leading local sponsors is First National Bank (FNB), who was the largest cash contributor to the program. Ian Leyenaar, Managing Director of FNB, states, "FNB viewed this competition as an excellent job creation initiative and a wonderful opportunity for aspirant entrepreneurs to demonstrate their capabilities and to put their business plans to the test as it were! Particularly given recognized and key support behind this initiative, we were understandably willing to make a substantial financial contribution. In conjunction with TechnoServe, we look forward to monitoring and reviewing the ongoing progress and success of the 2006 applicants and in particular the finalists in the program."

Lawrence Johnson, Senior Trade Specialist for USAID in Southern Africa, commenting on behalf of the major sponsor of the program, emphasised the importance of small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) growth to the Swazi economy. "The objective of Believe Begin Become is to develop a group of entrepreneurs who are capable of becoming the future leaders of the country. Our belief is that the private sector offers the most vital, most informed and the most responsive group of thinkers and drivers for policy change and participation in the global environment." He encouraged existing small business owners to apply to Believe Begin Become in order to attain skills to grow their businesses.

The application period opened today and will remain open until April 20, 2007 at 6:00pm. Interested applicants are encouraged to access the eligibility criteria, rules and application form on the website at www.believe-begin-become.com or to pick up the full application guide from the TechnoServe office on the 4th Floor of Lilunga House, Mbabane. Application guides will also be available in select editions of the Times of Swaziland

About TechnoServe: TechnoServe helps entrepreneurial men and women in the developing world to build businesses that provide jobs, income and economic opportunity. Since its founding in 1968, the U.S.-based nonprofit has helped to create or improve more than 2,000 businesses, benefiting millions of people in 32 countries. TechnoServe is currently working to build and expand businesses in Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Swaziland, Uganda, Ghana, Madagascar, Rwanda, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Côte d'Ivoire and India. TechnoServe has been recognized as one of the world's "Outstanding Social Entrepreneurs" by the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship.

About USAID: USAID is an independent federal government agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. USAID supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting 1) economic growth, agriculture and trade; 2) global health; and, 3) democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance. With headquarters in Washington, D.C., USAID's strength is its field offices around the world. USAID works in close partnership with private voluntary organizations, indigenous organizations, universities, American businesses, international agencies, other governments, and other U.S. government agencies. USAID has working relationships with more than 3,500 American companies and over 300 U.S.-based private voluntary organizations. http://www.usaid.gov