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Academia challenged to align with economic trends

by Lesotho Times
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Bereng Mpaki

LESOTHO’s institutions of higher learning have been challenged to introduce educational programmes that respond to the unique economic needs of the country.

This was highlighted by South African finance minister, Tito Mboweni, who was the key note speaker at this year’s annual conference of Lesotho Institute of Accountants (LIA).

Mr Mboweni, who is an alumni of the National University of Lesotho (NUL), believes Lesotho and the rest of Africa, need a functional human development capital development programme as one of the fundamental ingredients necessary for economic growth and performance.

The former governor of the South African Reserve Bank cited Lesotho’s textile and garment industry, which is predominantly operated by Taiwanese and Chinese investors, while Basotho contribute by mostly supplying labour, as a case in point.

He said that the academia has failed the country’s economy by failing to adapt to the dynamics of the economy.

“Has the technical human resources sphere in Lesotho changed to be in line with the emerging manufacturing sector in Lesotho or are we going to forever depend on the Chinese?” Mr Mboweni said.

“What are our institutions doing to catch up with the economy and to diversify the employment pattern in Lesotho away from the civil service into industry?”

The civil service is currently the biggest employer in Lesotho with its public sector wage bill being regarded among the highest in the world.

“Africa needs a functional human capital development programme. A programme that seeks to reinforce the economy and not one that continues to graduate the same people all the time, even when the economy has changed.  Not biblical studies and humanities all the time.”

Mr Mboweni said that African countries need macroeconomic stability, in particular the fiscal and monetary system. He said the old rule of the thumb that says budget deficit before borrowing should be kept under three percent holds. He further indicated that inflation should be kept low in order to protect the value of the currency as well as the buying power of the poor.

He said another fundamental ingredient necessary for economic development is institutional stability.

“Institutional stability is essential for growth and so is credibility,” he said citing examples of the central bank, the national treasury and the revenue collecting agencies.

“An institution that is robust and staffed with people who will not stage regular ‘heists’ against the national revenue. We normally think of heists in terms of banks but there are actually heists within national treasuries more often than not to fund themselves or their political parties.”

He further said Africa needs policy certainty, so as not to confuse investors. He said inconsistent policies make it difficult to operate in.

“Governments need to introduce policies that are certain and not changing all the time. Policies which change all the time tend to confuse economic agents and make it difficult for business to plan medium to long term.”

Another ingredient for development, Mr Mboweni said, is a strong and independent civil society, which must question decisions of public representatives to protect the interests of the people.

Mr Mboweni further said a free and independent professional media is essential for economic growth. He also said technological penetration is another fundamental ingredient for economic development as it determines interest of youth professionals.


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