By ‘Mathabana Kotelo
MASERU — The Bureau of Statistics Lesotho has embarked on a first-ever nationwide economic census to determine the business landscape in the country.
The aim of the census is to gather information on business units in the country and to determine the structure of business and economic activity in Lesotho.
The survey, which will be carried out in three phases, kicked off in July last year during its initial phase which involved listing of all business establishments in the country.
Speaking to the Lesotho Times this week, census coordinator, ‘Malehloa Molato, said the census would focus on locally owned, foreign and multi-national businesses operating in the country, including non-profit organisations.
The exercise does not include government sectors and parastatals.
“Phase one involved listing all large, medium and small business enterprises in the formal sector across different industries,” said Molato.
Industry categories will include manufacturing, retail trade, hotels and restaurants, transport and storage, financial intermediaries and construction.
Business enterprises in the formal sector, according to Molato, are largely defined as small, medium and large.
Large businesses employ 50 or more workers, medium businesses have between 10 and 49 employees while small enterprises are those with less than 10 employees.
She said, “through the questionnaires, we hope to establish the identity of an enterprise, its location and ownership, main and secondary activities, among others.”
“Some business enterprises have multiple activities in addition to their main activity. For example, a supermarket whose main activity is selling food and grocery items might also have a clothing department or butchery as a secondary activity,” she explained.
For the informal sector, Molato said listing of business ventures would differ from that of the formal sector.
“Focus has mostly been on areas where informal business activity is taking place like market areas across the country. We will look at the number of people operating in a particular location, per activity,” Molato said.
“Phase 2, which is the distribution of questionnaires to formal sector businesses, started in November and went on until late December just before the Christmas holidays,” said Molato adding that they had distributed different questionnaires for each industry.
Talking about the challenges experienced so far, Molato said the process had generally been smooth despite the problems they had encountered with some companies being hesitant to disclose information on company turnover or income.
“We have also encountered some delays due to the fact that the questionnaire is quite detailed and the survey kicked off towards the end of the year when most companies were closing for the Christmas break,” she said.
Molato appealed to the business community to cooperate with the bureau for the process to run smoothly and swiftly.
The final phase of capturing the information, assessing and analysing it and then compiling a report, will commence once the data collection process is completed.
“The process is very confidential as businesses are protected under the Statistics Act of 2001, therefore the information they disclose will not be shared with third parties”.
In conclusion, Molato said the Bureau planned to carry out a census every five to ten years as per the recommendations among the Southern African Customs Union and the Southern African Development Community countries.
Globally, countries conduct surveys of this nature every five years. China is currently in the process of its third economic census while India conducted a sixth census last year.