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.
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.
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.
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.”
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