Would you invest in Lesotho?

Would you invest in Lesotho?

If you happen to be an investor, planning to invest in the financial services sector in Lesotho, then on a random morning you wake up to news that the Central Bank of Lesotho has withdrawn/cancelled/revoked the banking licence of Standard Lesotho Bank. Would you still continue with the investment drive? Before answering, hold on to that thought.

I usually write these opinion pieces on Saturdays, mostly after two in the afternoon. But last week, I got so fed-up with one so-called regulator that I had so much to write about, so much that I found myself writing well after ten in the evening.
Whilst preparing to edit my piece and simultaneously watching a comedy show on TV, I heard of an amusing word – tautology (pronounced totology).
Mr. Google says tautology is the saying of the same thing twice over in different words, generally considered to be a fault of style.

In simple terms, tautology is an “unnecessary” repetition of words that more or less mean the same thing. That unnecessary repetition of words can be found in phrases such as, repeat again, reverse back, advance forward, hence why ka nnete, blue in colour or 21 years of age, all examples of tautology!

There are far more bizarre examples that I’ve heard of, such as, Ntate Motlotlehi or Ntate Morena Jesu or Ntate Mohlomphehi Letona (Awe shapo!). But the funniest of them all has to be, white shirt e ts’oeu, which literally means a white shirt that is white in colour. How unnecessary is that?

There are so many unnecessary things in Lesotho. The first one that comes to mind is a tool called a politician. Out of experience, what is the use or purpose of tool called a politician besides giving us constant headaches?
The answer is quite obvious because we wouldn’t need so many Mercs, Prados and people that are generally unpatriotic. By the way, wouldn’t the phrase, “corrupt lazy incompetent politician” be summed up under the word tautology? I mean those words mean one and the same thing.

Politicians have had their fair share of stripping this country bare to its bones. Lesotho can be compared to a car that suffered a breakdown and was left unattended, on the side of the road, for the owner to catch a lift to the nearest town.
If the owner of the car delays to return with spare parts and a mechanic, which would lead to the car spending the night without any security, that would call for scavengers to strip the car bare, of any part of value. One will come and rip off the bumper, the other will rip off a bonnet and the other will dismantle all four wheels.

This act will be orchestrated with so much diligence until the car is left bare to its shell. That is an act of scavengers such as hyenas and vultures. They eat everything from their prey until bones are exposed and nothing is left. That is the nature and mind-set of our politicians.
We are in this mess we are in today all because of politicians. Like I said, they’ve all had a share of striping everything that had to advance the country, all for personal gain.

But, the most disturbing act is when politicians threaten investments all in the name of personal interest. The other factor is when politicians tamper with future investments that are of national significance and for development of future generations. Like scavengers, everything is done with the sole purpose of self-gratification.

We have all seen the harrowing headlines of a revocation of Vodacom Lesotho’s licence by the Lesotho Communications Authority (LCA). This announcement sent shock waves to almost everyone in the country. Unfortunately, this untimely and mindless act by the LCA, led to panic, more so for Mpesa depositors/customers.

In reference to my introduction, what effect would a sudden revocation of a banking licence held by Standard Lesotho Bank have on the economy?
Firstly, there would be panic and a sudden rush to the ATMs to withdraw whatever has been deposited in the bank. But the most unfortunate factor is that, any potential investor that is thinking of investing in Lesotho would now look at things from a different angle.

Investors usually have a set of boxes or a checklist to go through before any commitment is made. As I mentioned last week, we (Basotho people) have a weakness of thinking that our country has everything that an investor needs and people want our resources (water and diamonds). But is this fact or perception?

Why would an investor go all the way to Lesotho and leave fertile investment destinations such as Durban, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Johannesburg and even Gaborone in Botswana?
Okay let me put it this way. An investor has a set of variables to be considered before a signature can be penned on the dotted line and they are as follows:

l Barriers to entry (ease of doing business)
l Safety and security (public safety and policing)
l State of Infrastructure (Roads, services, sites, land)
l Economic stability
l A fair and just legal system (Judiciary)
l Political Stability
l Economic environment with business ethics (level of corruption)
l Schools for children + safe and affordable housing (lifestyle)
l Law and order

l Public sector service delivery (licences, permits and applications)
I mean these are but a few of the key points that one looks at when making a decision to inject money into a country or an investment destination. That is a reason why the American people have a tough-time deciding on the compact two injection. I mean it is only fair because the money comes from the American taxpayers.

I don’t think there isn’t even a single tax-payer that would risk throwing their hard-earned cash into a lawless state. The money came through sweat and tears and has to do impactful things. This is what Basotho people do not understand because of easy money such as donations and grants, of which we are partly to blame.
Money is fluid. Money has no loyalty to anything or anyone. Money runs to where value is. There are hundreds of countries and people that are contesting for the same money. Why would a person (investor) feel compelled to invest in a place that has no value?

Investors are very sensitive. They always want a guarantee that their money is safe and secure. If for one reason or the other, a sense of security is compromised, not one will risk investing in Lesotho. Investment equals development and development equals jobs!
Basotho need to take this opportunity for some introspection. What the LCA has done has simply set a very dangerous precedent. It has also made a lot of potential investors to question a number of things about the way we conduct ourselves in Lesotho.

All in all, Lesotho has a lot of challenges but it is the politicians that have made life even more difficult. The curse of the on-going political instability has resulted in economic instability.
There’s no way that an investor can inject money into an unstable environment even more so, where the judiciary seems to be compromised. Our courts need to have a good reputation, in order to give investors confidence that justice will always be served.

In closing, corruption is another major factor that needs to be looked into very closely. No one in his or her right mind will invest in a country where almost everyone is seeking a bribe.
It starts with the frontline staff such as policemen and women. No one wants to be in a country where you have to bribe almost everyone for almost everything.
Having said all these, would you risk investing you hard-earned money in Lesotho?

‘Mako Bohloa

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