MAFETENG — Lesotho is exploring a range of trade relations with India which include partnerships in agriculture, tourism, health and construction. The two countries are also considering duty-free projects.
This emerged on Tuesday when the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing and that of Foreign Affairs and International Relations hosted a business forum to forge a partnership between Lesotho and Indian investors on Tuesday.
The Indian business delegation is on a four-day visit to Lesotho which ends today.
Local chambers and business associations of both countries met here to enhance business opportunities in different sectors.
The Indian delegation was headed by two Honorary Consuls of Lesotho in New Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad Kishorkumar Virani and Surat Singh Malhotra respectively.
The visit was a follow-up to the one by the then Minister of Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and Marketing Temeki Tšolo who attended the ninth CII Exim Bank Conclave in New Delhi in March.
Officiating the opening of the business forum in Mafeteng, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Tebello Metsing, said the forum was meant to explore areas of private sector cooperation.
Metsing said during the Indian delegation stay in Lesotho they will have an opportunity to meet with their Basotho counterparts in business to “fashion partnerships for bilateral cooperation between themselves”.
“In addition to that, they will also be afforded an opportunity to visit strategic places of economic interest in the country so as to allow them to have information on what Lesotho could offer as a virgin economy ready to be exploited”, added Metsing.
Hitesh Rajpal first secretary of High Commission of India said bonds of close relationship and cooperation between these two countries have been growing in several ways.
“The Indian government has extended lines of credit to facilitate in building and developing Lerotholi Polytechnic’s information technology centre, among others,” Rajpal said.
Duty-free trade projects are being facilitated by the two countries to accelerate trade development and economic growth.
“The agreed number of modalities to implement transparency mechanism for preferential trade agreements which will bolster Lesotho’s growth and market access to India and also other counties India has friendly relationships with”, continued Rajpal.
“The duty-free, quota-free trade projects will enhance investment protection and economic protection between the two countries”, he added.
Basotho Enterpises Development Corporation (Bedco) was also able to interact with the counterparts from India’s National Small Industry Corporation (NSIC).
Motloang Letete of Bedco said the business forum they had would help them to identify and strengthen industry’s role in the economic development of the country as they had shared encouraging views with a similar corporation NSIC.
“The meeting will help us in reinforcing our commitment to society and also promote cooperatives with their counterpart organisation”, Letete said.
Letete said they were able to identify and address the special needs of the small scale sector after sharing achievements and challenges with representatives of NSIC.
Leribe business forum delegate, Letseka Kamohelo, said they have built a mutual relationship with Indian entrepreneurs.
“They are now our strategic partners in economic growth and development, while we also hope that the mutual trust we developed today will make it easy for them to help in financing our projects”, said a thrilled Letseka.
Mohale’s Hoek development forum General Secretary Tello Koaho also applauded the event saying that they have created an exciting “network to develop their catering services and tourism in general”.
Mafeteng chamber of commerce delegate Motinyane Motinyane said as the host district of, they appreciated the government’s initiative.
“The event will stimulate and revive our business aptitudes as our moral was a bit lower due to irresolute business prospects in the district,” Motinyane said.
However, Motinyane said the challenges they have could easily be alleviated through programmes similar to that event.
“Government and business acting in partnership to start to engage in activities from decentralisation can improve the local business environment and meeting with our counterparts like those from India can boost our business morale,” Motinyane concluded.
Ministry of Trade and Industry, Cooperatives and marketing information officer Liahelo Nkaota said hosting business forums across all districts was an endeavour to simplify complex social reality that business opportunities can best be explored by entrepreneurs of larger cities only.
The ministry last year held a similar event at Leribe to promote democratic governance and participatory approaches in business development.