‘Small businesses centre of economy’
PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s decision to reshuffle Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) Secretary-general Selibe Mochoboroane from the Energy and Meteorology ministry to the Small Business Development, Co-operatives and Marketing portfolio was perceived by many as a demotion in light of the infighting rocking the government.
However, Mr Mochoboroane has begged to differ, saying he viewed it as a new challenge to better the lives of budding entrepreneurs. Mr Mochoboroane replaced Thabiso Litšiba who was fired along with two other ministers and a deputy minister.
In this wide-ranging interview, Mr Mochoboroane tells Lesotho Times (LT) reporter Pascalinah Kabi about his new mandate and the priority areas for the ministry.
LT: Do you regard your transfer as a demotion?
Mochoboroane: I suspectuspect I came to my new ministry at an opportunetune time. Many people might see it as a demotion,motion, but I see it as a blessing in disguisee because this is one of the ministries I amm passionate about.
So for me, this is a promotion. If ad-administered well withh proper mecha-mechanisms in place, this ministryministry is and can actually be our economicmic liberator. We have just celebrated 50 years of independence and the way I interpret this in-independence is totallyally different from manyny people’s understanding.
My understanding is that Lesotho’s past 50 years of independence were only political. We have been freed politically but still colonised economically because our economy is entirely influenced by that of South Africa.
If South African’s economy sneezes, Lesotho immediately catches flue and I am calling for all of us Basotho to work together for the next 50 years for our economy’s independence.
So, for me, this can only be a demotion if our good plans to liberate the country from its dependency on the South African economy don’t get a buy-in from the leaders in government. LT: What are you going to do differently from your predecessor to ensure that your Ministry PLAYS A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN changing the country’s economy?
Mochoboroane: My first assignment was to study the mandate of the Ministry of Small Business Development, Co-operatives and Marketing. I needed to fully understand the laws and policies that govern this ministry so I could prepare myself for the long journey of extricating Basotho from poverty. I have a strong convictionconv that small businessesnesses and the informainformal sector are the centre of the economy oof this country. This is why I am travtravelling throughout the country to meemeet the women and men operating in this sector. So far, I have been in three districts, makinging our local producers aware that this country hhas laws to protect localcal produce. Prior to my district visits, I askasked civil servants in ththe ministry to compile a detailed import and eexport report. The report showed that 80 percent of the products we consume are imported from South Africa, proving the point that Lesotho is still at the smallscale level of production. I have asked the llocal producers on the measures we need to take as a country to meet the consumption demands and to ensure our economy is not dependent on South Africa.
In 2014 alone, Lesotho imported chicken worth of M626 365 461.15; cabbage worth M60 million and imported bottled water stood at M69 311 088.66 all from South Africa. Are we seriously importing bottled water worth millions from South Africa when we have our own competent bottling companies?
If you look at the entire report, you will realise where our main challenge lies and that another country is developing at our expense.
So my second move is to ensure we stop being economically-dependent on South Africa because it is driving us into poverty. We need to sustain our economy and ensure it actually grows by producing local products. We have the potential to be economically-independent and this ministry has all the powers to lead Lesotho to economic freedom.
For instance, we need to increase the scale of wool production and increase farmers’ capacity.
LT: What are some of the key challenges you have spotted during the three district visits you have taken since being transferred to this ministry?
Mochoboroane: I realised that we don’t have a solid database of local producers who can sustainably supply our country for 5-6 months without any difficulties. So our very point of entry is to sensitise our local producers and make them believe in themselves because they actually have the potentially to feed this country for six months without depending on South Africa.
This will help us build our own database. Our department of marketing is helping us compile this database and ensure that potential local producers are empowered. As government, we have made a conscious decision to support local producers and ensure we buy from them first and South African producers later.
There is no denying that we have well established local producers manufacturing quality products, but can they cater for the local market due to high demands.
The other major challenge is lack of access to funding. If we are to win this war, we need to ensure that Basotho are not given subsidies but rather as government we remove all the stringent regulations for them to be able to access funding from commercial financial institutions.
Subsidies have created a cancerous dependency syndrome among our people, and we cannot move forward with this tendency if we are serious about economic freedom. Basotho should think out of the box and meet me half way in liberating this country economically.
Pricing is still a major problem among our local producers. They need to understand that retailing and consumer prices are different, and as producers they must sell at the retail prices. Their products should meet the set local quality standards, and be competitive in the market.
We need to start by loving our own country as this will help us to support our local producers. I see a lot of potential. For me, Lesotho is a virgin waiting to be explored economically and I am glad to be leading a ministry whose mandate is to liberate the country economically.
The ministry is mulling plans to establish its own chicken and piggery abattoir. But before we do that, we need to ensure we can sustain the supply chain for the market. This will help decrease the high unemployment rate in Lesotho.
As part of solutions to the problems I have mentioned above, we are also going to revive the famous auctions we used to have in Lesotho. These auctions created a guaranteed market for our local livestock farmers and plans are underway to have one before Christmas.
The department of marketing is also making preparations to hold extensive business trainings for our local producers. We also want to have a flea market once every month where our local producers will display their
Small Business Development, Co-operatives and marketing minister Selibe mochoboroane.