Upping their game

Upping their game

…Informal traders vow to take business to next level…..

MASERU – TIRED of the hassles of informal trading, a group of women selling clothes and cosmetics have begun a quest to turn their businesses into formal ventures.
They met at St Bernadette hall last Saturday to map out plans to take their businesses to the next level and migrate into formal ventures.
At the meeting, they took turns to narrate the challenges affecting their growth, and sought the help of well-off companies, the government and experts.
Nyakallo Ntšinyi earns a living selling clothes.

Her biggest challenge, she said, is the huge Value Added Tax (VAT) that traders like her pay at the border gate when they import clothes from South Africa.
She said huge transportation costs have made most of their businesses to struggle.
A formalised network would help the women share ideas and information amongst themselves and with big corporates on how to overcome the challenges, said Ntšinyi.
This information, she said, includes where to get the best buys and how to stock.

Currently, the women are trying to reduce transport costs by sending a few people to buy for the whole group.
Palesa Selialia, who also sells clothes, said most of her colleagues ventured into the business just because they saw other people selling clothes and making money. The traders lack professional education and a background in the business, she said, as she narrates how she at one time was arrested by the police while importing tobacco from South Africa.
“I was forced to pay M5 200 by the police,” she said.

“I did not know that importing tobacco is illegal since there is nowhere it is written so that everyone could see,” she says.
Another small trader, Matšeliso Mara, says she often ends up using the income that she generates from her business for personal use.
She appeals to the Lesotho Post Bank to advise the women on how to save their profits so that their businesses could grow.

Liteboho Phamotse, who has been importing bags from China since September last year, spoke on the importance of selling quality products, which she says were guaranteed to turn a profit.
Lehlonohonolo Maboka from the Ministry of Small Business Development and Cooperatives said the government had realised the importance of cross-border traders and would prioritise them.
Maboka, who works specifically with small businesses, says in the past there was no department which dealt with small businesses but that had since changed.
He says there is need for information on how to operate international businesses since cross border traders import their stock from abroad.

Maboka says small businesses should work with the Lesotho Revenue Authority (LRA) and the Ministry of Trade, who should provide clear procedures on how to operate cross border businesses.
Failure to follow proper procedures usually comes at a cost to traders, who sometimes end up paying fines and bribes.
He told the traders that most of their challenges emanated from lack of knowledge.

“There is a time where you need help especially financial assistance from us but because you do not have the necessary documents that might be a barrier,” he says.
He says some traders had a habit treating business income and family income as one.
“That hinders them from knowing the progress of their businesses,” says Maboka, adding that traders should take advantage of the Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO), which provides training on how to run businesses.

Maboka says the ministry will help these small ventures to register as formal businesses.
“At LRA there is a stipulated amount at which the businesses could start paying tax. You could operate a registered business which does not pay tax because of the income it generates,” he says.
He says small traders should not be afraid to register their businesses so that they get the licences, which could open more opportunities for them in the business world.
Customer consultant officer at the Lesotho Post Bank, Rahaba Johnson, spoke on how Basotho could save their profits using different savings accounts.

She introduced ‘ngatana’ to them, which allows people to start saving from as little as M100 every month until their investment matures.
Johnson says there is also a fixed deposit account where the clients could start with a minimum of M1 000.
Thinyane Lebona, who is a senior officer in charge of business banking at Lesotho Post Bank, says they want to take these businesses to the medium level.
He urged Basotho open savings accounts.

“In a business, a profit could be a blessing or a curse if not well managed,’’ Lebona says.
He advised the entrepreneurs to save up their profits so that their businesses could be upgraded from micro businesses to medium businesses where they would be eligible for more banking opportunities.

“Having accounts at Lesotho Post Bank gives you more opportunities such as loans. Also your saving could act as your security,” he said.

Refiloe Mpobole

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