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US aid project – Compact II -?to create 90?000 jobs 

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Mathatisi Sebusi 

THE Lesotho and United States (US) governments have launched the USD$322 million (about M6 billion) Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact II expected to spur development and financing for businesses, particularly for women and youth. 

A colourful ceremony was held on Thursday at the Thaba-Bosiu Cultural Village to official unlock the aid package. 

The US government will plough in USD$300 million with Lesotho funding the other USD$22 million in the project to fund projects mainly in the health and horticulture sectors. 

The Compact II was signed in?2022 but was only launched on Thursday after the Lesotho government successfully passed the three outstanding pieces of legislation which were a requirement for implementation of the project. 

These are the Labour Code Amendment Act 2024, Administration of Estates and Inheritance Act 2024 and Occupational Safety and Health Act 2024. 

The MCC Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Chidi Blyden, said this health and horticulture project would invest in irrigation and agriculture in Lesotho to improve climate resilience, particularly for local farmers and further improve delivery of health services to the nation. 

“Ultimately, each of these investments will address unique challenges and create greater prosperity for the people of Lesotho,” Ms Blyden said. 

She said Lesotho had been a longstanding partner of MCC with the first partnership being in 2008. It saw a USD$362 million investment in Compact I which increased access to basic healthcare for Basotho by building and improving 183 clinics and trained 200 health practitioners on infection prevention and disease control, among other achievements. 

Ms Blyden said the previous investment (Compact I) had laid a foundation for improved health delivery in Lesotho and had served as a bedrock for the US government’s engagements with the Kingdom. 

She acknowledged the country’s efforts to ensure that the Compact II’s benefits would be inclusive and sustainable by passing all the pieces of legislation which will foster the attainment of those objectives. The legislations were a requirement to operationalizing the Compact. 

“The reform laws provide the opportunity for the Compact to advance economic growth and poverty reduction by equally benefiting men and women and by bringing Lesotho in line with international conventions on workers’ rights, health, and safety. 

“These reforms are a tremendous accomplishment for any country to undertake. Lesotho has set the tone for the rest of the continent to follow,” Ms Blyden said. 

For his part, Prime Minister Sam Matekane, said the Compact would strengthen strides towards better health for Basotho and sustainable private sector-led economic growth and job creation. He said it allowed the country to tap its natural and economic advantages and translate them into prosperity for Basotho. 

Mr Matekane said the launch of the Compact came at a time when the country’s economy needed capital injection to boost productivity and job creation. 

He committed to ensuring that every dollar invested in this Compact would be used efficiently to maximise the impact of the investment in the country. 

Mr Matekane said the Compact was also a major boost to the country’s economic investment programme and would bring confidence to investors. It would sooner bring hope to young Basotho looking for opportunities and a better life. 

“We expect to experience more equitable distribution of wealth, access to services and opportunities and social transformation that embraces equality among people and striving to uplift the marginalised groups,” he said. 

He said the Compact had various opportunities for everyone and most importantly for women, youth, people with disabilities and other marginalised groups. 

In addition, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning Dr Ret?elisitsoe Matlanyane, who is the overseer of the Compact’s implementation body, Millenium Challenge Account- Lesotho II Authority (MCA), said the horticulture project was not just about irrigating 1500 hectors of land, but also about improving livelihoods of communities and landowners in selected areas. 

She said, by empowering farmers with modern techniques, market linkages, and sustainable practices, this project would turn fallow lands into thriving orchards and farms. 

“The intentional focus on gender equality and inclusion proves commitment to ensure that marginalised groups have equal opportunities. 

“Approximately a year from now, land registration will start to safeguard ownership and land rights, therefore paving a way for construction of irrigation infrastructure and dams,” she said. 

Dr Matlanyane said under the health systems strengthening project, the country intended to build a robust healthcare system and increase access to quality services that would improve health outcomes among the nation. 

She said this project sought to institutionalise health management information system (e-register) for use in primary health care services by the end of 2025. 

“The project will support the government of Lesotho’s efforts to respond to care and support needs of survivors of Gender Based Violence (GBV), as well as contribute to reducing the high incidence of GBV. This includes the strengthening of referral pathway and coordination forum to implement relevant elements of the Counter Domestic Violence Law passed in 2022, in the community,” she said. 

She said envisaged outcomes of the Compact included, significant reduction of food imports, being self-reliant, and improved participation of private sector in policy formulation and job creation. More than 90 000 jobs would be created overtime in different sectors, directly and indirectly, thus improving economic growth and reducing poverty. 

 

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