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New tourism hub for Lesotho



MASERU – THE World Bank has partnered with the Private Sector Competitiveness and Economic Diversification project to establish a centre for tourism information and crafts.
The centre is set to create 300 direct jobs. The project is aimed at improving the country’s investment climate and diversification.
Project manager Chaba Mokuku said the project was conceived when some mine workers were retrenched and the Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA) project was phased out leading to high unemployment in the country.

“The project is anchored on poverty reduction and looking at sectors which can create more jobs,’’ he said.
Mokuku said the World Bank was not only willing to support the design but was also keen to finance the construction of the facility.
“The new centre will be located at the old UN club and the construction of two buildings will take 2 300 square metres, which will cost M22.7 million,’’ he said.
He said they are targeting to complete the project at the end of January 2020 when the project will be handed over to the Ministry of Tourism.
Joachim Boko, a senior social protection specialist from the World Bank, said M23 million is aimed at supporting the government of Lesotho and the project will also support the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) II dealing with tourism diversification.
“There is big potential in the tourism sector which needs to be turned into job creation,’’ he said.

The Minister of Trade and Industry, Habofanoe Lehana, said a conducive investment climate has the potential to enhance the economy of the country and alleviate poverty. A dynamic private sector is key to achieving the economic turnaround necessary to eradicate poverty, he said.
“Unless we confront the underlying challenges facing the private sector by levelling the playing field, we are unlikely to succeed in our efforts to accelerate the economic growth and to diversify the economy,’’ he said.
Lehana said the first phase of the project started in 2007. The second phase began in 2014 and is expected to be completed in 2020.
He said the project has already resulted in major strides in many areas, including construction permit reforms which have seen Maseru City Council get assistance to streamline and automate processes for the issuance of construction permits.

“The project has enhanced credit information sharing by assisting the Central Bank of Lesotho to develop an electronic reporting system which has improved the quality of credit reporting by the credit bureau,’’ he said.
The Lesotho Tourism Development Corporation has been assisted to improve compilation of tourism statistics as well as establish a Tourism Satellite Account through the project.
“Reconstruction of the Tourism Information and Craft Centre is another important initiative that is intended to unleash the country’s latent tourism potential by serving as the first port of call to provide information on attractions, activities and accommodation facilities,’’ he said.

Deputy Prime Minister, Monyane Moleleki, said the tourism sector is very crucial for every country’s economic growth and is more profitable than other sectors.
He said there is a huge market and potential
“One visitor in the country creates seven jobs,’’ he said.
Prime Minister Thomas Thabane said Lesotho has been without a central tourism information facility after the Basotho Shield was completely destroyed by fire.

“Today’s event marks a significant milestone towards reconstruction of the facility,’’ he said.
He said Lesotho is facing critical economic challenges, which include a poverty rate of about 57 percent coupled with high rate of unemployment and a sharp decline of SACU revenue.
The economy is also registering estimation growth of 2 percent per annum.
Thabane said Lesotho needs to improve the business environment and to diversify the economy.
“The country is indeed at the crossroads and we need innovative strategies to drive the private sector investment in the economy,” Thabane said.

He said globally, the tourism sector grew by 4.6 percent, which was considered better than the world economy “hence tourism represents a vital growth sector that could generate the needed jobs and growth”.
He said according to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total contribution of travel and tourism to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Lesotho was 13.8 percent of GDP in 2007, and this is expected to rise even more.
“This project is specifically designed to support private sector development through improving partnership, entrepreneurship and skills development, and investment promotion in the selected sector critical for economic diversification,’’ he said.

Refiloe Mpobole


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