23 February 2018

Lesotho: Minister Warns Foreign Business Owners

Small Businesses, Cooperatives and Marketing Minister, Chalane Phori, has threatened to ban foreign business owners who violate the terms of their trading licences by venturing into retail businesses that are reserved for emerging local business people.

Mr Phori also revealed that each of the country's 10 districts had been allocated M1 million each to facilitate the growth of the Basotho-owned Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

In a recent interview with the Lesotho Times, Mr Phori said it had come to the attention of government that some foreign business owners who were granted licences for big investments in various sectors took advantage of lax supervision on the part of the authorities to open retail businesses in rural areas.

He said retail businesses such as grocery shops and butcheries in the rural areas were reserved for locals and the latter were unable to achieve viability in the face of competition with foreign-owned businesses.

"The ministry that I am entrusted with is responsible for the development and implementation of policies that promote and facilitate the establishment, operation and growth of micro, small and medium enterprises and cooperatives," Mr Phori said.

"Small businesses namely, butcheries, hair salons and general dealers are meant for the development of Basotho with a view to contributing to employment creation and poverty reduction.

"The ministry has been made aware that there are foreigners who operate small businesses in villages which is against the law, thus killing Basotho-owned businesses. By law, they (foreigners) come here as investors in bigger business ventures and therefore should not be competing with Basotho in that capacity.

"We have embarked on a drive to search for such illegal businesses and those found will be permanently shut down. Most of these are operated by Chinese nationals so I have also engaged the Chinese Ambassador to Lesotho and we will be working closely together on this issue."

Mr Phori further urged Basotho to support local businesses in order to realise economic growth. He also revealed that each of the country's 10 districts had been allocated M1 million each to facilitate the growth of the SMEs.

He further encouraged the youth to be entrepreneurs in order to fight the high unemployment rates. He said his ministry was ready to provide technical and financial support to ensure they succeeded in their business ventures.

"Each district has been allocated M1 million which micro entrepreneurs can access in the form of partial credit loans to boost their businesses so I strongly encourage the youth to seize the opportunity.

"However, we will carefully scrutinise potential beneficiaries to ensure that deserving people and not chancers are selected to benefit from the fund. It is also important to understand that we will not be giving out cash but we will pay for the equipment and other inputs that the businesses require.

"We are also working on creating a market for local goods the first one being a fresh produce market which will start operating soon. We are also working on a flea market which will involve different ministries who will buy from local entrepreneurs. The Ministry of Small Business will soon have a radio programme which will serve as a platform to market businesses," he said.

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