Expert takes stock of AGOA’s impact on Lesotho



MASERU – In a bid to prepare Lesotho to be eligible for the African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) after 2025, the Governance Institute for Sustainable Development (GISD) recently hosted a round-table discussion with all relevant stakeholders in Maseru. GISD is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that works to foster a culture of good governance within public, corporate, and civil society groups.

The discussions held were centred on the benefits accrued by Lesotho in the last 22 years from AGOA and the challenges as well as opportunities that micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) can get from AGOA.

The discussions also included Lesotho’s intent to increase its exports to the United States of America beyond the traditional apparel sector, as the country currently appears second in the sub-Saharan African apparel export market.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sweet Mellow Concept and Member of the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Lesei Lesei, who was the main guest-speaker, said 80 000 jobs have been created in Ha Tikoe, Maseru and Ha Nyenye, Leribe under AGOA.

However, he said exports from Lesotho to South Africa are deteriorating, from about M429 million in 2018, to M304 million in 2019, and M372 million in 2022. This is because Lesotho has lost some of its export opportunities to countries such as Madagascar. Lesei said the COVID-19 pandemic also impacted the production and exports of goods, adding that other countries are beginning to diversify their economies, while Lesotho is lagging behind.

According to Lesei, Lesotho is disadvantaged by the fact that its market is dominated by apparel. There is therefore a need for Basotho, who have ventured into other businesses, to be sensitised about AGOA opportunities so that they can produce more. In outlining challenges facing Lesotho in terms of exporting to the US, Lesei cited Lesotho’s limited use of technology as one of the main drawbacks.

He said in terms of channelling technology, Lesotho is still lagging behind, adding that there is still a gap in that people do not know what to make out of it. He said Lesotho is not doing enough in terms of synthesising technology.

“Lesotho does not own the textile sector; the AGOA opportunity is not being leveraged by Basotho. Opportunities are here, but those responsible are not taking them to the young people as the future generation.

“With the current initiatives such as the Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP II), which are driving the investors, we need to identify Butha-Buthe and Leribe as the main points to start orchards, specifically cherries. We need decisive and cohesive energy to ensure that we are able to reach those goals.

“There needs to be opportunities presented to our young generation, as most of them are not aware of opportunities such as this one from AGOA. Also, micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) are reluctant when it comes to certain functions as they mostly experience a lack of resources. There are a lot of risks that we need to take in order to work towards growing slowly,” he said.

He added that in assisting MSMEs to get in touch with AGOA, there is work in the private sector being done for that, and that in September this year, some MSMEs business owners had the opportunity to showcase their products in Canada and New York.

He said there are a lot of sectoral investments that need to be done in that area. In line with this, eight companies under the Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PSFL) attended the AGOA Made in Africa Exhibition held in NASREC, Johannesburg, South Africa, from November 2 to 4 in order to showcase their products in view of getting potential buyers.

The eight included JMM Beekeeping, Eternity Foods, Organo-Pharma, Mobile Farms, Elegant Ventures Cosmetics, The Co Parkers Studio, Leribe Craft Centre, and Letscom Holding Trading. Apart from promoting a culture of good governance within public, private, and civil society organisations, GISD also promotes compliance with good governance principles of transparency and openness, equity and inclusiveness, public participation, and active civic engagement, as well as efficiency and effectiveness.

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