Le­sotho: A sleep­ing gi­ant

The ma­jes­tic Katse Dam is a de­serted place

Finweek English Edition - - Business strategy roofing and cladding - SIKONATHI MANTSHANTSHA

sat­isfy de­mand from the 10% (more than 200 000) of its cit­i­zens who have ac­cess to the na­tional grid, and ex­port the sur­plus to South Africa. Be­fore the project, Le­sotho im­ported all its elec­tric­ity from South Africa.

Set in the high­lands and made up of the Katse, Mo­hale and ’Muela dams and the un­der­ground ’Muela Hy­dropower sta­tion, the LHWP is a tourism gi­ant wait­ing to waken. The king­dom’s tourism de­vel­op­ment au­thor­i­ties are slowly be­gin­ning to re­alise the po­ten­tial of the High­lands and the coun­try as a whole. De­spite boast­ing world-class roads and un­ri­valled beauty, tourism still con­trib­utes less than 3% of GDP, up from 1,3% in 1998. The roads DE­SPITE THE LE­SOTHO na­tion’s at­tempts at di­ver­si­fy­ing its econ­omy and re­duc­ing its reliance on wa­ter, the Le­sotho High­lands Wa­ter Project’s (LHWP) con­tri­bu­tion to the econ­omy has been grow­ing steadily since 1998 to the cur­rent 10,7% of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP). The project gen­er­ates R263m a year in roy­al­ties for wa­ter fed to South Africa. In ad­di­tion to that, it has helped Le­sotho gen­er­ate its own elec­tric­ity, of which it’s now a net ex­porter.

Since 1998 at the com­ple­tion of Phase I of the LHWP – which was the big­gest in­fra­struc­ture build­ing ex­er­cise in Africa – Le­sotho gen­er­ates a healthy 80MW through an un­der­ground hy­dropower sta­tion at ’Muela dam, enough to were con­structed and paid for by South Africa as part of the dam build­ing ex­er­cise that started in 1986. The dams have sup­plied more than 6bn cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter to Gaut­eng and other re­gions since 1998, earn­ing Le­sotho a com­bined R2bn in roy­al­ties by fi­nan­cial 2005/6 – the sin­gle big­gest ex­port prod­uct, mak­ing up 23,5% of the ex­port bas­ket. The wa­ter grav­i­tates down to SA through an un­der­ground de­liv­ery tun­nel into the Ash River, op­er­ated and man­aged by the Trans-Cale­don Tun­nel Author­ity.

The Le­sotho Tourism De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LTDC) has set it­self tar­gets to in­crease tourism’s con­tri­bu­tion to GDP to 4,5% by 2008 from the cur­rent 2,7%. But to get there, the LTDC will have to learn ba­sic things like main­te­nance and in­vest­ing money to make money. The beau­ti­ful Katse Lodge over­look­ing the ma­jes­tic Katse dam is slowly de­gen­er­at­ing into a state of dis­re­pair, with some door han­dles and toi­let wash­ers bro­ken. The lodge was handed to the Le­sotho gov­ern­ment af­ter the con­struc­tion of the dam, dur­ing which it ac­com­mo­dated con­struc­tion work­ers. On a warm sum­mer week­end, other than a group of jour­nal­ists from South Africa, the only tourists to be seen in the lodge were six mem­bers of a bik­ers’ club, also from South Africa. There’s sim­ply no ac­tiv­ity in the dam. No fish­ing. No boat rides de­spite the dam hav­ing a sur­face area of 38,5sq km. Ex­cept for the oc­ca­sional herds­man try­ing his hand at fish­ing, the place is de­serted. A wo­man on the side of the road flashes a big trout to pass­ing mo­torists, tes­ta­ment to the dam’s nascent po­ten­tial.

Mantshantsha vis­ited Le­sotho cour­tesy of the TCTA

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