Lesotho’s King Letsie Urges African Governments to Increase Trade with Small Land-Locked Countries

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Lesotho leader, King Letsie III has called on African governments, investors and industry stakeholders to pay more attention to smaller, land-locked countries across the continent.

Speaking during a high-level presidential dialogue on day two of the African Development Bank’s (AfDB’s) 2019 Annual Meetings just days ago, he acknowledged the importance of greater integration, particularly for small landlocked countries. He said ‘grey matter’ infrastructure was equally important.

“If we do not pay enough attention to developing and building the human being, mentally and physically, we cannot develop,” he said.

His sentiments come at a time when Lesotho’s meat and animal products have been reportedly banned in South Africa following an alleged anthrax outbreak.

Despite the hit to its livestock industry, the Southern African nation still has other avenues that its government agrees are worth investing in.

In June of this year, the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) agreed to finance a feasibility study for the country’s first large-scale photovoltaic (PV) project, which is a 20 megawatt (MW) solar facility that has been under development since 2017.

Located in the tiny African country’s Mafeteng District, the solar park will facilitate Lesotho’s strategic phase-out of costly power imports from Mozambique and the reduction of imported coal-generated power from South Africa.

The landlocked country is currently covering most of its energy consumption with a 72 MW hydropower project, which is unable to meet increasing demand.

Lesotho’s government is confident the 20 MW project will help grow its economy but is also looking to its African neighbours to boost development through inter-regional trade.

Along with representatives from Lesotho, leaders from four African countries met at the AfDB event and shared their vision for an integrated and borderless Africa that would foster economic growth and development.

Among the panelists were President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, President Felix Tshsekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Prime Minister of eSwatini Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini and his majesty King Letsie III of Lesotho.

They were joined by African Development Bank President Akinwumi Adesina for the panel titled, ‘Boosting Africa’s Economic Integration’.

The theme of the Annual Meetings this year is ‘Regional Integration for Africa’s Economic Prosperity’.

President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo said the country had managed to successfully integrate with its neighbours, despite the linguistic barriers that come with being the sole Spanish-speaking country in Africa. Weighing in as the most senior of the statesmen, President he said his nation’s journey to integration had begun in the 1980s, leading it to join the Central African franc zone.

Commenting on the call to action, President Mbagaso said opening borders could not be done on a massive scale without training the police and other security and law-enforcement bodies.

The leaders said integration required greater security, connectivity, political will and fostering linguistic and cultural ties.

Adesina said that the most open African countries attract the greatest investment and economic growth. He cited Togo, Benin, Seychelles and Rwanda as examples.

The leaders concluded that with the right policies, the dream of a more open Africa could become a reality.

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