Produce in Lesotho—Sell in the Southern African region

Produce in Lesotho—Sell in the Southern African region

[INTERVIEW]

Hon. Joshua Setipa
Minister of Trade and Industry, Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho

During TICAD VI, JAPAN and the WORLD magazine sat down with the Minister of Trade, Hon. Joshua Setipa, Lesotho to find out more about the country’s hopes and expectations of the conference.


—What are your expectations of TICAD VI and what are the topics that you will be looking at most at this forum?

For me, the biggest delivery out of TICAD would be the reaffirmation of Japan’s political commitment. Once you have that reconfirmed, then everything else becomes easy. Political energy creates the environment that leads to private sector partnerships between Japanese and African companies. It can lead to strengthened cultural and political relations.

As for Lesotho, our main interest is how do we strengthen our relationship with Japan. On the trade side, we have Japanese goods in our market, but there is a scarcity of our products on the Japanese market. Lesotho, for example, has started to export small quantities of trout to Japan. We want to understand the Japanese market in order to export more. We also want to export clothing as we are one of the biggest manufacturers of clothing in Southern Africa, Europe, and the United States of America. But in Japan, we are not yet visible in this sector.

Additionally, we import a large amount of Japanese mining technology. Lesotho has small diamond reserves, so we invest a lot in mining and resources by buying technology that improves our mining practices. For example, we are buying crushing technology from Japan, specially made machines that help us crush precious stones. Japan manufactures the best technology for that and we are the importer of it. Of course, manufacturing comes with IT. We consider Japan as the best partner, since it is a global leader for technology. Another thing that we would like to learn from Japan, which has done better than other countries, is building small Japanese companies in one platform as a part of the supply chain of the big corporations. Toyota, for example, is a company that makes components as a part of a supply chain. We want to be similar; we want to be able to build strong, medium enterprises, which in turn collectively help us build powerful enterprises. So, if we are able to gain such experience, we will be heading towards a more efficient economic growth. However, there are some challenges that face a landlocked country such as Lesotho, with logistics as the number one issue. So Japan can offer the logistic solutions.

—What can be done to attract more FDI?

Criteria are the same all over the world: business conditions that foster and facilitate investment. So the government’s responsibility is to create such an environment to improve an investment flow. Also, an efficient and modern banking system needs to be put in place in order to be a fully competitive.

—Do you consider regional integration a positive way to attract the Japanese sector?

Africa comprises of multiple small economies. Because of the size of our market, sometimes we do not appeal to many investors, but if we create one big market with a continent of 1.2 billion people; that is a huge market. Regional integration is where our strength is and our political energy is.

—Recently, Lesotho faced some issues with food security. How does Japan help in providing support to avoid those issues? Is Japan providing long-term solutions to support Lesotho?

In a short term, we declared a state of emergency and made an appeal for support from our partners and Japan through the WFP, which donated money to buy emergency supplies. But for medium and long-term perspectives, we are looking to work with the Japanese companies to choose much more efficient ways of farming. That will increase crop yield, but also sustainability of the environment.

—What does TICAD mean for Africa?

TICAD symbolizes friendship and partnership between Africa and Japan based on mutual respect, shared values, and collective vision to drive transformation at the multilateral levels and also on the regional level when it comes to security or environmental change. We as Africans need to ensure that the development of the African continent is done in a very consistent way, with Japan as a partner.

TICAD symbolizes friendship and partnership between Africa and Japan based on mutual respect, shared values, and collective vision to drive transformation at the multilateral levels and also on the regional level when it comes to security or environmental change.

—Do you have a specific message to address to the Japanese private sector?

Come to Lesotho, we are open for business, we have a functional system that guarantees an investment, our legal system is transparent and effective, the tax regime is very progressive, secure business environment, and we are in a partnership with Southern Africa – a very dynamic region with a very good infrastructure and connections to international destinations. We believe that we are very efficient and very cost competitive, so you can produce your product in Lesotho and sell it on the Southern African market.

—How do you promote inbound tourism to Lesotho?

Tourism is a very big sector in Lesotho. We are working on how to attract more Japanese tourists to Lesotho. We know that the Japanese tourists like nature, hiking, and open space. We have the best mountains in the region, a very clean environment, and because of our climate, we don’t suffer from tropical diseases. We have cold winters with snow that lasts 3 months. It is a very unique experience.


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