MASERU – In a bid to reduce the ever-soaring rate of unemployment in Lesotho, the government is incubating several new business ventures that will, among others, create an estimated 8 000 jobs in the next two years, the budget speech for the current fiscal year has shown.
Presenting the budget in the national assembly earlier today, the minister of finance Dr Moeketsi Majoro said the initiative was a joint venture between both the ministry of trade and industry, together with the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC).
Majoro said the 2019/20 fiscal year would be the first year for the implementation of the Second National Strategic Development Plan (NSDPII).
“The theme for NSDP II is ‘inclusive growth, private sector–led jobs and reduced unemployment’. Lesotho is not only facing a fiscal crisis; our people are also facing a jobs crisis.
“With hindsight, government now knows it is must actively seek investment; creating a conducive business climate is simply not enough. With this lesson in mind, government is rolling out, not one, but two initiatives to attract investment.”
The minister added: “The new business ventures including, eight new firms in clothing and electrical components, with an estimated 8,000 jobs to be created in 2 years; fresh produce activity and an out-grower scheme aiming at 500 jobs in the Maseru area, expansion of area under deciduous fruit production to increase from the current 34 ha to 150 ha in the next two years and 500 ha in the medium term which will add 1,000 jobs.”
In addition, he said LNDC would finalise, by mid-year, plans for large integrated piggery, poultry, aquaculture, and beef operations as well as a grains initiative to roll out the area planted to 4,000 ha in Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Berea and Maseru for both domestic and export markets.
He said one investor has plans to construct a silo for the storage of surplus grain.
Completion of both the Tikoe and Belo Industrial Estates is likely to create 23,000 jobs in the medium term (three to five ) and close to 50,000 jobs in the long term (six to 10), the minister said.
He showed it is therefore important that government ensures that the infrastructure needs of these estates are met on time.
“In addition to the promising and exciting work that the LNDC and the Ministry of Trade and Industry are doing in catalysing private investment, Government has organised an investment laboratory in which both investors and government work out all the modalities necessary for an investment to take place.
“The lab, which starts in earnest tomorrow, has already registered more than 80 investors, with potential for investment of M10 billion and 20,000 jobs created. Interest has been expressed in agri-business, tourism and creative arts, technology and manufacturing.
“In addition to the work of the LNDC — which at last is honouring its mandate to build industry—government is implementing an innovative approach to accelerating investment, economic growth and job creation.
“Rather than create a conducive business climate and hope investors would come on their own, government goes out to court them into the four focal areas outlined above.
“The economic or investment laboratory is essentially a one-stop solution development dialogue between government and investors. Each project requires many government services. In this lab, the entire political leadership and providers of public services are directly involved.
“Infrastructure and business climate requirements are demand-driven, as opposed to the traditional approach in which we supply these and wait in case they are attractive to some investor.”
About the laboratory to be launched tomorrow morning, the minister said the project would run until the first week of April.
At that point, he said, government, coordinated by the Ministry of Development Planning, will hold a one-day job summit to announce the total value of investment committed in the lab, the number of jobs to be created, the roadmap of actions between government and investors, and a dedicated delivery unit to co-ordinate and implement the investment roadmap derived from the process.
The construction of the Belo industrial estate, he said, was underway, adding that when completed it would provide 58 factory shells and create up to 14,500 jobs starting in 2020.
“The government of Lesotho is financing the construction of the first 16 factory shells. I call on Basotho investors, commercial banks, insurance companies, and pension funds to consider investment in the remaining 42 factory shells.
“This would create a new investment opportunity for Basotho that has so far been the monopoly of LNDC. To expand commercial vegetable farming and horticulture for local and export market and to optimise the use of our productive agricultural land, Government will support formalisation of land titles and scale up an existing model that promotes consolidation of small holdings into commercial anchor farms for production of high value vegetables.
“These anchor farms will evolve to serve as mentors and aggregators to support and create a reliable market for emerging farmers by sourcing produce from their smaller satellite farms.
“The model could ultimately mature to incorporate some elements of an out-grower scheme whereby the anchor farm provides agricultural inputs to a network of small farmers in addition to mentorship.”
The minister added: “Government has tapped into a new emerging agricultural market of producing medical Cannabis for exportation and processing.
“The ministries of health, of agriculture and food security and of trade and industry have joined hands to make this wonderful initiative a success. So far 50 cannabis licenses have been issued. However, only one company is close to exporting its first produce.”