MASERU — Co-operatives can drive economic development and curb the high levels of unemployment and poverty in Lesotho, a government official has said.
Mphamoli Lekoetje, who is a commissioner in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Co-operatives and Marketing, said co-operatives can be a major driver of economic growth.
Lekoetje was speaking at a ceremony in Maseru to present awards to members who took part in two trade fairs held in Botswana in June and August this year.
Co-operatives operating in Lesotho displayed products manufactured locally such as aloe-based cosmetics, dried fruits and some traditional dishes.
“We want co-operatives to develop to the maximum.
“In some countries co-operatives have grown to be big businesses that are sustainable and are major drivers of economic growth,” Lekoetje said.
Lekoetje said the major reason why co-operatives have failed in Lesotho was due to poor training for members and a lack of a favourable economic environment.
She said there was need for co-operatives to work together with support from the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Co-operatives and Marketing and Basotho Enterprised Development Corporation.
Lekoetje said the two groups must spear-head and revive the spirit of entrepreneurship within the co-operatives.
A representative from the International Cooperative Alliance, Stephen Chiwanoka, said co-operatives in Lesotho and the developing world should expand locally and internationally.
“The ICA has come up with strategies on how to pursue trade with other countries and the best strategies to grow them into large businesses that can contribute to the economic growth of their respective countries,” Chiwanoka said.
Chiwanoka said participation at international trade shows gives local co-operatives an opportunity to exchange ideas with entrepreneurs from foreign countries.
He said it also created opportunities to find new markets for their products.
Puleng Rampa-Shale, a co-operatives extension officer, said trade shows present an opportunity for co-operatives to showcase their products on the international market.
“This has opened new markets for our products and we have found new investors interested in our products.
“Co-operatives alleviate poverty and unemployment and help improve the economy of the country,” Rampa-Shale said.
There are about to 850 co-operatives registered in Lesotho.
The co-operatives mainly focus on agriculture, savings and credit, handicrafts, service provision, retail and industrial.
The movement in Lesotho fell into disfavour in the 1990s with the majority of projects collapsing due to rampant mismanagement.
But they are on the resurgence again after the government established a ministry to specifically deal with co-operatives.