‘Econ­omy needs di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

THE Le­sotho Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LNDC) opened yet another new chap­ter this week when Kele­bone Leisanyane as­sumed the lead­er­ship of the gov­ern­ment-owned in­vest­ment and trade pro­mo­tion showcase.

Mr Leisanyane took over from Mr Tseko Bohloa, who had been Care­taker Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer (CEO) since Joshua Setipa’s sus­pen­sion on 11 De­cem­ber 2013 and his de­par­ture by “mu­tual con­sent” on 30 April 2014.

In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view, Mr Leisanyane, who was Loti Brick man­ag­ing di­rec­tor be­fore join­ing the LNDC, tells Le­sotho Times (LT) re­porter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, how he found him­self in the world of business, and his vi­sion for the Cor­po­ra­tion.

LT: Could you please tell us, in a nutshell, who Mr Kele­bone Leisanyane is?

Leisanyane: I am an in­dus­trial en­gi­neer by pro­fes­sion. I went to the Univer­sity Col­lege in Gal­way, in the Repub­lic of Ire­land, and grad­u­ated in 1984.

I then grew up in the milling in­dus­try as I joined Le­sotho Flour Mills straight from univer­sity.

I joined the company as a pro­duc­tion en­gi­neer, then worked my way through op­er­a­tions and to the top tech­ni­cal level of the company. This all hap­pened in 17 years, from 1984 to 2001.

So I was in­volved in the whole com­plex of Le­sotho Flour Mills as it de­vel­oped in stages. Even as we speak, I am in the board of direc­tors of the company be­cause of that ex­pe­ri­ence.

LT: So why did you leave when it ap­peared things were hap­pen­ing for you, so to speak?

Leisanyane: When I joined Le­sotho Flour Mills, the gov­ern­ment had en­dorsed a strat­egy of lo­cal­i­sa­tion for the company. So, ba­si­cally, Ba­sotho stu­dents were em­ployed straight from col­leges.

But some­where around 1998, dur­ing mil­i­tary rule, the sit­u­a­tion changed; pri­vati­sa­tion was in­tro­duced, and lo­cal­i­sa­tion was done away with.

Le­sotho Flour Mills was then pri­va­tised. It meant the company then had new own­ers, and that meant the Americans were to bring in new direc­tors; man­ag­ing, fi­nan­cial and op­er­a­tions.

So ba­si­cally, I was now more or less play­ing sec­ond fid­dle to an ex­pa­tri­ate.

So I de­cided to leave be­cause the only way up was to head the or­gan­i­sa­tion, and it was clear that I could not achieve it. So I left in 2001.

I was then in­vited by the gov­ern­ment to join Tele­com Le­sotho as a di­rec­tor; this is the same company which is now called Econet Tele­com Le­sotho after a merger that took place in 2008. I re­mained a mem­ber of the board un­til 2010.

How­ever, when I left Le­sotho Flour Mills, I took up an in­ter­est­ing ca­reer at IEMS, where I taught Op­er­a­tions Man­age­ment and Statis­tics from 2001 to 2006.

I then joined Loti Brick (a brick­mak­ing paras­tatal) in 2006, as man­ag­ing di­rec­tor.

LT: Now that you are in a dif­fer­ent or­gan­i­sa­tion with its own dis­tinct man­date, what are your plans?

Leisanyane: I think this is an im­por­tant or­gan­i­sa­tion, which has the ca­pac­ity to change the land­scape of our econ­omy.

The em­pha­sis has largely been on the tex­tile sec­tor; that is where the or­gan­i­sa­tion has in­vested a lot of en­ergy.

Ob­vi­ously there is a lot of em­ploy­ment in that area, but there are risks also.

You must have heard that even up to now, we are still wait­ing for the Amer­i­can Congress to ex­tend AGOA (African Growth and Op­por­tu­nity Act, which is a spe­cial fa­cil­ity that al­lows cer­tain goods from qual­i­fy­ing de­vel­op­ing na­tions to en­ter the US duty-free and is sup­posed to ex­pire in 2015).

Yes, the United States Gov­ern­ment and Pres­i­dent Bar­rack Obama be­lieve it could be done but there are still is­sues around that.

Ob­vi­ously, there is un­cer­tainty re­gard­ing the ex­ten­sion of AGOA. How­ever, we hope it will even­tu­ally come through.

My vi­sion is to have dif­fer­ent phases in our strat­egy; the first is di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, which is key. That is to say you must not put all your eggs in one bas­ket.

I know many of the LNDC staff will agree with me that a lot of ef­fort has been put in au­to­mo­tive value chain ini­tia­tives.

But now I want us, as the LNDC, to also look at the agroin­dus­try very closely as it is also very key in the coun­try’s econ­omy.

I will tell you why it is im­por­tant; we can bring in a big in­vestor who will en­gage or­di­nary Ba­sotho to make sure the in­vest­ment is fruit­ful.

Take for in­stance, pork prod­ucts such as ba­con; if you go to Sho­prite and Pick n Pay su­per­mar­kets, you find that the vol­umes of th­ese prod­ucts are huge.

But Ba­sotho can­not bring their pork to th­ese shops be­cause the re­quired stan­dard of hy­giene and qual­ity are very high.

If we then get a for­eign in­vestor to come and set-up a fa­cil­ity with the re­quired stan­dards, and en­gage Ba­sotho in the project, we will be em­pow­er­ing our peo­ple.

This can also con­trib­ute to the is­sue of cre­at­ing 10,000 jobs per year, which is a tar­get set by the Gov­ern­ment.

LT: But then, how ex­actly are you go­ing to boost the agroin­dus­try, which as you rightly say, has strug­gled to de­velop to the ex­pected com­mer­cial stan­dards?

Leisanyane: Ba­sotho should re­ally feel that the agroin­dus­try ex­ists. We al­ready have a can­nery in Masianokeng, for in­stance.

I be­lieve what I would sim­ply need to do is put more em­pha­sis that the fa­cil­ity must be ex­panded. It started with the pro­duc­tion of asparagus, and then peaches, and

I un­der­stand that re­cently, it was pro­duc­ing canned toma­toes. We need to ex­pand this be­cause Baso- tho can grow all th­ese crops.

If we can ex­pand that to in­clude other cash crops, I be­lieve we can make an im­pact. We will cre­ate jobs and grow the econ­omy.

So, I am very ex­cited to have been given this op­por­tu­nity.

LT: What are the other strate­gies that you are hop­ing to put in place?

Leisanyane: After di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, there should be im­port-sub­sti­tu­tion. We need to sit down with our statis­tics depart­ment staff to find out what prod­ucts we are im­port­ing that we can man­u­fac­ture or grow our­selves.

Ba­sotho go out of the coun­try in large num­bers to im­port prod­ucts, some of which we can do our­selves.

We just need guid­ance and pro­grammes which will help us ac­cess the mar­ket and pro­duce valu­able prod­ucts.

But most im­por­tantly, we must support our lo­cal in­dus­tries. It is one thing to bring in in­vest­ment and it is another to keep it.

I will give you a typ­i­cal ex­am­ple of where I come from; Loti Brick, where they are mak­ing some of the best bricks you can find in the world. And this top qual­ity is be­cause we have good clay soils here in our coun­try.

We do not do any­thing much; we do not even put colour into the clay, but when you check them, you will no­tice that they have bril­liant colours.

But at the same time, there is some store be­ing built by the gov­ern­ment some­where and the bricks be­ing used come from out­side the coun­try.

The near­est plant for that is in Bloem­fontein, South Africa. The ques­tion one should then ask is; why is this hap­pen­ing? Why not get the bricks from Loti Brick?

LT: How are you go­ing to change this per­cep­tion that lo­cal is not good enough?

Leisanyane: It’s high time that at this or­gan­i­sa­tion which I am now head­ing, you will not get a ten­der if you do not spec­ify how you will support the lo­cal in­dus­try.

We have al­ready en­gaged the Min­istry of Pub­lic Works and Trans­port to en­sure Le­sotho prod­ucts are spec­i­fied.

The bot­tom line is; we must support lo­cal in­dus­tries.

I am only us­ing Loti Brick as an ex­am­ple be­cause it is still fresh in my mind.

But we must support all the other in­dus­tries that we brought into Le­sotho and are now lo­cal. Com­ing to the gar­ment in­dus­try, although I un­der­stand it is be­ing di­ver­si­fied, I still don’t know where our army and po­lice uni­forms are be­ing man­u­fac­tured, for in­stance, and that should be a business done by Ba­sotho.

Th­ese uni­forms must be made lo­cally. This is just the lob­by­ing part of my strat­egy.

When I met with the Min­is­ter (of Trade and In­dus­try) ear­lier, I men­tioned to him that Ire­land was in a very sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion to Le­sotho, although not en­tirely the same. You have Ire­land close to a very big power, the United King­dom (UK).

There was also that feel­ing that Ire­land’s in­dus­try was be­ing dom­i­nated by the UK. But not un­til a strat­egy called Buy-Ire­land was in­tro­duced.

I am not sure if we can get away with Buy-Le­sotho, but I know for sure that it worked well with the Ir­ish. It was pow­er­ful.

All I am say­ing is that we should support each other as Ba­sotho. So in a nutshell, th­ese are is­sues I think we need to work on.

How­ever, I am not dis­miss­ing the fact that we also need to be ef­fi­cient as an or­gan­i­sa­tion in the way that we con­duct our business.

LT: Your ap­point­ment into the LNDC comes shortly after con­tro­ver­sial re­ports con­cern­ing the pre­vi­ous CEO and his ac­ri­mo­nious re­la­tion­ship with the Board. Would you want to com­ment on this?

Leisanyane: My re­cruit­ment was made by the cur­rent Board, and out of many other ap­pli­cants, I was se­lected.

That is to say they be­lieve I am go­ing to ap­proach is­sues dif­fer­ently. I can al­ready as­sure you that the support I am be­ing given is in­cred­i­ble.

We are work­ing to­gether and that is how things should be. You will re­mem­ber that fol­low­ing prob­lems with the pre­vi­ous CEO, there has been a gap be­fore I came in, whereby there was a Care­taker CEO, Mr Tseko Bohloa, who I re­alised, tried his best to ad­dress some of th­ese is­sues af­fect­ing the LNDC.

So, I think it is just a mat­ter of ap­proach when fac­ing is­sues. I come with a vi­sion, but I still need to know how things are done here. And grad­u­ally, I will make a dif­fer­ence.

I can tell you that we are not go­ing to take a very long time be­fore things are on track here.

I will be do­ing this con­sul­ta­tively. Re­mem­ber I am just an en­gi­neer my­self. I can­not know ev­ery­thing.

But also, don’t for­get that I have 30 years of ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing in the pri­vate sec­tor since 1984. It’s a long time,but I still have the en­ergy.

LT: At­tract­ing in­vest­ment is one of the key func­tions of the LNDC. How do you in­tend to go about this dif­fer­ently from the pre­vi­ous LNDC lead­er­ship?

Leisanyane: In­vest­ing in this coun­try is not that much of a prob­lem. The chain of for­eign in­vestors com­ing in with the in­ten­tion to start busi­nesses is enor­mous.

What we need to do is speed-up our in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment for th­ese in­vestors. We need to part­ner with our friends, such as LEC and WASA.

I would want to head a team that will meet with them to fa­cil­i­tate what we call a Ser­vice Level Agree­ment. This is a dif­fer­ent con­cept now.

It is a pri­vate sec­tor con­cept that; when we want to es­tab­lish fac­tory shells some­where, and need elec­tric­ity and wa­ter sys­tems or con­nec­tions, we should have an agree­ment with them that we do not go the long route be­cause here, we are deal­ing with in­vestors.

Ba­si­cally, what I am say­ing is; we need in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment geared to­wards the needs of the LNDC.

And if we are able to achieve that, it means we will also be se­lec­tive in bring­ing in in­vestors based on our needs as Ba­sotho.

We should strive for our com­par­a­tive ad­van­tage, not com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage, con­sid­er­ing our ter­rain and peo­ple. The LNDC has been in ex­is­tence for over 40 years.

It is one of the most im­por­tant paras­tatals the Gov­ern­ment has es­tab­lished. But I will tell you that peo­ple don’t know much about it.

What I would want to do be­fore I leave in three years is to take this Cor­po­ra­tion to a level it de­serves to be — to the peo­ple.

It is Le­sotho’s premier or­gan­i­sa­tion; we should be a lot more vis­i­ble. We can change lives.

There is also a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in this or­ga­ni­za­tion, which should be uti­lized for the ben­e­fit of Ba­sotho.

Ba­sotho go out of the coun­try in large num­bers to im­port prod­ucts, some of which we can do our­selves. We just need guid­ance and pro­grammes which will help us ac­cess the mar­ket and pro­duce valu­able prod­ucts. But most im­por­tantly, we must support our lo­cal in­dus­tries. It is one thing to bring in in­vest­ment and it is another to keep it.

LNDC CEO Kele­bone Leisanyane

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lesotho

© PressReader. All rights reserved.