HEALTH and safety apparels manufacturer, Iconics Clothing, emerged the overall winner of the 2023 Lesotho Annual Exporters Awards whose presentation ceremony was held in Maseru on Tuesday this week.
The awards are held under the auspices of the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) in partnership with the Lesotho Post Bank (LPB), and through support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Africa Trade and Investment (ATI) Southern Africa Buy-in.
The accolades recognise and honour outstanding performances by Lesotho firms which have successfully exported to South Africa and the American market under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). AGOA provides eligible sub-Saharan African countries with duty-free access to the US market.
The awards also target to stimulate export growth and innovation among local exporters, as well as recognise Lesotho’s emerging brands.
This was the third edition of the annual awards after the first event was held in 2021.
Iconics Clothing pocketed M10 000 from LPB and M5 000 from LNDC, as well as a trophy and gold certificate, for being crowned the overall winner.
The company was also named runner-up under the category of best emerging brand and best exporter and presented with silver certificates.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Iconics Clothing co-founder Rapitso Mosebetsi, said they were honoured to have won the prizes.
“This recognition means a lot to us as it is going to expose us to more customers,” Mr Mosebetsi said.
He also said in 2022, the company won the most innovative and versatile exporter award.
Meanwhile, Africa Clean Energy won the Innovation and Sustainability award, while Bonono Merchant was runner-up.
The Market Sustainability award went to Sanlei Trout, with Liberation Clothing coming second. Sanlei was also named winner of the Market and Product Diversification award, with second place going to Bonono Merchant. As if that was not enough, Sanlei was again named the Best Emerging Exporter.
After claiming the runner-up position under the Market Sustainability category, Liberation Clothing went on to win the Best Emerging Brand award. The company was also named the overall runner-up of the awards.
The winners in all the categories each took home M9 000 from LNDC, a trophy and gold certificate.
Speaking at the event, LNDC Interim Chief Executive Officer, Molise Ramaili, said the ceremony created a unique platform to showcase and recognise exporters who continued to apply efforts to improve their business operations and performance for better access into global markets.
“The awards are meant to influence behavioural change for trade institutions to improve their service-delivery, the exporters to self-assess themselves for improved business performance, as well as other service-providers to play an active role in supporting export-development through the provision of customised export solutions,” Mr Ramaili told guests.
He also said as an export-led economy, a strong export performance and private sector-led industrial growth, were vital to the health of Lesotho’s economy.
He added that the awards ceremony was also an opportunity for the LNDC to interact face-to-face with private sector companies, which are the backbone of Lesotho’s economy.
“This is an opportunity for you to individually assess your export performance, learn as much as you can, research, benchmark, and network to improve areas of concern,” he said.
Furthermore, Mr Ramaili urged exporters who did not enter the competition to do so in future as the awards had many benefits for their companies. These benefits include improving the companies’ business operations, increase their networks and increasing their brand visibility.
According to Mr Ramaili, the awards was an idea borne out of a partnership between LNDC and the USAID Trade and Investment Hub- a US government-funded project established to support increased and improved participation of AGOA beneficiary countries in trading with the US and South Africa.
For her part, the Deputy Chief of Mission to the US Embassy, Keisha Toms, said the US government was committed to supporting ongoing and sustainable economic development in Lesotho.
She added that the USAID Africa Trade and Investment Southern Africa Buy-in Activity approach was to partner with stakeholders across the region such as the LNDC.
“Their mandates centre around providing support to export-ready firms within the respective countries to access these markets.
“To further this goal, USAID renewed their formal partnership with the LNDC in February 2023. This partnership involves building on the work and the success of the USAID TradeHub which involves hosting industry events and interventions to enhance the export competitiveness of exporters,” she said.
Ms Toms also noted that in 2021, Lesotho’s exports to the United States and South Africa amounted to $286.82 million and $425.61 million, respectively according to the United Nations Commodity Trade statistics database on international trade.