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Diaspora pumps in M4 billion

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MASERU – BASOTHO in the diaspora are estimated to be remitting about M336 million every month, about M4 billion a year, to their families in Lesotho.
That is according to a latest report by 2021 Finscope Consumer Survey. The survey said 60 percent of Basotho in the diaspora send money on a monthly basis to their families in Lesotho.
The research was based on a representative household survey that provides information on the demand, access, use of and behaviour towards financial services by the adult population.

According to Jabulani Khumalo of Finmark Trust, remittances have shifted from being predominantly done through family, friends, and public transport to more formal methods.
“In 2011, 52 percent remitted money through informal channels such as friends, family or public transport,” Khumalo said.
“However, in 2021, there is a significant shift as remitting through informal channels only accounts for 19 percent,” he said.
He attributed the decline in remitting through informal channels to the advent of mobile money and other non-bank facilities like Shoprite and Mukuru.

These facilities are more easily accessible and cost effective to consumers.
Banking channels though still utilized, have suffered a slight decline in usage as compared to 2011.
In 2011 banking channels, which was a combination of bank transfers and bank deposits, accounted for 46 percent of formal remittances while in 2021 banking channels only account for 25 percent.
On behalf of the Bankers Association of Lesotho, Nkau Matete, said two major events have disrupted the financial sector, the entrance of Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The MNOs, he said, have presented traditional banking industry with an opportunity to gain access to consumers they would previously not have been able to access.
“When you look at it, it is a game of partnership with the MNOs because now you are able to move cash through a cellphone number which previously needed someone to have a bank account,” Matete said.
MNO, he said, presents a chance for collaborations in order to enhance consumers’ experience in the financial sector.

“What they have brought in is that we have to work with others, we have to share the risk, we have to share the experiences for the benefit of the client,” he said.
The Covid-19 pandemic, he said, also accelerated the need for banks to digitilise their services and minimise physical interaction to access services.
Boniswa Nhlapo, on behalf of mobile money issuers, said although mobile money has transformed the financial landscape, there is still more that needs to be done especially where remittances are concerned.
Nhlapo said the MNO industry was given a mammoth task to improve financial inclusion and the financial literacy landscape.

Nhlapo said they are already looking at challenges like those related to inadequate number of agents in places resulting in consumers walking for at least 30 minutes to access the services.
“We have come up with strategies to solve access challenges especially now that we are also looking into introducing more services in our product offering,” Nhlapo said.
“However, there are challenges like that of poor network access which needs to be tackled from a policy perspective. Network cable theft is rife and needs to be stopped hence the need for punitive measures on the perpetrators,” he said.

Nikki Kettles, the Executive Head of Programmes at Finnmark Trust, said they focus on financial inclusion and economic inclusivity to reduce poverty in the region by making financial services work for the poor.
Lesotho, she said, has a good story to tell where remittances are concerned as the country has the cheapest corridors in the world for cash-to-cash solutions out of South Africa.
“Data is needed to support impact and Finscope provides this much needed data to ensure the appropriate policy and regulatory issues are addressed,” Kettles said.

“The data is used to create programmes which then directly impact the most vulnerable in our countries,” she said.
The Governor of the Central Bank, Dr Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane, said the Finscope Survey identifies the drivers of, and barriers to financial access and stimulates evidence-based dialogue that will ultimately lead to effective public and private sector interventions that will increase financial inclusion.
“Since the development of the strategy we have seen the implementation of over 70 percent activities and reforms,” Dr Matlanyane said.
She mentioned the licencing of mobile money companies and the establishment of the credit bureau as some of the sector’s milestones.

Lemohang Rakotsoane

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World Bank pledges M2.1 billion to Lesotho

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MASERU – THE World Bank has pledged US$120 million (about M2.1 billion) for new projects in Lesotho for the coming year.

This revelation was made by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lejone Mpotjoane at a press conference in Maseru yesterday.

Mpotjoane said the World Bank will visit Lesotho in January to look into the issues of project management, public financial management, government accountability, contracts management and procurement management.

“The World Bank raised a concern that the implementation of the projects is slow and in most cases behind schedule,” Mpotjoane said.

This came after Lesotho’s delegation led by Prime Minister Sam Matekane attended the US-Africa leaders’ summit in Washington in the United States last week.

Mpotjoane said the Summit was held to discuss how heads of government, officials, business leaders, and civil society could strengthen ties between the US and
Africa.

“One of the important issues discussed at the summit included good governance, democracy, human rights and rule of law,” he said.

The summit also discussed mitigating the impact of Covid-19 and future pandemics and strengthening regional and global health, promoting food security, advancing peace and security, responding to the climate crisis and amplifying diasporaties.

Mpotjoane said the United States also pledged at least US$55 billion (about M935 billion) to Africa over the next three years, spanning across a range of diverse sectors.

“The US further pledged to lend up to US$21 million (about M493 million) through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for low and middle-income African countries,” Mpotjoane said.

He said the US Trade Representative signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) Secretariat to support institutions to accelerate sustainable economic growth across Africa.

He said Matekane also met the Chief Executive Officer of the American Peace Corps, Thomas Peng.

He said the US had suspended its Peace Corps operations in Lesotho due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

And after the meeting, the Peace Corps has undertaken to send over 50 volunteers to Lesotho.

Mpotjoane said Matekane also met the World Bank Group Vice-President, Victoral Kwakwa.

He said during the meeting, Matekane and his delegation stressed the commitment of Lesotho to work with both the World Bank and IMF institutions as key bilateral and multilateral partners to get Lesotho on a sustainable broad-based and inclusive growth path.

He said Matekane also met the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Ron Wyden.

He said Matekane met the Chair of the Africa Sub-Committee, Senator Van Hollen, who was impressed to consider an extension of the Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) beyond 2025.

“The extension of AGOA will secure and create thousands of jobs in the manufacturing sector,” Mpotjoane said.

Matekane last Saturday tweeted that the secretary general of AFCFTA fully supports and wants to be part of developmental activity for Africa.

“Lesotho delegation led by myself met with his team and discussed assistance of AFCFTA in some of Lesotho government’s development activity,” Matekane said.

Nkheli Liphoto

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Early Christmas for MMB clients

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MASERU – CHRISTMAS came early for two of Maluti Mountain Brewery (MMB)’s clients after they walked away with Nissan NP200 vehicles for promoting excellence in sales in their businesses.

The prize-giving ceremony was held in Maseru on Tuesday.

The MMB further distributed M1.5 million to its clients this year in a bid to increase its sales.

The winners of the two Nissan NP200 cars are Katleho Khuto, a tavern owner from Mohale’s Hoek, and Libe Mapane, an owner of an off-sales, who won in the gold category.

The silver category winner is ’Nokoane Rankhasa who runs an off-sales while in the bronze category the winner is Letšoala Letšoala, also running an off-sales.

Khuto said this was the first time he had participated in the competition.

He said he had been working hard to perform well in business.

“I am not only selling to clients in the tavern but I also deliver the stock to my clients,” he said.

He said this kind of business has the potential to grow.

“It just requires good capital and good customer service,” he said.

Khuto said the prize money will help him to stock his tavern.

“I have been hiring people’s cars. Therefore, this will help to minimize my costs,” he said.

The MMB Sales Manager, Pusetso Thoala, said this programme started last year.

He said due to the Covid-19 pandemic many businesses collapsed and they want to help them recover.

Thoala said due to Covid, they saw it befitting to include all kinds of businesses in this sector.

Then they decided to include taverns and shebeens in the competition since they take a bigger fraction in the industry.

Thoala said the competition seeks to motivate businesses in this sector to work hard.

He said if businesses work hard, this will increase more sales hence improving MMB operations.

“We are seeking to reach even the districts,” he said.

Last year MMB put aside M2.4 million for this competition with 800 business owners participating in the programme.

A staggering M793 000 was awarded to customers who exceeded targets.

“We are offering two cars this year,” he said.

Thoala said this year they will focus on helping a higher number of business owners with renovation projects.

Thoala said they have three categories being gold, silver and bronze where in the category of gold, they will be offering a Nissan MP200 car model.

MMB believes this will motivate business owners to increase their sales.

Thoala said this is not only benefiting MMB but also business owners due to increased profits.

A Mohale’s Hoek businessman who did not want to be mentioned said the competition was fair.

He said this kind of celebration should not only be about collecting the prizes but it should be used for networking between stakeholders as well.

He said he was expecting the business owners to be given a slot to discuss their challenges and strengths so that the sector could grow.

Refiloe Mpobole

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Sweets that clear your sore throat

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ROMA – WHEN you have a sore throat, maybe due to common cold, you allow these candies to melt in your mouth.

They are not just sweet, they are also soothing.

“That’s because we’ve got measured amounts of wild mint, honey and lemon in there,” said Joalane Mohale who produces these sweets at the National University of Lesotho (NUL) Innovation Hub.

With these sweets, you clear your sore throat, fever and a cough.

The story starts in 2019 — in fact it starts earlier than that.

“That’s when my teammates and I were busy making and selling packaged teas out of various medicinal plants,” Mohale said.

Business was good.

People just loved their teas.

It is not surprising because the tea itself came in all kinds of versions.

The ingredients ranged from corn silk, to olives and mint, from Artemisia (lengana), to eucalyptus (boleikomo) and numerous other plants.

So people would come from all walks of life to tell them how the catalogue of teas they took to the markets was helping them.

One would say they assist with a headache, another would cite period pains, another would mention fever, flu, sore throats, all kinds of ailments.

It was something worth celebrating, with one exception.

These people were almost always adults.

There were simply no youths and children in the audience.

It dawned on Mohale that perhaps their products were not reaching the broader market.

What would they do?

“When we sat down and thought hard about it, we came to a conclusion that the way we delivered these soothing plants were simply not in the interest of the young.”

You hardly ever see young people sitting down and enjoying a cup of tea.

But we all know that they delight in munching sweets of all kinds.

So what if they used the same stuff they were putting in tea in the sweets?

It could be a brilliant idea.

So she started.

That was back in 2019.

The making of sweets might sound easy.

After all sweets are sweets, isn’t it?

She would soon learn what other seasoned manufacturers of anything have learned before her.

That manufacturing, no matter what it is you are manufacturing, is hard.

One experienced manufacturer likes to say “what people don’t seem to understand is that manufacturing is not so much about the product as it is about the process of making that product”.

The process, that’s the hard part.

But she tried it any way.

“I kept failing until I decided it was time to consult someone who was already in the business.”

The person consulted was ready to assist.

She opened up about what sweets really were.

She talked about different kinds of sweets and how each kind differed from another.

She told her that only certain kinds of sweets would be suitable for the kind of stuff she wanted to do.

She got back encouraged to try.

“You won’t believe it,” she said.

“Even with all that information, it would take another four months for me to be able to nail the sweets to my satisfaction.”

In the beginning, the sweets just collapsed a few days after being put together.

When she fixed that, then came another problem.

The sweets just went bad every two weeks or so.

She kept her experiments alive until she was able to solve the problems.

“One of the things I realised was the importance of accuracy,” she said.

“You have to be extremely accurate with measurements.”

You get a small thing wrong, the whole system collapses.

Among the ingredients in the sweets is a wild mint.

Basotho are known to have depended on wild mint to fight cold since time immemorial.

“Many would put it in their nostrils in times of flu or other stuff and it was celebrated for its effectiveness.”

Scientists have noted that mints can soothe upset stomach and ease colds, flu, fever, headaches, and sinus congestion.

Another candidate is honey—that magic food.

A CNN report says “researchers said honey was (found to be) more effective in relieving the symptoms of cold and flu-like illnesses than the usual commercial remedies”.

As if that was not enough already, she added lemon.

Listen to what some scientists have to say about lemon: “Lemons are rich in vitamin C and flavonoids that work together against flu and cold infections”.

Well, with the three in one, you are ready to munch your way out of most annoying flus and colds.

Good luck!

Own Correspondent

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