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Small-scale mining to resume in Sekamaneng

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MASERU – A diamond mine right in the centre of Sekamaneng, just 10km away from Maseru. In the next few months, hundreds of youths who had struggled to eke a living because of joblessness will now be able to engage in lucrative diamond mining projects in Sekamaneng.

Last Thursday, Mining Commissioner Pheello Tjatja told the media that the ministry intends to issue 110 licences to allow the resumption of small-scale diamond mining in the area.
The project is expected to create 500 new jobs in the sector.

Village chiefs in Sekamaneng will conduct the licence registration process. Tjatja said kimberlite was discovered in Sekamaneng, which signifies that there could be a lot of diamonds in the area.

“The government has been working tirelessly to attract investors in that area,” Tjatja said.

“There are more places in the country where kimberlite has been discovered,” he said.

“However, the government failed to attract investors in such places.”

This is not the first time that mining operations will take place in Sekamaneng. In 2005, the government shut down small-scale mining operations following environmental damage to the area.

Tjatja said in 2020 the government reviewed its policies that have now paved way for a resumption of the mining operations. He said the project could help Lesotho roll back poverty in the country.

He said the resumption of small-scale mining can boost the mining sector and the economy. Tjatja said the government realised that the Covid-19 pandemic had impacted the sector massively with Basotho mine workers in South Africa being retrenched.

“We reviewed the policy and allowed Basotho to operate small-scale mining,” he said.

He said the ministry is in the process of selecting more such places and setting platforms for Basotho. Tjatja said the empowerment programme will be launched in Sekamaneng first.

He said not less than 110 licenses of 100 square metres will be issued. He said people will be allowed to work with others within a licensed area and they are expecting more than 500 people to work in that place.

“The government is planning to assist Basotho with the diamond fining machines,” he said.

“The government will also provide training for people who acquired the licences.”

He said they will further send their representatives to record diamonds discovered.  Tjatja said according to the constitution, all diamonds belong to every Mosotho in the country.

The Small-Scale Mining Committee representative, ’Mamakamane Makamane, said this has been a long journey for Basotho to embark into small-scale mining.

“This marks a great milestone where Sekamaneng has been assigned as the first place for diamond mining operations,” Makamane said.

“For a very long time, Lesotho has been listed among under-developed countries despite that it is rich in natural resources,” she said.

“Basotho should first prepare their mindset to fully participate in that kind of mining.”

She said Basotho should set targets to grow from small-scale to big mining operations. She urged Basotho to venture into this sector not only to grow their families but to also develop their areas.

Local chief, Chieftainess ’Makhomo Makoanyane, said the initiative will help in the development of their area. Chieftainess Makoanyane said the community needs basic services such as clinics which will allow villagers to access services nearer.

Refiloe Mpobole

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A sweet coffee spot in Thetsane

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MASERU – A unique coffee shop deep in Thetsane West in Maseru. This is not just a regular coffee shop; it is a specialty coffee shop that also offers Neapolitan style pizza.

That is where the uniqueness comes in.

It is owned by Sehlabaka Rampeta and Lebohang Moiloa, two friends who studied different courses but were brought together by a common love – love of coffee and pizza.

The shop has been operating since May this year.

“I do not know what coffee did to Sehlabaka but he is always on coffee and he makes the best sour-dough bread I have ever tasted,” Moiloa said.

“So, we decided that since we already had an idea why not turn it into a business?” he said.

They said that the way they make their pizza is different from how everyone does their pizza.

“We probably do the quickest pizza in the country, our pizza is ready within six minutes from when the customer orders, it is out, fresh, delicious and arguably the best pizza in the country,” Moiloa said.

They said they are very particular about their toppings, they do not just marsh in things and call it pizza but they make sure that the added toppings complement each other.

The two said people may think they want to sound fancy by saying they serve specialty coffee.

They indeed sell specialty coffee because their aim is not just to sell but to also open an educational space for people who are interested in coffee.

“Not that we want to sound fancy or anything but we are so far the only specialty coffee spot in town and we do not just sell coffee but we want to establish a sort of an educational hub for people who are interested in coffee, that is why we have picked specialty coffee”, said Moiloa.

They said that people could go online and check what specialty coffee is then come for tasting and sample what they have.

Several online sources define specialty coffee as a term for the highest grade of coffee available, typically relating to the entire supply chain, using single origin or single estate coffee.

The term was first used in 1974 by Erna Knutsen in an issue of Tea & Coffee Trade Journal.

All around the world, Knutsen (1021 – 2018) is known as the godmother of specialty coffee.

She was the first to give a name to the Specialty Coffee Association movement, coining the term “specialty coffee” itself, and she ceaselessly advocated for the values of quality, identity, and distinction in coffee.

Sehlabaka said that primarily they serve the Thetsane West community but their target market is everyone who is interested in coffee, who likes trying out new things and “people who have curious palates”.

“We are a pretty open space, we are a pretty an inclusive space, everyone is welcome”, said the two owners.

The two owners said they are working on being an open space for local artistes and youths to showcase their talent and also create space for exhibitions while people have specialty coffee and Neapolitan pizza.

“We want to create a healthy and welcoming environment for everyone because the support we have received so far has been amazing and we are learning every day,” said Sehlabaka.

Tholoana Lesenya

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New e-commerce platform for small businesses

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MASERU – The Econet Telecom Lesotho (ETL) will work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assist small businesses to trade globally through new e-commerce platforms.

The acting UNDP Resident Representative, Nessie Golakai Gould, said the UNDP has a long history and extensive experience in supporting the government of Lesotho and Lesotho communities.

“The UNDP’s support has been in various initiatives through different pillars of economic growth governance amongst others,” Gould said.

She said the UNDP has developed a new strategic plan 2022/2025, employing three enablers of digitilisation, strategic innovation and development financing as drivers of change.

She said the UNDP has also developed several digital solutions for the government of Lesotho in health, community policing, and some information systems.

She said this was to capture and analyse data to help strategic delivery of different ministerial mandates including the MSMEs database for the Ministry of Small Businesses and waste management information system.

“Based on this experience, it was imperative for the UNDP Lesotho to partner with private sector entities, particularly those in the ICT and telecom sectors like ETL,” she said.

She added that this was crucial to provide both technical support and any required resources.

She said the new MOU will support the UNDP Accelerator Lab Initiative which seeks to support and grow women-led enterprises in Lesotho.

She said this initiative named “Her Empire” which was established in May 2022 has enrolled 18 women who lead their own enterprises in different business sectors.

She said the main objective of the initiative is to ensure that women-led enterprises improve their business capacities so that they transform into iconic business frameworks pioneered by women.

She said this will enable women to compete at the highest level of service provision, including participation in public procurement processes.

“Covid-19 though devastating, has opened up technological opportunities for businesses, where we saw the rise in e-commerce,” she said.

She said this collaboration will assist in responding to some of the emerging issues faced by women-led small businesses while also enabling the generation of employment opportunities.

She said this collaboration will facilitate access to simple digital and mobile technology-based applications to enable community development and participation in national development programmes.

The chief executive officer of Econet Telecom Lesotho, Dennis Platjees, said ETL is in the process of digital transformation.

Therefore they have to be in a position to assist Basotho in small businesses, individuals and businesses to utilise digital services.

He said they had created a platform which will enable Basotho businesses to trade globally.

He said they had developed a platform that will first allow two women to ensure that their products are available country wide and globally.

He said within two to three months, over 200 businesses should be on the platform.

He said they will provide further support to such businesses to get funding for their products.

Refiloe Mpobole

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M780m to boost small businesses

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MASERU – THE Government of Lesotho has received M780 million (US$45 million) financing from the World Bank to implement the Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion (CAFI) Project.

The project starts this month.

Trade Minister Dr Thabiso Molapo said “entrepreneurship is the main driver of economic growth”.

“It is also a factor that makes communities more vibrant, inclusive, and secure,” Dr Molapo said.

He said these are some of the reasons that motivated the design of the CAFI Project, and they are confident as the ministry that the initiative is going to address the challenges faced by Basotho business people, especially women and youths.

“This facility will be an entrepreneurship knowledge hub and business incubator that will work with entrepreneurs to help them learn how to turn their ideas into enterprises,” he said.

Dr Molapo said this initiative has come at an opportune time when the country is facing serious socio-economic challenges including the scourge of poverty and high rate of youth unemployment.

He said this is by far the biggest and the most transformational intervention that is designed to address lack of access to business support services and financial products in Lesotho.

The World Bank Country Director, Marie-Françoise Marie-Nelly, said the money will not only promote business but further improve the entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Marie-Nelly said the project is targeting youths and women.

“This will help Basotho to participate in the development of wealth by turning their ideas into business,” she said.

“This will also be addressing the challenge of inequality in the country.”

She said they are also ensuring that the initiative is connected globally so that entrepreneurs can have access to global markets.

The Project Manager of Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification, Chaba Mokuku, said the project started on September 2 and is expected to run for the next six years.

He said they evaluated the economic performance of Lesotho over the decade prior to Covid-19.

He explained that in 2012, the economic growth was negatively affected by the political instability.

In 2020 and this year, the situation was exacerbated by Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.

“This also affected our performance in terms of doing business,” Mokuku said.

Mokuku said the new competitiveness and financial inclusion project was then built on the previous Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification Project Phase II.

He said it was designed to improve the business environment for firms, strengthen select government institutions and further diversify the economy.

He said the business environment has been improved in areas such as horticulture and tourism.

Mokuku said the new project’s objective is to increase access to business support services and financial products for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).

Mokuku said the project is composed of scaling support for business and MSMEs by enhancing an entrepreneurship hub and seed financing facility.

It will also scale the Lesotho enterprise assistance programme Lesotho Enterprises Assistance Program (LEAP) for MSMEs.

Mokuku said the project also seeks to explore SME participation in high potential chains where they will focus on the textile and horticulture sector.

He said there are currently 42 active textile firms after eight were shut down during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Basotho only own six out of 42 firms.

“We want to encourage Basotho to venture into the textile sector.”

The Senior Private Sector Specialist at the World Bank, Michael Ehst, said Lesotho entrepreneurship ecosystem is currently in the activation phase where there is limited start-up experience, low start-up of around M1 000.

He said they want to focus on increasing the start-up output and early stage funding.

He further said they are seeking to activate entrepreneurial minded people and grow a more connected local community that helps each other.

Refiloe Mpobole

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