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Lesotho, China negotiate loan for Mafeteng solar project

Ntsebeng Motsoeli

THE Chinese Embassy’s Economic and Commercial Counsellor, Ma Guoliang, says negotiations are on course between the China Export Import (Exim) Bank and the government for a loan to finance a multimillion solar energy project in Ha-Ramarothole, in Mafeteng.

Mr Guoliang said this in a recent interview with the Business Journal.

The government is looking to acquire a M2 billion loan to kick start the solar energy project which promises to produce about 70 megawatts of electricity.

The project is expected to run in two phases. The first phase which is the construction of the plant is projected to use up to US$70 million (about M980 million) and it will start as soon as the two parties have reached the loan agreement.

Phase II is expected to use up to US$77 million (about M 1, 078 million). It will produce 40 megawatts. It will start following a monitoring and evaluation interval on the first phase.

And Mr Guoliang recently said that the negotiations were progressing well between the two parties and the developments would be announced in due course.

“The negotiations are on course between the two parties and they are going through the necessary procedures,” Mr Guoliang said.

“This project will be using concessional loans from the Chinese government. As far as I know, the Exim Bank of China is undergoing smooth discussions with relevant parties like the Ministry of Energy and the Lesotho Electricity Company. New developments are coming soon and the press will be informed.”

He said that the Chinese government has committed to continuing to extend financial and humanitarian assistance for the social and economic advancement of Lesotho.

Mr Guoliang said that one such financial interventions by the Chinese government is the M900 million grant for the construction of the Maseru District Hospital and Eye Clinic where locals will be provided with advanced medical services. The construction of the new health facility, which is expected to benefit at least 400 000 people in Maseru and other districts, is expected to begin before the end of this year.

China initially pledged M400 million when the two governments signed a funding agreement in December 2017 but the Asian economic giant has since resolved to double the funding commitment as part of its improved development assistance package to Lesotho.

Lesotho is one of several African countries that are benefiting from Chinese development assistance in terms of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) whose last summit was held last September in the Chinese capital, Beijing.

China has contributed immensely to Lesotho’s infrastructure development, including the Manthabiseng National Convention Centre, the Parliament, the State Library and Archive, the China-Lesotho Friendship Middle School at Thuathe and the new State House.

M Guoliang added that the Chinese government will provide another grant for the construction of the Maseru Fire Station as well as provide fire engines for the project that is still in the pipeline.

Since 2017, China has continuously provided emergency food aid to Lesotho where about 4800 tonnes of rice worth M76 million has been donated to 500 000 Basotho. According to Mr Guoliang, an additional 3100 tonnes of rice worth M50 million will be provided this year.

This donation will come in handy for the 600 000 Basotho that government recently declared were in need for food aid.

Last week, the Chinese government donated M1 million worth of nutritious meals to be distributed to more than 60 000 pre-school Basotho children.

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