THE Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) yesterday rewarded the country’s best exporting entrepreneurs during a glittering ceremony in Maseru.
The awards were complementing the government’s export-based economic approach driven by the second National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II).
The ceremony was held in partnership with the Lesotho PostBank (LPB), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub.
The awards were meant to recognise outstanding exporters whose goods are sold in South Africa and US to stimulate export growth and innovation among local exporters.
Lesotho exports the majority of its textile and clothing products to the US under its Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) trade concession.
Winners were selected from six categories. The big winner was leather products producer, Jalad Africa, who bagged three awards for exporter of the year, best emerging exporter and best exporter in market sustainability.
Jalad Africa received a M10 000 cash prize for being the exporter of the year. It also received M7000 for each of the other two awards.
Liberation Clothing received the award for the high impact exporter, while Leaf Glow was awarded for being the most innovative and versatile exporter. Centimetre was awarded for being the best exporter for market and product diversification. Each of the awards was worth M7000.
Jalad director and co-owner, Lebeoana Matsimane, said the recognition came after a turbulent time due to the Covid-19-induced economic pressures.
“This is a happy ending to the rough year we had during 2021,” Mr Matsimane said.
“Our business idea was not a good idea, but a God idea. This means that it is through God that we are still standing today.”
On his part, Trade and Industry principal secretary, Tlhopheho Sefali, said the awards were advancing the achievement of the NSDP II’s objective of pursuing an export-led economy and product diversification.
He said the awards were proof that it was possible for local companies to produce for export markets.
“The awards today therefore, bear testimony that participation in export market is not insurmountable.
“It is my hope that this event will continue to attract more companies to participate in the South African and US markets, and expand to reach out to other international markets,” Dr Sefali said.
On her part, LNDC’s acting general manager corporate services, ‘Mamoiloa Raphuthing, said the awards were meant to encourage local exporters to compete in export markets.
“It is a tool meant to recognise and honour the outstanding export performance into the South Africa and US markets. Furthermore, it is a behavioral incentive meant to entice local exporters to adopt and change their business approaches to enhance capacity to compete in export markets.”
Participating exporters were forced to assess themselves for export readiness, and in turn adopt tools to improve their business performance to get relevant recognition and secure markets for their export products.
“This national competition is a steppingstone into a regional competition that is held with seven other countries including all SACU countries plus Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia supported by the USAID Trade and Investment Hub.
“The regional event does not recognise the exporters only, but also trade promotion service providers, the capital providers, as well as buyers of the year,” Ms Raphuthing said.
Also speaking during the ceremony, US Embassy Charge d’Affaires, Keisha Toms Boutaleb, hailed the improvement in Lesotho exports despite the Covid-19 pandemic challenge.
“Despite the turbulence caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Lesotho’s exports to the Southern African market were valued at US$267 million last year, while the exporters to the US from Lesotho were valued at US$310 million in 2021.
“Lesotho is ranked number two in terms of value of goods exported and number three in terms of goods exported under AGOA. While this is an achievement, there is certainly much room for improvement.
“In the past year, the US government through the USAID, linked five suppliers of products such as garments and wool and mohair to US buyers,” Ms Toms Boutaleb said.