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LESOTHO wants to brand itself as an investor-friendly destination. At the Lesotho Investment Forum in London last week, a ministerial delegation highlighted the country’s effort in diversifying its economy, presenting a host of investment projects, ranging from renewable energy and agriculture to information communication technology and tourism as well as the burgeoning diamond mining industry. “There are certain things that we cannot change,” said Minister of Trade and Industry Joshua Setipa, speaking at the forum and referring to the country being landlocked. “But what we can do is improve efficiency, bringing down the cost of doing business.”Setipa spoke to a journalist from the Global Trade Review on the side-lines of the forum about what else Lesotho wants to achieve and what challenges it faces in trade and investment.


You became minister last year. What goals would you like to achieve by the end of your mandate?

We have a number of priorities which fall in different categories of our work. If we talk about the policy reform side, we have a policy agenda that includes reviewing certain pieces of legislation, such as consumer protection, putting in place new legislations, putting in place a new investment policy and a new industrial policy, both of which we’ve done, and working on an overall trade policy, which we will begin working on in the next 2-3 months.

What are the priorities for your trade policy?

The priority is on how to use trade to develop our development strategy, so anything that would help us reposition ourselves and have the right mix of trade policy to facilitate growth, which of course drives development, is good. We also want to use that to drive our capacity to trade. At the end of the day a brand new shiny trade policy in place is useless if we cannot trade, so we need to improve our capacity to trade.

How does that relate to enabling access to finance?

Financing is an integral part of that strategy. Over 80 percent of our economy is made up of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and those SMEs need access to trade finance. Being a small market, trade finance is very costly. It’s not possible for the average company in Lesotho to walk into a bank and get a letter of credit. Banks find them highly risky so they’ll only work with them if there is an intervention by the state or another institutional bank to mitigate that exposure.

Banks in Lesotho are sitting on so much liquidity of government resources, but they are still not lending. Clearly the solution is not on the banking side anymore, it is on alternative ways to mitigate risk or to provide that type of financing. We’ve got innovative things that can be done, such as warehouse receipts systems that hedge against the actual harvest, which is what you do for clients who do not have balance sheets at the moment. Those are the type of interventions that we need.

One of the most promising sectors in Lesotho is the diamond mining industry. Zimbabwe has recently pushed for nationalisation: what is your strategy to develop the sector?

I don’t think the idea of nationalisation has ever crossed our minds and I don’t think in 2016 we should even be talking about that. Our objective is to drive increased investment into the sector, not just foreign direct investment, also domestic investment mobilisation. Our preoccupation is to continue to improve the value proposition.

South Africa, one of your most important trading partners, is going through a period of economic downturn. How does that affect Lesotho?

Unfortunately for us, all our major economic partners are going through a rough patch. The slowdown in the US saw a very big decline in the demand for our products, particularly in clothing, so we felt it. South Africa is our second-biggest export market for clothing and 35 percent of our exports go to South Africa. We do see a decline in that market so we feel it.

Which other markets are you turning to?

We are looking at non-traditional markets. I was in Poland, I am going to Turkey: we are going to new alternative markets to try mitigate all that. I think the US is saturated.

How does the US negotiation of big trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) affect your trading relationship with the country, with whom you enjoy preferential trade relations under the African Growth and Opportunity Act?

Our preliminary assessment is that TPP is bad news for us. The TPP includes a country like Vietnam, which exports the same line of products that we export to the US and is already much more competitive that we are. What the US gives on one hand it takes with the other hand.

Lesotho is one of the 10 African countries to have ratified the WTO’s Trade Facilitation Agreement. How important is the WTO for a country like Lesotho?

For countries like Lesotho the WTO is the only insurance policy we have that we won’t be trampled and run over. It levels the playing field, it gives us the same weight and the same attention that the US gets. — Global Trade Review

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Why invest for the future



AN investment plan forms a critical pillar of a financial plan, says Tokiso Nthebe, a local author and financial services adviser.

Nthebe, the founder of TKO Financial Wellness and Advisory, says when people invest, they can use their money to buy assets that will increase in value over the long term.
He says these assets can help them build wealth.

“When you invest, your money starts to work for you by providing returns that will beat inflation,’’ Nthebe says.

Nthebe says there is a huge difference between saving and investing.

He says investing requires that you take some level of risk in exchange for an expected return or growth.

Nthebe says Basotho should consider many factors before they decide to start investing.

“It is important to have a clear strategy that guides your investment decisions and to work with qualified professionals,” he says.

Nthebe says one should consider their growth mind-set, investment goals, and their risk tolerance.

In addition, one should consider what kind of growth or return they expect.

He says one should find out whether the institution they invest in is licensed or regulated and how long one should invest.

Nthebe says one should further consider what risks are associated with the investment option and whether there are any associated costs.

He says it is also important to remember that investments take time.

“There are no short cuts to building wealth. Do not fall prey to get-rich-quick schemes,” he says.

Moreover, Nthebe says the investment landscape comprises commercial banks, asset management companies, and insurance companies.

He says each provides different financial products and services.

Nthebe says the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) also offers investment solutions such as treasury bills and treasury bonds that Basotho can consider.

Depending on your investment goals, he says financial service providers have a wide range of investment solutions to choose from that cater for short, medium, and long-term goals.

“I encourage Basotho to do thorough research and seek professional advice before making financial decisions,” he says.

Vince Shorb, the United States National Financial Educators Council CEO, writes that “many of the financial problems people face today started when they were young and making their first financial decisions”.

Shorb further says taking on too much debt, not investing early, and failing to plan can take one decades to recover from such.

However, it takes financial literacy to make good decisions, he says.

Financial literacy has been perceived as a tool that gives you the opportunity to be confident and empowered to live the quality of life you have worked hard for.

Shorb says one of the wisest decisions one can make to prepare for the future is to invest.

Investment has been defined as the commitment of funds with a view to minimising risk and safeguarding capital while earning a return.

Refiloe Mpobole

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When Covid-19 hit and the government shut down all gatherings in April 2020, there seemed no way out for ICONICS (Pty) Ltd, a budding events management company based in Leribe district.

They had two options: shut down or innovate to keep the business going.
They chose the latter.

Three years down the line, ICONICS (Pty) Ltd has completely transformed itself from an events management and public relations company into a manufacturing company that is now the envy of Lesotho.
“The closing of events translated into the closing of our business,” Rapitso Mosebetsi, one of the co-founders of ICONICS (Pty) Ltd told thepost this week.
Mosebetsi established ICONICS in partnership with Tumo Mahapa.

Faced with collapse, Mosebetsi say they began buying Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as surgical gowns, disposal coveralls and safety apparel for resale.
Eventually they decided to manufacture the PPEs and safety clothing. That was the turning point.
But since the company was already down, Mosebetsi says diversification was a hard nut to crack.

“It became quite a long journey (for us),” he says. “We had to come up with something new for the industry.”
He says they had to overcome stiff competition from giant companies and come up with something unique that would set them apart.
“That was how thermal heating apparel was born,” he says.

“We are the first company to produce thermal heating apparel,” he says.
The company manufactures thermal clothing, which is electric clothing, using power banks of five voltages.
“The voltage is so low to electrocute a person,” he says.
The clothing also has a power button to turn it on and off.

Mosebetsi says the thermal heating apparel is on corporate clothing as well as high-visibility clothing.
Mosebetsi says they started the journey with the support of several organisations, such as the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO), to build their capacity.
Mosebetsi says they also got mentorship support from organisations such as the Global Entrepreneurship Network.
The results of years of hard work are now all out for everyone to see.

In 2022, ICONICS won the M100 000 Business Plan Competition hosted by BEDCO.
This grant enabled them to acquire land and buy five more industrial machines.
This did not only enable the company to increase their production to 100 worksuits a week, but it further created permanent jobs for five people as well as three temporary workers.

Last year, the company took part in the Exporter of the Year event hosted by the LNDC in partnership with the Lesotho Post Bank and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Mosebetsi says they won the award for Lesotho’s most innovative and versatile exporter.
He says this did not only put them in the spotlight, but it further encouraged them to do more.
ICONICS was announced as the best exporter of the year at an event hosted by the LNDC earlier this month.
Mosebetsi says this made them proud, as the award is aligned with their vision.

The award further gives the company an opportunity to participate in the regional competition.
He says this opportunity will further give the company a competitive edge in terms of production locally and globally.
“It will be an honour if we can win the regional competition,” he says.

In terms of markets, Mosebetsi says the company has had the opportunity to list their products in the African Trade Market since 2020 with the support of USAID.
This is an e-commerce platform that opens up the market for African countries to list their products.
Mosebetsi says the company did not only get publicity, but the client database also increased.
He says they moved from supplying individuals only to big companies, different organisations, and different government departments such as those involved in mining and health.

Considering the decline of the Lesotho textile industry, Mosebetsi says their secret to success has been their being innovative.
“Our sustainability is matched with innovation,” he says.
Mosebetsi says it also requires patience coupled with lots of investment in terms of time.
“Rome was not built in one day,” he says.

He says working as a team also plays a critical role.
Despite their achievements, Mosebetsi says the market for innovative industries is one of the hardest nuts to crack.
He says the company is in the process of not only making their products known but also educating people about their safety.
Mosebetsi says the other challenge is the decline of the South African Rand as compared to the US Dollar.

He says some of their materials are sourced from China.
Therefore, it is more expensive to buy such materials.
ICONICS is not only seeking to make their brand well known globally, but Mosebetsi says they are also seeking to create more jobs for our youths.

Own Correspondent

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LetsGo and Win!



LETSHEGO Financial Service has launched the LetsGo and Win loan consolidation campaign where customers win weekly and monthly cash prizes of up to M150 000.
The campaign, which was launched yesterday, will end on November 8.
The LetsGo and Win campaign rewards customers for consolidating their loans.
It is aligned with Letshego Lesotho’s version to offer competitive products that cater for the evolving needs of its customers.

The financial services company operates in Lesotho, Botswana, ESwatini, and Zambia.
The Marketing Manager and Business Partner, Tšotetsi Seema, said Letshego Lesotho is committed to delivering increasing value and options to customers.
Seema said this programme is a testament to that commitment.

“The campaign invites customers to consolidate their loans into one low and easy repayment with reduced rates and they stand to win weekly and monthly prizes,” Seema said.

“The weekly cash prizes will be won by lucky customers randomly selected and notified through Letshego Radio shows,” he said.

Additionally, he said two lucky customers will be randomly selected each month and given a chance to spin the wheel of fortune with a chance to receive a maximum of M20 000 each.

“The loans consolidation campaign makes it easier for customers to choose Letshego Lesotho as their preferred financial services partner.”

He said this innovative campaign aims to help individuals streamline their debt payment while benefiting from reduced interest rates.

“Debt consolidation can help customers get a lower monthly payment, pay off their debt sooner, increase their credit score and simplify their life.”

Letshego Lesotho’s Head of Sales, Distribution and Marketing, Motebang Moeketsi, said managing multiple loans can often be overwhelming with varying interest loans due dates and terms.

“The campaign addresses this challenge by combining multiple loans into a single, easy to manage repayment plan,” Moeketsi said.

He added that this simplification not only eases the financial burden on borrowers but also potentially leads to significant savings over time.
Moreover the new consolidation campaign invites customers to take advantage of their best-in-class financial services provided through Letshego Lesotho branch network and digital platforms.

“Letshego Lesotho is committed to increasing financial inclusion through its efforts to serve underbanked communities, promoting financial literacy and delivering positive social impacts for its customers and communities.”

Alice Samuel

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