THE construction of more factory shells will help the government address the rising unemployment rate, Trade and Industry Thabiso Molapo has said.
Dr Molapo said this during a familiarisation tour of the on-going construction of the Ha-Tikoe Phase III infrastructure project this week.
Although he did not provide the figures, Dr Molapo said unemployment had reached crisis levels and could no longer be ignored.
Dr Molapo was joined on the tour by the chief executive officer of Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) Mohato Seleke, Trade ministry principal the secretary (PS) Maile Masoebe; and LNDC property development and management general manager, Lebohang Mohau among other officials.
The LNDC is handling the M452 million infrastructure project, which entails the construction of seven factory shells. Two of the shells have an area of 3 000 square metres while the other five each 1 000 square metres in size.
The project also comes with supporting roads and storm water construction; water and sewer reticulation systems and pump stations installation.
“We are faced with a serious unemployment problem which we must address and I believe the advent of projects like the Tikoe Phase III gives us a chance to solve it,” Dr Molapo said.
The project commenced in July 2019 and is expected to create 2 700 jobs upon completion. It was initially scheduled for January 2022.
The construction phase has created 300 temporary jobs.
Dr Molapo said there are already some investors who are waiting for the completion of the shells.
“I am glad that investors are putting pressure on the LNDC to have factory shells soon because this will assist us in addressing the unemployment problem. We need more factory shells to create more jobs.”
For his part, Mr Seleke said three investors lined up to occupy the factory shells. They are expected to produce pharmaceuticals using hemp; automotive (vehicle) seat covers and electronic products.
He said this would increase the country’s product range and open up new market destinations to reduce over-reliance on textile manufacturing and its inherent risks.
“The investors are strategic for our product and market diversification in line with the government’s policy and the LNDC’s strategic plan,” Mr Seleke said.
He however, said the project’s progress was being hampered by the delay in transferring funds to the LNDC by the government.
“One of the project’s major challenges is payment delays from the government. We normally use the LNDC’s funds to pay contractors then send a claim to the government to reimburse us. But since the start of the current financial year, we are yet to receive any money from the government for this and the Ha-Belo projects although we have tried to ensure that construction is progressing.
“The payment delays negatively affect the progress and I request that the minister (Dr Molapo) raises this issue (with the government) for the sake of project’s progress,” Mr Seleke said.
Dr Molapo said he had already raised the matter with the Ministry of Finance in the past but would soon do it again to emphasise its urgency.