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Now you know!



ROMA – When it’s party time, no doubt you enjoy grilling your own meat using your valued charcoal variety. But, guess what, gone are the days when you will have to rely on imported charcoal!

A type of charcoal produced by Rammitikoe Rammitikoe has passed a rigorous test by that National University of Lesotho (NUL) Chemical Technologist, Kabelo Makara and his Supervisor, Professor Hailemichael Alemu.
It is now doing rounds in the market!

Let us hear from the founder of the charcoal product himself.  “I lived in Leribe and used to work as a teacher in Maseru, commuting every day,” Rammitikoe said. “Every time I passed through Maseru, I was struck by the prevalence of charcoal use on the streets of the town.”
“Then, I thought, but we are buying it all from outside, why can’t we produce it right here in Lesotho?”
Rammitikoe was then determined to find a secret or two about charcoal. So he made a thorough study.

A born doer, he then started experimenting until he realized he was able to produce some charcoal from local Eucalyptus trees.
He was not intent on relishing the thrill of being able to make charcoal and then stop there.
He wanted to produce and sell it!

“I made a few bags and left it on the streets of Maseru with some grilled meat vendors. When I came back from work, most of the vendors were impressed by my charcoal.” It was just as good as charcoal from elsewhere, they told him!
Not only that, they also wanted to know if he could supply them with the charcoal. That was music to his ears! The Prime-Minister would have said, “Ba ne ba ruta mpshe lebelo,” they were “teaching an ostrich how to sprint.”

Ostrich is, of course, a fierce sprinter already! So he went home and started producing and selling his charcoal to many shops around the country.
But something good happened that would finally land him at the NUL. He went to Shoprite to sell his products. Someone there said to him, “You can either go to South Africa for testing your products or go to NUL.”

Presented with that choice, it was up to him to make a wise decision.  To start with, he was already skeptical as to why so much of the charcoal used daily in Lesotho was imported. Now, would he go and import knowledge, as most folks do, if the same knowledge was available locally?
The rest is history, as they say.

At the NUL he met an esteemed professor of Chemistry, Professor Heilemichael Alemu.
“I was shocked by his eagerness to help,” he said.  Professor Alemu took a young bright fellow in the name of Kabelo Makara, an astute Chemical Technologist to help. To understand their work, listen to Makara carefully as he explains what charcoal really is and why it is so important.
“It is a porous black solid, which has an amorphous form of carbon, a result of heating of wood or any other forms of organic matter in the absence of oxygen,” Makara said.

But what’s he saying? Just so we and you can have at least a faintest glimpse of what’s going on, let’s try.
When wood burns, oxygen from air is combining with carbon in the wood to form carbon dioxide and energy in the form of heat.
“But when wood is burned in the absence of oxygen, something called thermomechanical conversion is going on,” Makara, said.
“In this case, heat only, not oxygen, helps in the release of atoms that interfere with efficient burning of wood. They are released as gases or liquid.”
In that release, more and more free carbon is left, and that is the key.

We say free carbon because carbon atoms in natural wood are bound to other atoms like hydrogen and oxygen (ever heard of carbohydrates?).
Unlike bound carbon atoms, free carbon atoms burn easily, releasing much more heat. But bound carbon makes more ash, hence wasted heat energy.
That is, if you have always wanted to know why you buy charcoal instead of wood to grill your meat.
Now you know!

So here are some of the parameters Makara tested in the charcoal:
(1) Ash content: more ash, less carbon, less heat
(2) moisture content: more moisture, harder to burn
(3) volatile matter content: more volatiles, easier to ignite
(4) Nitrogen

(5) Sulphur contents: More of these, more pollution (ever heard of acid rain?)
“I used Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) limits and adopted testing methods by ASTM standards. I am happy to say, the charcoal met ALL the required standards,” Makara said.
And how did the client, Rammitikoe, feel?
“I’m jubilant, to say the least.”

“Even more, I learned about other uses of charcoal from an amazingly fine NUL report which took six months to produce, including the possible uses of the gases emitted during charcoal production and the use of activated charcoal on polish.”
“I feel like I am standing on the shoulders of giants.” NUL giants, to be succinct!

Own Correspondent

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Three youth-run businesses win funding



MASERU– THREE companies have won M10 000 each for their best outstanding project plans under the Youth Development Project this week.

The companies are Qalakheng Evergreen Funds, Happy C&J Village Farms, and Our Verbal Farm.

The Youth Development Project is sponsored by the Sekhametsi Consortium, Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO), and Lesotho Post Bank.

The BEDCO CEO, Tšepang Tlali, said his organisation’s Strategic Plan 2020-2025 focuses on contributing towards the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) II through the first key priority area of enhancing inclusive and sustainable economic growth and private sector job creation.

“Through this strategy, BEDCO aims to address inclusive and economic growth and private sector job creation,” Tlali said.

“BEDCO has a target of 10 000 jobs per annum through the establishment, development and growth of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs),” he said.

The strategy has also taken into consideration the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the growing youth unemployment rate in the country.”

He said the Youth Development Project was initiated to specifically focus on entrepreneurship development of youth.

“The Youth Development Project builds on the BEP (Bacha Entrepreneurship Project) and PED projects by facilitating the establishment of enterprises among the youth through various interventions towards creating sustainable job creation for Basotho youth,” Tlali said.

He said the project has been following streams to access the finance incubation mentorship.

He said the project targets existing youth-owned and managed businesses and non-youth businesses in the agricultural sector which intends to prioritise youth for employment opportunities.

Tlali said businesses should demonstrate high potential for growth and sustainability and their need for funding to accelerate their growth.

He said the agricultural sector is one of the NSDP II priority sectors which have been chosen because it was seen to be a more resilient sector especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said farmers often struggle to meet the required production standards, required quantity, and good quality products because of lack of resources and business skills.

Tlali said the project therefore aims to enhance sustainability and competitiveness of enterprises that support youth development either through employment or entrepreneurship.

He said the project will provide interest-free revolving loans annually starting with M300 000 in the first phase of the project and follow the process.

Sekhametsi allocated M300 000 in a bid to support youths directly or indirectly through other businesses that could make more impact than channelling funds directly to the youth.

Tlali said the funds will be paid out by the bank into the incumbents’ bank accounts upon approval and authorisation.

“The funds will be monitored by an incubator during the incubation programme,” Tlali said.

’Mabasia Lepota from the Ministry of Trade said she was grateful to all those who made the initiative a success.

Lepota said she was thankful to those who have been championing the development of the private sector through the numerous programmes that have successfully been implemented over the past few years, especially for the youth.

She said she was overwhelmed by the contribution that Sekhametsi Consortium was playing in the national agenda to eradicate unemployment and poverty among the youth.

“The government of Lesotho is indeed indebted to you,” Lepota said.

She said they could only hope and encourage other large local businesses through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to contribute to the growth of the private sector, promotion of competition and innovation as well as contribution to economic growth.

The Lesotho Post Bank Managing Director, Molefi Leqhaoe, said they appreciate what is done for the three youth businesses and it is their wish to see this project growing bigger and better.

Alice Samuel & Tholoana Lesenya

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Tax Administration Bill back in spotlight



MASERU – SENATOR Seabata Motsamai says the reinstated Tax Administration Bill 2022 will align the administration of tax laws in Lesotho to ensure efficiency.

Motsamai was speaking in the Senate on Tuesday on the Bill which could not be passed in the last parliament when it was dissolved.

He said his presentation followed the gathering of opinions from stakeholders such as the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PSFL), Public Transport Lesotho, and the Lesotho Chamber of Mines.

“Due to instability of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) the Revenue Service Lesotho (RSL) has been forced to improve domestic revenue mobilisation,” Motsamai said.

The Senator said the Bill is a new piece of legislation that is designed to create a unified body of law outlining common procedures, rights and remedies by aligning the administration of tax laws as much as possible.

“The purpose of the Bill is also to achieve a balance between the rights and responsibilities of both the RSL and the taxpayers in a transparent relationship,” he said.

He said the Bill will seek to prescribe the rights and responsibilities of the RSL officers, to prescribe remedies for the taxpayers and RSL officers in accordance with the aims and purposes of tax administration.

Motsamai said the Bill is intended to create the basis for further modernisation of the administration of the tax laws in order to fill certain identified gaps such as introducing a framework for the joined registration of a taxpayer for all types of taxes.

The Bill is also meant to create a framework for supporting the modernisation of the accounting system of the RSL.

Based on all observations made by the stakeholders involved, the Committee recommended that further stakeholders’ engagement is needed, particularly on compliance issues and penalties for non-compliance.

Motsamai said the committee recommended that the Bill be deferred to allow the RSL to engage with stakeholders.

He said the basis for the committee’s recommendations on this Bill was the failure by the RSL to consult stakeholders during the development process of the Bill which needed to be addressed.

Senator Seabata Motsamai said the dissolution of the 10th parliament last year meant that all pending businesses in the House were dissolved.

Motsamai said the House resolved to reinstate the Bill on March 9 this year.

The Bill was referred to the Legislation Committee for review.

Motsamai said the Committee met on March 23 where it invited the Ministry of Finance and Revenue Services Lesotho (RSL) to brief it on the basis and intentions of the Bill.

He said this was done in order to fulfil Standing Order 90(3) which stipulates that the legislation committee may call for papers and hear oral evidence, which may, by resolutions of the Committee be recorded and transcribed.

Motsamai is the chairman of the Senate’s Legislation Committee.

The committee has powers to consult and liaise with government ministries and departments to ensure attendance of any person at a meeting of the committee in terms of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act of 1994.

Motsamai said on March 28 the committee managed to invite interested parties to a consultation meeting where they were given an opportunity to present their views on the Bill.

“The committee analysed the stakeholders’ opinions and observations,” Motsamai said.

He said the committee came up with its own observations and recommendations which it will convey to the House during the Bill’s discussion.

Tholoana Lesenya

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Big debate on pension funds



MASERU-METROPOLITAN Lesotho hosted a roundtable discussion on the implementation of the Pension Fund Act in a bid to promote public awareness about pension funds in Lesotho.
Professor Mtende Mhango, Metropolitan Research Chairman and Professor of Law at the University of Limpopo, said this was part of a series of awareness campaigns that the insurance company is holding.
Professor Mhango said in November 2019 the Pension Fund Act of Lesotho was published four months before the hard lockdown was imposed in March 2020, “which in no doubt affected the pace of implementation of this legislation”.

Professor Mhango said the purpose of the law is to protect patient beneficiaries “to ensure that when people retire, the money that they have saved is there”.
He said the Act’s purpose is also to develop the domestic capital markets by ensuring that the pension contributions that are received by the pension funds, a portion of them is invested in the source.
“This was to ensure that there is economic growth in the country using these pension funds,” he said.

However, he said in order to achieve these goals, it takes time and it involves a lot of complex challenges.
This includes how pension funds ought to be governed, invested, and how the benefits must be administered.

Although new licences have been issued by the Central Bank of Lesotho, he said some organisations are still in a transitional stage.
However, there have also been some areas where progress has been made in terms of actual implementation.

The Principal Officer of Nedbank Lesotho Pension Fund, Mojabeng Matsau, said “this is to ensure that funds are not repatriated to other countries for purposes of investment, but also to ensure that we invest such monies in our countries”.

However, she said “we still don’t have enough at this moment in our country where we can invest investors’ funds”.
The Business Development Manager of Metropolitan Lesotho Tšepo Mokaki said before they can have their own opinions on the Pension Fund Act, “most variations in the management of pension funds were designed to serve only the employers’ members and were not accommodated in that space”.

He said they then designed the service model and put in place proper governance structures to accommodate the members and also to comply with the Pension Fund Act.
Mokaki said one of the biggest opportunities that they foresee for the advent of pension fund management is the requirement to invest two percent of the pension funds’ assets.
“This is the biggest opportunity for the super economy,” he said.

He said there is also an opportunity to invest pension contributions in local companies that need capital to grow and in the process spur growth.
He further said it creates job opportunities.

Mokaki said this is going to create a huge opportunity for the pension funds industry to educate members on the administration and management of retirement funds.

Refiloe Mpobole

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