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Staff Reporter

MASERU

Tucked in the corner of the Ministry of Communications offices is an office whose work promises to transform the way people interact with the government.KhibaMasiu, coordinator of the e-Government Infrastructure Project, believes he has an answer to the tedious queues people endure at government offices. He believes the project can make the government more efficient and transparent.

In the following interview, he explains how that will happen:

 

What is the e-Government Infrastructure Project?

 

It’s a project for the transformation of government to provide efficientand transparent services to citizens and the private sector through the Information Communication Technology (ICT). The genesis of the project was the World Summit on Information Society which was held in 2010. That summit was emphasising that there is an efficient way to provide services through e-transformation for African countries. Sothey approached Lesotho with this project whose main purpose was to deploy systems for an e-government. Later in 2014 we agreed to make a contract with African Development Bank to implement the project. The Ministry of Finance signed the contract. We as the Ministry of Communication we are the executing ministry. Through that contract Lesotho will get US$12.8 million for the implementation of the e-Government project.
What are the project’s main goals?

 

There are basically two main objectives. First, it aims to improve the country’s public service delivery through the establishment of a modern core e-government infrastructure and service. The second is to strengthen access to government shared services, including data centres and portals, and facilitation of access to e-applications for government.

 

What was the basis of these goals?

 

There was an assessment which found that there is no ICT infrastructure in the country. Let me say there is some infrastructure but it’s not enough for the implementation of an e-Government. It was found that our internet cost is very high. They also found that we have a silo system: each ministry is having its own ICT system without a central coordination process. There is no proper management of the little ICT infrastructure we have. It was realised that our ICT policies need to be reviewed because they do not address what is on the ground at the moment. We also don’t have a legal framework that can enable the country to move towards an e-Government. The government is paying too much for ICT because our initiatives are not coordinated. Basically those are the issues that informed the goals we set to achieve through this project.

 

What has the government done so far to implement the project?

 

We have engaged a consultant from Norway (Norway Registered Development Company). It is assisting us to design the e-government system that will help us achieve the goals we have set. After that they will guide us on how to implement that model. The consultants have just finished their work and have given us a report on how to go about the implementation. But I must point out that this is just the preliminary aspect of the project.

 

What is the next phase?

 

Now we are doing awareness campaigns in the ministries. We have seen that the transformation process is tough so we need as much buy-in as possible. We need to get the ministries on board. We have four components to this project. The first is the strengthening of core network infrastructure. We want to improve the existing government network so we can make it more effective. Under that we are going to improve the metropolitan network. We will construct base stations in collaboration with the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA). We will do this in the areas that are not serviced by the mobile network companies. We will contribute 75 percent and LCA will contribute 25 percent. The second component is to constructa highly sophisticated data centre in Mohale’s Hoek. The third component is the development of an e-portal. We put everything on the internet so people can get service through the websites. The idea is that everything should be done online. For instance, it should be possible for you to monitor your application for a government service through the internet. Let’s say you have gone to get services from the Ministry of Education and you present your Identity Card. The ministry should be able to get a copy of your ID from the database at the Ministry of Home Affairs.  That is the kind of integration we are looking at.The fourth component is the capacity building. We need to train officers on how to provide the service.

 

How will this project transform lives?

 

It will have a huge impact. It will make it easier for people to get access to government services and other crucial information. Let’s say you are in the remote areas of Thaba-Tseka and you want to apply for an ID. What is happening now is that you will have to travel to town to make that application. That costs you money. When you get there you might be told that you don’t have all the documents required so you go back home. That means an extra trip back to the centre. When the application is finally done there is another trip to check if the ID is out. The e-Government project will change that. You can make an application from your home and then monitor if the ID has come out. Secondly, it will increase literacy on the usage of ICT. It will cut government costs. There will befewer and shorter  queues at service centres. We are going to train 500 ICT professionals who will help with the implementation of the project. The selection will be based on where you are and the impact you will make in your area.  We are going to use the wide post office network we have to establish service centres from where people can access the services. We are also going to train 400 government employees to help implement the project. The Ministry of Local Government is building councils in which we are going to place our one-stop centres for the provision of government services. The cornerstone of these centres will be the ICT infrastructure through which people will be able to get services.

 

What challenges have you faced so far?

 

One of the challenges is that we are behind schedule on the implementation. It took us a long time to meet the conditions set by the bank for us to get the funding. I can say we are a year behind schedule. But I am hoping that we will meet the 2018 deadline. The other issue is that some people don’t understand how the project will transform the government. They think the project will put them out of jobs. The other issue is that this project needs a lot of political will which I can tell you is there. The government fully supports this project but we just have to work hard. They know it’s going to assist the country in a huge way.

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Jobs galore for Lesotho

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94 000 jobs.

That is what the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA-Lesotho) will create in the next 10 years, according to Prime Minister Sam Matekane.

The MCA-Lesotho was created by the Lesotho parliament last year after the United States’ Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) found Lesotho eligible to receive development funds.

The MCC gives development grants to poor countries that respects democratic principles and human rights.

The MCC has unlocked a staggering US$322 million (over M5 billion) to the government of Lesotho after the country enacted three laws the protect people’s basic rights this week.

Matekane advised youths to visit MCA-Lesotho offices to understand how best they can benefit from the fund and the projects that will be financed.

The MCC’s investments are aimed at increasing the availability of water for household and industrial use, enhance watershed management and conservation methods, rehabilitate health infrastructure and strengthen health systems, and remove barriers to private investment.

The MCA-Lesotho’s Health and Horticulture Compact seeks to assist the country in unlocking equitable and sustainable economic growth in partnership with the private sector by addressing key constraints to growth.

Matekane said the job creation potential of the horticulture project alone is estimated at 4 000 jobs.

This excludes indirect jobs that will be created through packaging supplies, logistics, cold chain activities as well as the processing of the output.

“Let us all be ready and ensure we spend all the funding that is available,” Matekane said.

He said the money is going to be invested in agriculture, trade and industry, value chains, infrastructure development, tourism and creative sectors.

“The Compact has come at a critical time when the country is in dire need of financial injections to revive the economy,” he said.

“This second Compact forms the core of Lesotho’s private sector-led economic growth, recovery and job creation agenda.”

He said the MCA staff should work diligently, to implement this Compact.

“There are several Basotho businesses out there that are eager to seize the opportunities that the Compact brings,” Matekane said.

“Serve them with integrity, accountability and dedication.”

Matekane said the government has established the Cabinet Sub-Committee on the Compact which is under the leadership of Deputy Prime Minister Nthomeng Majara.

The sub-committee is mandated to ensure that the government provides overall oversight, strategic direction and support for successful implementation of the Compact.

He said he expects the MCA-Lesotho to ensure the full implementation of the project within the next five years.

“Our economy needs this capital injection to boost productivity and job creation,” Matekane said.

Matekane said the government had to enact three pieces of legislation which were necessary to support the investments that the MCC is making.

The enacted laws are the Labour Code Amendment Bill, the Administration of Estates and Inheritance Bill and the Occupational Safety and Health Bill.

Majara Molupe

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Bank spearheads career expo

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Standard Lesotho Bank will tomorrow host a career expo at the ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre for high school students who will sit for their final exams this year.
The 14th Annual Standard Lesotho Bank Career Expo was launched in Mokhotlong on Monday where the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) welcomed students in areas around the Polihali Dam construction site.

On Tuesday the expo was at the Butha-Buthe Community High School, yesterday it was at Assumption High School in Teya-Teyaneng while today it is in Quthing at Holy Trinity High School.

The five-day nationwide event is dedicated to connecting ambitious Basotho youths with exciting career opportunities.

Standard Lesotho Bank says it’s career expo “is a cornerstone of the bank’s commitment to empowering Basotho youth and shaping the future of Lesotho’s workforce”.

The 2024 edition of the event is the 14th where the bank is now the headline sponsor of this important expo that reaches about over 10 000 students countrywide.

The expo promises to be an even better offering where over 35 institutions of higher learning from Lesotho and South Africa as well as professional bodies will explain different career options to Basotho students.

Standard Lesotho Bank communications manager, Manyathela Kheleli, said students in Mokhotlong did not only learn about different engineering disciplines but got to appreciate engineering in action at Polihali.

He said it was a lifetime experience for students from Mokhotlong, “thanks to the collaboration with LHDA, who are fully responsible for the Polihali leg of the event”.

There were also motivational speakers from different professions in the bank and other selected institutions.

Key influencers in the football fraternity, former Likuena captain and now Corporate Responsibility Manager at Letšeng Diamonds, Tšepo Hlojeng, and former Orlando Pirates dribbling wizard, Steve Lekoelea, are among the influencers that have been invited to address the students.

The event is a sponsorship initiative under Personal and Private Banking that is open to all youths, communities, and individuals, where the bank intends to use this event to drive the new Youth or student Customer Value Proposition and attract high school students to open accounts ahead of their enrolment into tertiary institutions.

The objective of this sponsorship is to first create an environment where future leaders of Lesotho will be nurtured and informed of top career choices that demonstrate various skills requirements for the growth of Lesotho’s economy.

Secondly, the career expo is a clear demonstration of the bank’s intention to put youths at the centre of its initiatives.

This position is shown by the bank’s initiative to not only develop special products for youths, such as the Youth Account but also through several initiatives that promote youth empowerment. These include the bursary scheme and the Bacha Entrepreneurship Project.

“We are more than a bank for our youths, but a good corporate citizen and a partner for the education for Basotho,” Kheleli said.

“We believe that as we grow our youths, they will become assets to this country and by extension, develop into a feeder market for our banking products when they enter the job market,” he said.

The bank has invested M150 000 towards sponsorship of the annual Career Expo.

Staff Reporter

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Ministry launches fresh industrialisation drive

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A new policy to drive industrialisation in Lesotho was launched in Maseru this week.
The Lesotho National Industrialisation Policy 2024–2028 is being spearheaded by the Ministry of Trade.

The ministry says the policy seeks to accelerate economic diversification in the industrial base, enhance productivity and productive capacity for industrialisation and advance domestic and regional value chains for industrialisation.

It also seeks to promote and develop industrial clustering, promote inclusive industrialisation, support entrepreneurship development and strengthen business linkages.
The new policy will also seek to enhance energy efficiency and sustainability, promoting technology adoption and innovation, services-based industrialisation, and stimulating agro-based industrialisation.

This is not the first time Lesotho has launched an industrialisation policy. Previous policies have all failed.

The first attempt was the 2015–2017 industrial policy, whose aim was to accelerate the industrialisation agenda and address key challenges facing the country.

The second one was the 2018–2023 policy, which after its unsuccessful execution during the three years of implementation, the government extended it to the National Strategic Development Plan Strategic Focus (2023/24-2027/28).

The new industrial policy’s target is set to activate implementation on innovation to enhance the efficiency and competitiveness of domestic industries, create decent jobs and improve the welfare of Basotho.

Thabo Moleko, the Ministry of Trade Principal Secretary, said the implementation of the new policy is set to deepen economic growth, promote industrialisation and enhance competitiveness.

“The plan includes greater investment in industrial development with the intention to create employment and incomes while building on maintaining the existing industrial trade,” Moleko said.

Mamello Nchake, a consultant for the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA), said the development goals of the industrial policy are set to ensure an achievable inclusiveness and equitable growth as they aim to create sector-led quality jobs for Basotho.

Nchake said the goals are meant to “develop and maintain enabled infrastructure that is critical to the private sectors and also to promote gender equality, environmental and climate risk management”.

“Moreover, the policy (will seek to) harness the collaboration with private sector firms to address common challenges and promote industrialisation,” she said.

The workshop discussed constraints that hindered the implementation of the 2018 – 2023 policy that undermined investment and trade opportunities.

The constraints include access to land for investment, inadequate provision of infrastructure, an outdated and a lack of appropriate regulatory environment, low productive capacity, market size and topological constraints, unstable macroeconomic environment, external factors, and over-dependency of trade preferences.

To address the strategic objectives, the previous industrial policies had proposed tax incentives for industrial development, trade policy and regional integration as the main vehicle for industrialisation and structural transformation.

They had also proposed mechanisms for policy coordination and implementation, institutional alignment and linkages.

However, several key challenges were identified in the implementation of the 2015-2017 industrial policy.

They included limited financial and investment capacity to effectively implement the industrial policy actions.

“Financing instruments are not aligned with the level of development needs of the private sector,” stakeholders heard at the workshop.

They also heard that there is “persistent dependency on few industries that poses risks in the face of global economic uncertainties and ever-changing consumer preferences”.
Another identified problem is limited investment climate that makes it costly for foreign firms to invest in Lesotho.

It was also observed that a shortage of specialised education and skills crucial for growth of industries impact the ability of firms to adopt advanced technologies and improve productivity and the productive capacity.

Stakeholders also heard that there is limited global competitiveness and access to global markets.

Lesotho’s industries, they heard, particularly textiles and garments, face competition from other low-cost manufacturing countries.

The country is also spooked by poor coordination between the implementing agencies due to a lack of a clear implementation framework.

Khahliso ’Molaoa

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