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Zuma urges closer business ties

Mpeshe Selebalo

 MASERU — President Jacob Zuma on Friday urged business leaders in Lesotho to forge closer trading ties with their counterparts in South Africa.

Zuma, who was on a two-day state visit in Lesotho, was addressing a business forum organised by the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho at Lesotho Sun.

The forum was attended by key players in business from Lesotho and South Africa.

“The trend today is that countries have to form blocs as old countries that dominated world trade are shrinking and developing countries are now leading in world trade,” Zuma said.

He said countries must work together to ensure they benefit from trade deals.

“In our region if we do not develop blocs we will be squashed. In the changing world of trade they (other trading blocs) must find us stronger so that we can benefit from trade agreements.”

Zuma said many South African companies had invested in Lesotho in various sectors such as retail, finance, telecommunications and construction.

He said there were still opportunities in the development of infrastructure such as roads and railways, environment and agriculture.

South Africa stands ready to assist its neighbours with technical and financial help to develop their infrastructure, Zuma said.

“Many opportunities exist in Africa and many are lost because they are not marketed properly to business. We are too shy to do business,” Zuma said.

South Africa is Lesotho’s biggest trading partner.

Lesotho imports almost 90 percent of its needs from its giant neighbour.

Addressing the same forum, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili said a vibrant private sector could act as an engine for Lesotho’s economic growth.

“The private sector should identify challenges and ways of increasing their business operations and increase (the provision of) jobs for local people,” Mosisili said.

The prime minister challenged the private sector to look into more inter-Southern African Customs Union (Sacu) trade and as well as moving into the rest of the African region.

“While Africa’s population is projected to reach the one-billion mark the private sector must view this as a huge potential for sustainable market for export,” Mosisili said.

“Business co-operation between Lesotho and South Africa can assist in the implementation of the new Sacu agenda as a source of increased economic development in the region.”

Mosisili also urged local banks to increase their financing to small, micro and medium enterprises.

“Our financial institutions have not yet identified the opportunities that small businesses can present if they are given support,” he said.

“Most of these businesses are owned by women who are good at servicing their loans,” he said.

He said businesses must identify projects that can be implemented through public-private sector partnerships.

The chairman of the Lesotho Business Council, Osman Moosa, urged the governments of Lesotho and South Africa to facilitate smoother movement across the borders.

“We urge the two countries to commit themselves on the implementation of the new Sacu agreement and transform it into a vehicle for deeper integration and increased inter-trade,” Moosa said.    

South Africa tightened its borders in the run-up to the Fifa 2010 World Cup tournament in June.

Motorists had to wait for up to four hours on either side of the border to process their papers.

Businesses in the two countries have since urged Pretoria to ease the border restrictions to allow better cross-border trade between the two countries.

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