SACU commissions trade study
TWO consultants were recently in the country on a Southern African Customs Union (SACU) study tour to generate economic data as part of efforts towards unlocking Lesotho’s investment potential as well as boosting exports to the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) market.
The team from TE Consortium- a Botswana-based development research team- is conducting the study on behalf of SACU ahead of the review of the SACU-EFTA Agreement which was signed on 26 June 2006 and came into force in May 2008.
EFTA comprises of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland while the SACU countries are Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.
The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Trade, Thebe Mokoatle, who recently met with the consultants, said Lesotho had not benefited much from the EFTA agreement.
The agreement covers trade in goods and lays the foundation for a further engagement between the parties with regard to intellectual property, investment, trade in services and public procurement.
The total value of imports from SACU into the EFTA are estimated at around EUR 656 million, while the total exports are estimated at EUR 937 million.
“The SACU-EFTA agreement came into force in 2008 and now we are at the stage of reviewing the agreement. What is evident is that as a country we have benefited from trade agreements and arrangements such as AGOA but not from EFTA,” Mr Mokoatle said.
“Therefore, as SACU, we decided to explore how best we can make the agreement improve our trade and economic development, hence the engagement of the TE Consortium,” Mr Mokoatle said.
He said the duo, namely, Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba (the Chief Executive Officer of Masire-Mwamba Office) and Montle Phuthego (the Chief Executive Officer of Econo Markets Consultancy) would analyse SACU’s export potential into the EFTA market and identify potential investment opportunities that SACU countries could tap into.
The consultants will also give advice on the best and most cost-effective approach towards undertaking joint SACU trade and investment promotion activities/missions in the EFTA countries.
“TE Consortium’s approach focuses on effective stakeholder consultations, including visitations to all the SACU and the EFTA countries to obtain first-hand information and appreciate respective member state context,” the consultants said in a statement.
The consultants will also prepare questionnaires and interviews that will be administered through the LNDC and the private sector organisations, targeting institutions and companies that have a role and potential in the promotion of exports.
“The final report will be presented to the SACU Secretariat and shared with SACU member states. We believe the outcome of the study will assist Lesotho to position their exports in the EFTA states and assist in refining the value proposition for targeted investment promotion in the EFTA states.
“We look forward to ongoing engagement to ensure that the project benefits from as much local information and data as possible to support the findings and recommendations of this important study.”
During their recent visit, the consultants met government departments, private sector organisations, the business sector and the media.