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Special bank account for low income earners

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MASERU – THE Bankers Association of Lesotho (BAL) says its members will launch a special savings account for low income earners in the second quarter of this year. The “Bothebelele account”, as it is known, will be available at Standard Lesotho Bank, Nedbank Lesotho, Lesotho Post Bank and FNB Lesotho which are the only members of the BAL.

Standard Lesotho Bank CEO Mpho Vumbukani, who is the chairman of BAL, said Bothebelele shows banks are committed to financial inclusion.
He said Bothebelele will make it easy and cheaper for people who earn below M3000 to access as it does not have management and cross border deposit fees. The account will be for basic banking transactions like savings, withdrawals and deposits.
“Each of the banks will still have in their menu, other products that drive financial inclusion. The low income savings account will form part of the bank’s products,” Vumbukani said.

The account does not have other services like loans, overdrafts and online banking.
Vumbukani said banks will not charge clients to open or maintain the Bothebelele account.
That it does not have monthly charges should come as a relief to customers who have been crying about service fees for years.

A 2016 working paper published by the Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) says about 38 percent of the adult population has a bank account.
This shows that the majority of the adult population still lacks access to basic financial services, the paper said.
“The mainstream banking sector fails to deliver financial services to millions of consumers especially those residing in rural areas. Banks are biased in favour of affluent consumers due to high costs of physical infrastructure and operational costs as well as low profits associated with serving the low income consumers.”

“This lack of access to financial services not only limits the ability of the poor to save, repay debts and manage risk responsibly but also indirectly exposes them to poverty.”
The Bothebelele account seems to the banking sector’s answer to that criticism.
Meanwhile the BAL has issued a final notice for clients to verify their accounts as part of the Know-You-Client (KYC) campaign which has been going on for the past few years.

All local banks are required by the law to keep updated personal records of customers.
Maintenance of clear and up-to-date documents is one of the main things the CBL looks at when assessing a bank’s compliance with the licensing regulations.

Clients who have not updated their information in the last 12 months are therefore requested to take the relevant documents to the nearest branch before March 28.

Failure to do so will result in their accounts being blocked. Vumbukani said the campaign started in 2015.
“Banks have been sending out messages to clients requesting them to update their banking documents, both personal and company records,” Vumbukani said.

“Despite numerous reminders including the re-verification campaign that was launched in September 2016, compliance level is low.”
“This matter has now caught the banks in a precarious situation because the banks are caught in the middle of serving the requirements of their regulatory framework as prescribed by the Central Bank of Lesotho as well as ensuring that customers are granted services.”
He said clients should treat this matter as urgent if they want their accounts to remain active.

KYC is a legal requirement because governments have put this as a control and monitoring instrument towards combating money laundering and financing of terrorism; both are global concerns.  Although terrorism may not be a problem for Basotho yet, the issue is that Lesotho has to be prepared like other countries.

Vumbukani said the KYC would ensure that Lesotho does not become a launching pad for international terrorism and money laundering.
He said Lesotho has ratified the international convention that seeks to combat economic crimes so these laws are binding for BAL and the country at large.

Tokase Mphutlane

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King launches Lesotho Nation Brand

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KING Letsie III launched the Lesotho Nation Brand yesterday which he says has identified four main pillars which form the foundation of the national vision for a prosperous and thriving Lesotho.

These pillars are investment, trade, tourism, development of local products, and patriotism.

“They will be the cornerstones upon which we will build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren,” the King said.

“In investment we recognise the vital role that it plays in driving economic growth and creating opportunities for our people,” he said.

“By fostering a conducive environment for investment, we will attract both domestic and foreign capital, fuelling innovation, job creation, and accelerated growth across all sectors of our economy.”

The king said trade, in this increasingly interconnected world, serves as a catalyst for progress and prosperity.

He said through strategic partnerships and trade agreements, we will expand our market reach, promote our unique offerings, and ensure that Lesotho-made goods and services are attractive, competitive and sought after in global markets.

He said Basotho will continue to harness their God-given natural resources to drive economic growth and social transformation, and where appropriate, utilise those natural resources to create industries and businesses that can expand export offerings.

“We have always believed that our country is blessed with an array of breath-taking landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and a people whose hearts are warm and hospitable,” he said.

The King said all of these qualities and attributes are valuable ingredients for building a prosperous tourism industry.

Under this pillar, he said, Basotho will endeavour to showcase the beauty and diversity of Lesotho with the aim of attracting visitors from far and wide.

He said this will undoubtedly generate growth in Lesotho’s tourism industry and will create much needed economic opportunities for local communities.

“I am very much aware that we take immense pride in the craftsmanship and ingenuity of our people,” he said.

“This pride has to be supported and matched by a strong commitment to champion local products and industries in order to empower Basotho entrepreneurs, promote sustainable livelihoods and preserve our heritage for generations to come.”

Speaking at the launch, Prime Minister Sam Matekane said for Lesotho to truly prosper as a serious contender on the world stage, “we need all Basotho to stand united behind Lesotho Nation Brand”.

The Lesotho Nation Brand was spearheaded by the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LDNC), which is mandated to promote trade and industry for Basotho.

Staff Reporter

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Powering dreams!

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STANDARD Lesotho Bank, Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO), and the Revenue Services Lesotho will provide M1.4 million for this year’s Bacha Entrepreneurship Project.

This was announced by the BEDCO CEO, Lemphane Lesoli, at the 2024 BEP launch in Maseru on Tuesday. The fund will be distributed among five aspiring businesses that will benefit from the project this year.

“This is to indicate significant opportunity for individuals to show innovative ideas and turn their dreams into reality,” Lesoli said.

BEP is a joint venture between Standard Lesotho Bank, Revenue Services Lesotho (RSL) and BEDCO. It was introduced in 2014 to bring a positive change and create opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Lesoli said with an investment of M8.8 million, they have supported the dreams and ambitions of over 28 businesses while at the same time providing employment to over 103 young individuals.

The call for proposals was opened to all industries until June 28, 2024.

All the industries countrywide are invited to submit their proposals.

“Whether you are passionate about agriculture, tourism or any other sector, we invite you to submit your innovative ideas,” Lesoli said.

“This is your chance to turn your vision into reality to ensure your creativity and contribute to the economy of this country,” he said.

“Your ideas have the power to shape our future and create positive change within our community. Let’s redouble our efforts to empower our aspiring entrepreneurs.”

Manager of Public Relations at the RSL, Tšepang Mncina, said the proposals will be taken for screening to select those who qualify and those who do not.

Then the panel of adjudicators will assign those proposals to shortlist 50 people.

The 50 people will have to draw their proposal because some people know nothing about their ideas and who their markets will be.

After that they will be trained so that they can be good at writing effective business proposals.

The proposals will be back to the adjudicators to adjust the top 15 that will go through pitching and psychologic tests to see if they are real entrepreneurs.

The top five will be selected and awarded a sum of M1.4 million.

Relebohile Tšepe

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The road to recovery

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THE Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Business Development, Thabo Moleko, says cohesion among key stakeholders is critical to the revival of the textile sector.
Moleko was speaking at two consultative meetings held this week as part of the Expanding Enterprises Participation in Textile and Clothing Global Value Chain project.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Centre (ITC), the technical partners in the project, coordinated meetings.

The consultations are a critical step towards addressing the concerns and priorities of employers and workers in Lesotho’s textile industry.

Held on Tuesday, the first meeting brought together employers in the sector.

Trade unions met on Wednesday. A joint meeting of businesses and unions will be held today. The textile project is a subcomponent of the Competitiveness and Financial Inclusion (CAFI), a government and World Bank-funded project that seeks to build a vibrant and sustainable private sector that delivers shared economic growth.

Moleko told both meetings that the consultations are critical to the successful implementation of the Enterprises Participation in Textile and Clothing Global Value Chain project which seeks to revive the textile industry.

He said Lesotho’s textile sector is currently in the doldrums as it struggles to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, wars across the globe, supply chain problems, economic challenges, declining consumer confidence and rising inflation.

In addition, Lesotho faces stiff competition from countries like Kenya, Ethiopia, Mauritius and Madagascar which have vibrant textile sectors.

Moleko said the growing power of global apparel-producing giants like China, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam has made the prospects of Lesotho’s textile industry bleaker.

He said the project is meant to reposition the sector so it can compete in the global market. The dialogue, he said, creates the platform for Lesotho to “take advantage of new opportunities emerging from the reorganization of GVCs (Global Value Chains).”

The ultimate goal, he noted, is to expand business opportunities to “reach out to new markets, improve enterprise-level productivity and employment conditions”.

His sentiments were echoed by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Palesa Matobako, who spoke at the same meetings.

Matobako said the meetings were meant to ensure that the project achieves its objectives of enhancing productivity, improving employment conditions and enhancing the sector’s overall competitiveness.

“The ultimate goal of this initiative (the project) is to expand enterprise participation in the global textile and clothing value chains,” Matobako.

The project will focus on workplace collaboration, total quality management, resource efficiency and cleaner production, occupational safety and health and better workforce management.

Staff Reporter

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