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Minister pushes for economic diversification

Tsitsi Matope

THE Minister of Industry and Trade, Tefo Mapesela, said his ministry is focused on creating an industrialised Lesotho that aims to ensure increased local participation, strengthen partnerships and boost the export of locally-produced goods.

In a recent interview with the Sunday Express, Mr Mapesela said industrialisation will drive the country’s economic diversification agenda, which seeks to promote the inclusion of many Basotho in various businesses.

Minister Mapesela said through the support from the World Bank, they have started to reform the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) to make it more responsive to the country’s economic needs which include supporting growth of local businesses and boosting sectors where Lesotho has a comparative advantage.

“We are transforming various departments in the ministry to make our structures receptive to the economic needs and context of the country,” Mr Mapesela said.

“One of our priority areas is to re-configure the LNDC by reviewing the mandate of the Financing and Investment Promotion departments. This will ensure effective assessment of proposed business projects through the Investment Promotion department while the Finance department will concentrate on financing mechanisms and monitoring.”

He explained changes underway would ensure independent operations and decision making.

“Over the years, many prospective business people and others seeking to expand their operations have presented good business project proposals but due to lack of financing, these projects never saw light of the day. The approach has changed, projects assessed and found to be feasible should be accorded that status to allow their marketing for funding or to provide support for Basotho to access funding from the private sector, among other innovations,” he said.

Mr Mapesela further explained that through the LNDC, they looked forward to receiving bankable business proposals.

“Business opportunities still exist in areas including wool and mohair, water, hydro power and horticulture, among others.

“By investing more in our strong areas, such as wool and mohair, we can widen our industrial area and increase our export base while importantly, reducing importation of goods we can produce locally,” Mr Mapesela said.

He further emphasised the need to promote establishment of viable companies and promoting the growth of local businesses through strengthened partnerships, among other interventions.

Recently, the ministry hosted a business forum where various actors including local businesses, the Lesotho Enterprise Assisted Programme (LEAP), Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA), Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) discussed business opportunities, challenges, and lessons learnt.

One of the issues raised during the business forum was the need to map a criteria for the classification of businesses, based on their size.

“For years, we have been talking about small to medium and large enterprises without a properly constituted criteria for the classification of what makes a company to be classified as a medium enterprise for example. We would like to establish that classification, based on a number of indicators, such as the annual turnover. This will go a long way in improving the quality of our data and informing our development programmes.”

Minister Mapesela also said the local business sector has expressed need for the setting up of a standards body to support penetration into regional and international markets.

“Lack of a standards body is affecting our competitive businesses that would want to export their goods and have to first go through a lengthy process to have them certified in South Africa or elsewhere. We are therefore working to ensure that we have a standards institute that will promote our drive to increase export of our local goods.”



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