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Boost for ‘made in Lesotho’ goods

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ROMA – MADE-in-Lesotho Cooperative (MILCO) has been given the green light to operate as a chain store that sells goods and services in Lesotho.

This follows engagements with the Ministry of Small Businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing.

It is worth mentioning that MILCO is intended to sell products only made in Lesotho.

MILCO, which only sells products made in Lesotho, is incubated under the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Research and Innovation Hub.

Many say the move has come at an appropriate time when Basotho-owned products are being overshadowed by imports, thereby making “Made-in-Lesotho” seem inferior.

Most of the products made in Lesotho are struggling to compete on the local market due to fierce competition from imports, lack of marketing strategies and Basotho not being acquainted with local products.

Market watchers said MILCO could be a stepping stone to re-igniting pride in local products among Basotho.

Makuena Lesia, co-founder and CEO of MILCO, bemoaned the lack of appreciation for local products among Basotho.

She said despite “great initiatives” by entrepreneurs in Lesotho to produce quality products, imports continue to enjoy preference on the domestic market.

“The premise for the formation of MILCO is to acknowledge and treasure products that are made in Lesotho,” she said.

“There are abundant products made in Lesotho but they are almost completely overwhelmed by sister products from other countries when it comes to consumption.”

Many Basotho advertise their locally made goods on social media, while the NUL Research and Innovation Hub regularly posts new innovations by current and former NUL students and staff.

“You can just imagine the huge number of products out there from Lesotho that are crying out for a market,” said Lesia, adding that they decided to form MILCO to get all “Made in Lesotho” products under one roof.

She said MILCO is on the verge of opening an outlet at one of the busiest trading centres in the capital, Maseru.

“MILCO is a four-in-one store. Firstly, it is going to be a physical store. It will also be an online store, a wholesaler and a marketing store,” she said.

“Our first pop up store is being established at Sefika Complex and it’s about to open soon. We are also hoping to open branches in all other nine districts around the country in the near future,” she said.

MILCO has begun the process of gathering “Made in Lesotho” products from different business setups across the country.

“We are getting scores of incredible products that we never thought existed in the country,” she said.

“People will be shocked that there are several alternative products made in Lesotho for common imported goods that people buy as part of their groceries. There is quite a wide range of these products produced in Lesotho,” said Lesia.

She said it is better to import some raw materials that are unavailable in the country to produce goods in Lesotho.

“For instance, there is no cotton production in the country but there are many clothing items that are being produced in Lesotho using cotton fabric. For as long as the finished product is made in Lesotho, then that is what MILCO is looking for,” she said.

Besides electronics, Basotho entrepreneurs have proven their mettle in producing various products that are up to international standards. Their biggest challenge has been poor packaging that diminishes the appetite of consumers when the goods compete with imported ones on shop shelves.

“In almost all categories of products you can think of, except gadgets like laptops and cell phones, Basotho have come in large numbers to register their products to be offered for sale,” said Lesia.

There are products like stationery, food and washing detergents to mention a few, she said.

For regulatory purposes, all food products and detergents are taken to the NUL Faculty of Science and Technology where they are tested for approval.
Suitable branding and packaging are what most made in Lesotho products are not good at.

The NUL Research and Innovation Hub is tasked with ensuring that the products are in mint condition for them to be traded by MILCO.

Products that are substandard are not rejected. Instead, the producers are given guidance by the university on how to improve their work to meet required standards.
She said Basotho producers seem enthralled by the MILCO initiative.

However, the door is still closed for Basotho who are producing products outside the borders of Lesotho.

“We have had calls from Basotho who are living outside Lesotho and are making products there. Unfortunately their products at the moment are not going to be considered as they are not made in Lesotho,” said Lesia. “We are for now strictly concerned with products which are produced within the country.”

Since MILCO is a cooperative, every Mosotho who wishes to join is allowed to own shares by paying a monthly share capital of M100.

“Any Mosotho who is above the age of 15 can begin to buy MILCO shares and pay a minimum monthly share capital of M100 and they should have bank accounts through which their contributions would be made. Small children can join MILCO through their parents for as long as the parents have Lesotho identity documents,” she said

The law that governs cooperatives in Lesotho only allows citizens to own shares so non-Basotho are not allowed to buy shares in MILCO.

To encourage online activity, MILCO has launched a website where people can register in order to be able to buy straight from the internet. MILCO will also be reachable via different social media platforms, while people can make physical consultations at the NUL.

“A lot has been done to make sure that people can buy MILCO products at their own convenience and anytime. Our website is up and running and anybody can begin to register to be able to buy online,” she said.

She said they are still working “on a few logistics arrangements” on distribution.

The vision is to ensure MILCO goes international, said Lesia.

“What is significant about MILCO is that we aim to be a force to reckon with in Africa by making sure that Made in Lesotho products make a mark on the continental market,” she said.

MILCO wants to penetrate international markets and eventually operate in other countries, she said, adding that they “want to make sure that these products are of utmost quality so that we can establish a good reputation”.
MILCO, she said, is going to cause a stir among Basotho “in a manner that is going to change how they perceive local productions”.

“The landscape of Lesotho’s productivity is going to change for the better and this would in turn harness appropriate distribution of wealth in the country and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor,” she said.

“Knowing that there is a market for their products, Basotho within the country are now going to be motivated to work harder and not limit their production for subsistence,” she added.
Lesia urged Basotho to support MILCO once it starts operations.

“Local producers should not hesitate to bring their products for consideration. We are accepting all products made in Lesotho and Basotho entrepreneurs should not be reluctant to offer their goods or services to the cooperative,” she said.

Calvin Motekase

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Jalad Africa wins top exporter award

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MASERU – LEATHERWORKS exporter, Jalad Africa, was yesterday recognised as Lesotho’s number one exporter at a function organised by the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), Lesotho Post Bank and USAID Trade Hub.

The awards, celebrated yesterday in Maseru, were meant to empower local exporters. Jalad Africa, a Basotho owned company, was recognised as the exporter of the year.

Local exporters were awarded under the categories of best emerging exporter, best exporter for market and product diversification and best exporter in market sustainability. The best emerging exporter award was won by Garal Africa while the best exporter for market went to Centimetre.

Under the category of the most innovative and versatile exporter and high impact exporter, Leafglow and Liberation clothing were recognised as the winners. The LNDC set aside M45 000 for all the winners where the overall winner got M10 000 and the rest in their respective categories received M7 000 each.

The Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Dr Francis Sefali, said there are a number of initiatives such as the 2019/2025 African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Response Strategy.

He said the 2021/2025 National Export Strategy has been adopted by the government to increase exports and instigate product diversification to tie well with the objectives of this initiative.

“As a small country, we need to aim higher and go beyond our borders to international markets,” Dr Sefali said.

“Our prosperity as a country unquestionably depends on that,” he said.

Dr Sefali said Lesotho’s exports to the United States may have marginally decreased in 2020, and exports to South Africa increased.

“This is a demonstration that the exporters’ contribution registered a noticeable success even in the face of adversity,” he said.

“This exhibits the versatility and competence to respond to various challenges.”

Dr Sefali said we have to be aware, however, of the possibility of continuing to experience a host of uncertainties that we may not even be able to predict how they will affect us in future, citing Covid-19 example.

“We need to stay vigilant and invest in sectors that will make us more competitive in these markets even without the market access preferences that we are fortunately beneficiaries to.”

The LNDC Acting General Manager of Corporate Service, ’Mamoiloa Raphuthing, urged local exporters to conform to buyers’ standards and specifications to improve their global export competitiveness.

She further urged the local exporters to understand target market requirements, list export products in relevant e-commerce platforms and participate in relevant trade promotion events.

“It is crucial for local exporters to create business networks and connections and acquire deal negotiation skills,” Raphuthing said.

Raphuthing said this platform allows the participating exporters to assess themselves for export readiness and in turn adopt tools to improve their business performance.

“This national competition is only a stepping stone into a regional competition,” she said.

The Director of Jalad Africa, Lebeoana Matsimane, said this has not been a happy year for Jalad Africa, however, they feel like this is the happy ending. He said the company has been through a rough patch which was triggered by Covid-19 pandemic however, they have been standing.

“Despite all this, we are elevating our company to the Amazon platform very soon,” Matsimane said.

Speaking at the event, the United States Embassy’s acting Chargé d’Affaires, Keisha Toms-Boutaleb, said the US supported the development of the AGOA Utilisation Strategy for Lesotho, which was launched in January 2020.

This was meant to increase exports from Lesotho to the United States under AGOA by at least five percent per year for the next five years.

“Today, we are seeing some fantastic results from the companies represented here,” Toms-Boutaleb said.

Refiloe Mpobole

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Mines Minister pushes empowerment for Basotho

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MASERU – THE Minister of Mining Serialong Qoo says he is working hard to create a new generation of Basotho millionaires in the mining industry.

Qoo said this last week at a mining indaba with Basotho who want to mine diamonds on a small-scale following the enactment of the Small Scale Mining Act last year. He said their goal is to see Basotho engage in mining activities on a large scale.

“We want to ensure that more Basotho own shares in large scale mining,” he said.

Qoo said they fought long and hard to ensure that the Act was passed in parliament, He said they also hope to create more jobs in the mining sector. Qoo said during the Covid-19 lockdown, the mining industry contributed more revenue towards the economy of Lesotho.

“We realised that it has the potential of spurring the economy,” he said.

He said they realised that after Basotho were denied the chance to mine on a small-scale some decades ago, the industry’s contribution to the economy declined.

“It is crucial for Basotho to make a living out of their minerals,” he said.

“Hence we are announcing this Act as effective,” he said, adding that Basotho can now start mining on a small-scale.

He said they will work with different ministries, departments and councils to ensure that Basotho acquire licences. He said this is open to every Mosotho.

The registration to acquire the licences will be conducted by the councils and village chiefs. He said they will go around all the districts of Lesotho to identify places where they can locate Basotho. He said the ministry will further conduct training programmes for such Basotho who hold licences.

Qoo said all the diamonds mined by Basotho will be collected for auction in the country. Diamonds mined at a grander scale in the country are exported to Antwerp, Belgium, for auctioning.

“We are working hard to ensure that all the minerals are auctioned in the country, including those from large-scale mining,” he said.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Lesotho Diamond Academy, Relebohile Molefe, appealed to Basotho to allow this new venture to be led by the youths. She said this has been his late father’s dream to see leaders engaging Basotho in this industry without political favours.

The late Mpalipali Molefe, who was the All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s ’Maliepetsane MP, is remembered for his passion for diamond beneficiation when he started the Lesotho Diamond Academy.

A small scale miner, Lebohang Ramone, said it has been more than 15 years since Basotho were denied a chance to mine on a small scale. He said they have been fighting for the enactment of a law that would allow small-scale mining.

“The struggle continued until the issue was politicised,” Ramone said.

However, he said the sad truth about this is that there are more Basotho who are being killed each day in the illegal mines in South Africa. He mentioned the case of an old Mosotho woman who was caught mining in South Africa yet Lesotho is rich in minerals.

“This was so unfair to Basotho,” he said.

He applauded the hard work done by Qoo to ensure that the diamonds are auctioned in the country.

Refiloe Mpobole

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Business IDs for Lesotho

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MASERU – ALL businesses operating in Lesotho will now be required to register with the Ministry of Trade to acquire a Business Licensing Identity Document (ID). The requirement to register is contained in the Business Licencing and Registration Act 2019 and Registration Regulations of 2020.

The business ID will help, among other things, to identify Basotho-owned businesses so that they can receive preferential treatment. Foreign-owned businesses will also be required to register so that it will be easy for the authorities to monitor them for compliance with relevant laws.

The Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and the Ministry of Trade held a workshop in Maseru on Tuesday to sensitise businesses about the requirement. The Maseru District Administrator (DA), Mpane Nthunya, said local businesses have been complaining for years about unfair treatment with foreign businesses.

He said this is why the LCCI has embarked on an initiative to listen and address the challenges for local businesses. The President of LCCI, Ntaote Seboka, said the new regulation “will affect all entrepreneurs regardless of their business class including the foreigners”.

“This regulation will further affect the businesses which are operating illegally,” Seboka said.

He said for an entrepreneur to be registered under this new regulation, there will be inspections conducted to ensure that such an entrepreneur has all necessary documents to be running a business. Seboka said they realised that there are more businesses operating illegally hence they fought to ensure that the Act is implemented.

He said the registration of businesses under this law will act as a catalyst to reduce the rate at which foreigners are operating without following legal processes. Advocate Tšeli Lehohla said the Business Licensing and Registration Act and registration repealed the Trade Enterprises Act.

She said the main objective for this Act is to ensure that the informal sector is included in the business Act. She said most Basotho-owned businesses were affected by Covid-19.

However, the ministry could not help them since they were not registered. The Minister of Public Works, Lebohang Monaheng, on behalf of the Minister of Trade, said the road show which was held by the LCCI together with the Ministry of Trade has enhanced the business environment.

“It is our responsibility to create a conducive environment for businesses in the country,” Monaheng said.

He said the ministry has since realised that most of the businesses are being operated by foreigners, hence it is their responsibility to ensure that Basotho take the lead in the business sector. He said they have selected some businesses of which Basotho are best performing to ensure that the sector is fully run by Basotho, such as logistics.

He appealed to entrepreneurs to collaborate with the ministry to overcome these challenges. The compliance officer, Limpho Makholela, said this new Act aims at facilitating promotion of private sector development through inclusion of all types of businesses into the formal sector.

He said this will help in facilitating the speedy issuing of licenses and registration of businesses. Makholela said the fee for registration is M500 which is renewable after three years for local businesses unless the business or a holder ceases to exist.

However, he said for foreign business the registration is valid for a year. Makholela said the business registration identity card will be used by all public authorities in their dealings with the business enterprises.

He said this will ensure that a business can be easily identified by its business identity number by all public authorities rather than a different number for each authority. He said the regulations provide for reserved business activities which are exclusively reserved for the citizens of Lesotho. He said this will give Basotho an opportunity to grow their businesses in other sectors without fear of facing stiff competition from foreign businesses.

Refiloe Mpobole

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