Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Rebecca E. Gonzales at the 2021 Lesotho Annual Exporter Awards

Avani Lesotho Hotel, Maseru, Lesotho, June 8, 2021: 

Good morning. 

Allow me to begin by paying my respects to

His Majesty King Letsie III,

The Right Honorable the Prime Minister Dr. Moeketsi Majoro,

The President of the Senate,

The Speaker of the National Assembly,

Members of His Majesty’s Cabinet in Particular the Minister of Trade and Industry Honorable Dr. Thabiso Molapo,

Senior government officials,

Representatives of the USAID TradeHub and Lesotho private sector,

Members of the media,

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my absolute pleasure to join the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) for the 2021 Lesotho Annual Export Awards.  I am honored for the opportunity to address you today as we recognize the excellence and innovation of export firms in reaching export markets.

 

In the National Strategic Development Plan for 2018 – 2023, the Government of Lesotho adopted a private sector and export-led economic growth model to improve the livelihoods of the people of the Kingdom of Lesotho.  The United States government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (or USAID), continues to partner with the government of Lesotho, private sector entities, and affiliated membership-based associations across Lesotho through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (or AGOA) to support this export-led economic growth model.  On January 22, 2020, at the AGOA relaunch I urged the Lesotho Government and private sector to maximize these opportunities and diversify to ensure sustainability when AGOA expires in 2025.

 

The Kingdom of Lesotho exported more than $300 million (just over 4 billion loti) worth of products to the U.S. market in 2019 and 2020, primarily consisting of textiles and apparel, and approximately $250 million (just over 3 billion loti) to South Africa, primarily consisting of garments, water, wool, and mohair.  This event recognizes those who have contributed to this impressive data.  However, it is just a start, as we must realize the great potential and capacity to improve and diversify these export products.

 

Allow me to thank the Lesotho National Development Corporation, through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, for taking advantage of an opportunity to partner with USAID, through the Southern Africa Trade and Investment Hub, to coordinate and host this year’s Exporter Awards – a first of its kind.  Today’s event is meant to incentivize and encourage export firms across the Mountain Kingdom to explore innovative ways of improving their export competitiveness and get their products into international markets such as South Africa and the United States. USAID’s approach is to partner with Trade Promotion Service Providers across the region, such as the Lesotho National Development Corporation.  Their mandates already center around providing support to export-ready firms within their respective countries to access these markets.

 

To further this goal, USAID entered a formal partnership with the Lesotho National Development Corporation in 2020.  This partnership involves co-hosting industry events and workshops to capacitate exporters, facilitate market linkages, and support the implementation of the AGOA country implementation strategy. USAID also invests in transferring skills and knowledge to partners like the LNDC as a mechanism to enhance the sustainability of the program’s overall impact.  This event demonstrates such a commitment.

 

Finally, USAID is working with LNDC to provide trade-enhancing services to local firms, such as providing product-specific market requirements information, certification, and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) listing, if required. Most importantly, in partnering with LNDC, USAID has facilitated market linkages between Lesotho garment suppliers with buyers in both the U.S. and South Africa markets through trade events, direct buyer-seller introductions, and e-commerce platform listing.  The partnership has already started to yield great results.

 

Before I close, I would like to reaffirm the U.S. government’s commitment to supporting ongoing and sustainable economic development in Lesotho.  Again, I urge all of you to take advantage of the opportunity to grow your businesses and industries before AGOA expires in 2025.  I would also like to extend my sincere gratitude to the export companies present here today, particularly those nominated for the award.  I wish you all much success, and I hope this year’s awards event will spur improved exports in the years to come.

 

I want to take a moment to congratulate our nominees and applaud the collaborative effort advanced by this awards event.  KE EA LE LEBOHELA! The nominations are representative of an increasingly diversifying industry covering garments, PPE, leather products, and agro-processed products, which is a critical step to increasing Lesotho’s export base and competitiveness.

 

I wish you all continued good health and prosperity as we work together to weather the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic across the Southern Africa region.

 

Thank you.