SINCE May Lesotho has been one of the many countries exhibiting at the World Expo in Shanghai, China.
The expo ends on October 31.
Countries are exhibiting products and investment opportunities they offer.
The feedback coming from Lesotho’s pavilion at the expo is quite encouraging.
Investors have shown interest in our rural-based businesses as well as the growing diamond mining sector.
Yet we must hasten to mention that this not the first expo in which Lesotho has participated.
Money has been spent on other expos in the world but no real investment has been realised.
True, some foreign investment has been trickling into the country but, if the truth be told, this country deserves more.
The powers-that-be must realise, now and not later, that an expression of interest from a potential investor is just not enough.
Anyone can express interest in investing in a country but it is the steps that they take thereafter that really matter.
It is our belief that as a country we have not been aggressive enough in attracting foreign investors.
We have not been following up on those investors who express interest in coming to Lesotho.
Instead we have been waiting for the investors to make the first move.
Many have not made that first move.
Lesotho must realise that every country in this world, including rogue states like North Korea, are also in the world market seeking investors.
Competition for foreign money is stiff.
Lesotho, therefore, must not sit on its laurels as if the world investors owe it a living.
To be blunt, there is nothing extremely peculiar about our mountain kingdom that can attract foreign investors.
In many respects we are just like other small poor countries in the world.
Lesotho is fighting for this global cake of foreign money with other bigger and more developed countries that are capable of offering more conducive investment climates and more attractive incentives.
These countries have advanced infrastructure, more qualified workforces, huge markets and laws that are investor-friendly.
They can also dangle hard-to-resist tax holidays to lure big investors.
And what does Lesotho, a tiny and struggling economy, have to offer in response in this dog-eat-dog business?
We know for sure that Lesotho is ranked lowly in the “Ease of Doing Business” survey.
Our land tenure laws, a key aspect that investors consider, might be changing for the better but in the meantime they are still so outmoded that no investor would take the risk.
It still takes ages for an investor to register a company, process a work permit or to get a tax clearance.
Our infrastructure is still poor.
Our labour laws are still overzealously in favour of workers who in most cases are indolent and incompetent.
We are still having trouble with little things like long queues at the main border.
Until we have sorted out these shortcomings we can participate in zillions of expos but very few investors will give us a second look.