A DELEGATION from the Ministry of Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing is set to jet off to China this weekend on a study tour meant to inform the procurement of manufacturing equipment for various products.
The delegation, which will be led by Small Business Development, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister Chalane Phori, will be looking for machinery used in the manufacturing various products such as foam packs, toothpicks and egg trays among others.
The delegation is scheduled to leave on Saturday for the 11-day trip, which will also include the ministry’s Principal Secretary Lerata Pekane, two ministry directors, an economic planner as well as representatives of the Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation and Lesotho Opportunities Industrialisation Centre.
According to Mr Phori, the machinery would be used to train Basotho entrepreneurs who have formed cooperative societies across the country on how to manufacture such products.
Addressing a meeting with the Mohale’s Hoek business community last week, the minister said the initiative was meant to reduce imports, while also contributing to job creation.
He stated that there were only three Basotho-owned enterprises in the formalised manufacturing sector, adding that it was about time more joined in.
The cooperative societies selected for the training, Mr Phori said, would be “incubated” by the ministry whereby they would operate the machinery without paying operational expenses for eight months.
“Basotho who have formed cooperatives will be incubated and trained on how to operate the machinery for a period of eight months,” he said.
“When the incubation period has been successfully completed, the beneficiaries will then be expected to proceed to Lesotho Post Bank to apply for business loans in order buy their own machinery for production.”
Mr Phori said the fact that Lesotho was not manufacturing such simple products as toothpicks should be a source of embarrassment.
“It is embarrassing for me after eating our delicious moroho (leafy vegetables) to be using a simple thing as a toothpick manufactured in another country,” he added.
The ministry’s Information Officer, Nyakallo Ntšinyi, this week told the Lesotho Times that the machinery would be distributed to the country’s 10 districts.
She said the incubation period was also meant to instill a culture of saving money in banks among the selected enterprises. Ntšinyi said depositing money in Lesotho Post Bank would enable the cooperatives to develop a banking track record for borrowing loans.
“The delegation is going to explore the possibility of purchasing the machinery which will meet the specifications they need. They will also look for suppliers of the raw materials to be used in the manufacturing process where necessary,” Ms Ntšinyi said.
“The project is expected to not only create many jobs and reduce poverty, but also to boost the country’s economy.”
Beneficiaries of the project will undergo a familiarisation tour ahead of the incubation process.