PREPARATIONS are underway to relaunch its trade portal to intensify digital efforts to boost trade, the Ministry of Trade and Industry has said.
Trade minister Thabiso Molapo this week said the relaunch of the Lesotho Trade Information Portal (LTIP) would put Lesotho on par with other nations in terms of access to information.
Initially launched in March 2014 under the then Ministry of Trade and Industry Cooperatives and Marketing, the portal will be improved with a new software to ensure that it is up to date, relevant and more user friendly.
LTIP is a website that provides complete, timely and up-to-date information about the Lesotho import, export and transit procedures.
It was initiated by the government through the support of the World Bank/International Finance Corporation (IFC) to improve the access, predictability and transparency of the country’s trading laws and processes.
Government agencies and ministries that contribute trade information into the portal include the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Police, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing, Lesotho Revenue Authority, Lesotho National Dairy Board, the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) and the Central Bank of Lesotho.
Private sector contributors to the portal include the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Lesotho National Farmers’ Union, Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho and trade related associations.
Dr Molapo said the management of the portal has also been changed from the ministry to its investment promotion agency, the LNDC.
“Since the portal is an instrument that enhances and facilitates trade and investment, the LNDC is better placed and equipped to efficiently manage it,” Dr Molapo said.
He said the initiative was in line with the government’s commitment to implement the World Trade Organisation Trade Facilitation Agreement (WTOTFA) Article I which states that countries shall provide the public with information, on the internet regarding import, export and transit procedures.
“The objective of this agreement is to expedite movement, release and clearance of goods and to reduce time and costs of cross border trade.
“It will also help improve transparency, increase possibilities for private sector to participate in global value chains, and reduce the scope for corruption by: expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit and; improving cooperation between customs and other authorities.
“The TFA is the first agreement concluded since the establishment of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in January 1995 as the international organisation that governs the rules of trade between nations. It was preceded by the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) which was the umbrella organisation for international trade.”
Lesotho ratified the agreement on 4 January 2016 and the agreement entered into force on 22 February 2017 when the WTO obtained the two-thirds acceptance requirement.
Dr Molapo said the LTIP is important to the government because it facilitates its mission of creating and maintaining an equitable and enabling environment for business and private sector development through the development of policies and supporting legislation. It also does this through providing services that promote investment and trade to foster the global competitiveness of Lesotho’s economy.