Remarks by U.S. Ambassador Rebecca Gonzales at the USAID TradeHub: Revitalizing Lesotho’s Export Manufacturing Competitiveness, Trade and Investment

Virtual Address, February 11, 2021

Good afternoon,

Allow me to begin by paying my respects to

His Majesty King Letsie III,

The Right Honorable the Prime Minister Dr. Moeketsi Majoro,

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

Senior Government officials,

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Please allow me to thank the Government of the Kingdom of Lesotho and the World Bank Representative Office in Lesotho, as well as the Ministry of Trade and Industry, for inviting me to speak today. The United States government has been a proud partner to Lesotho’s private sector, particularly firms seeking to explore both the South African and U.S. markets through the African Growth and Opportunity Act. I am honored to be here today to deliver a message of support and underscore the importance of this dialogue between vital stakeholders which will accelerate the implementation of economic reforms to increase investment and jobs in Lesotho. In honor of today’s event, I’m proudly wearing a shirt that says, “made in Lesotho.” I bought it in South Africa and it’s one of my favorite shirts. 

Last year, I joined the former Minister of Trade and Industry to launch the Lesotho AGOA Utilization Strategy, developed with the support of the USAID Southern African Trade and Investment Hub, to provide a roadmap or recommendations for diversifying Lesotho’s exports under the Act. The USAID TradeHub has supported export firms with market entry and trade enhancing services. While textiles and garments have dominated Lesotho’s exports into both the U.S and South Africa markets, diversification into non-textile products remains an opportunity to be explored; hence the extended support with trade enhancing services. 

When you think of AGOA, I don’t want you to think just Thetsane and textiles. I want you to think trout and technology, fruits and vegetables, handicrafts and flowers. We know that Lesotho can also add value to its exports by processing raw materials and moving up the value chain in established sectors. I promised you that my Embassy and my U.S. government colleagues based at the Trade Hub will continue to provide support and training to connect Basotho businesses with the Lesotho market.

During the current financial year, the USAID TradeHub has prioritized the following products to support the diversification of exports out of Lesotho: high-value garments, personal protective equipment (PPE), leather products, medicinal products, natural spring water, handicrafts, and accessories. Working with Trade Promotion Service Providers, such as the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC), Lesotho Textile Exporters Association, and the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry, for example, the USAID TradeHub has helped dozens of producers across the Kingdom of Lesotho participate in physical and digital market linkage events to showcase an array of local products to potential buyers. To date, over $631,000 (or 9 million Rand) worth of exports have been realized to South Africa and approximately 17 million dollars to the U.S. due to the USAID TradeHub’s support to exporters in Lesotho.

Together, we’ve battled the challenges imposed on businesses by the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the USAID TradeHub, in partnership with the LNDC and in close collaboration with the U.S. Embassy in Lesotho, began a pilot program to support textile and apparel companies in the country to produce personal protective equipment as an effort to recover some of the jobs lost during the ongoing global health crisis, and to ensure that healthcare workers and the general population had access to much-needed protective equipment. Seven companies from Lesotho formed part of the regional PPE pilot program. TradeHub further supported these companies by helping them get listed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, thereby increasing their chances of exporting PPEs into the U.S. market. These companies have produced a collective value of approximately $308,675 (or 4,617,694 Rand) worth of PPE distributed in both the local Basotho and South African markets.

As the scourge of COVID-19 continues, I believe this is a timely event for key industry players to have critical and constructive conversations, to develop long-term strategies that will ensure the sustainability of the business sector, which is the backbone of any economy. Allow me to reaffirm the United States government’s commitment to supporting the government of the Kingdom of Lesotho in its efforts to achieve its national goals, as enshrined in its National Strategic Development Plan for 2018-2023. 

Before I close, I would like to offer my gratitude to our partner, the World Bank, for its continued effort to support private sector competitiveness and economic diversification in Lesotho. I want to reaffirm the United States government’s commitment to private sector led growth through USAID TradeHub activities.

I applaud the collaborative efforts advanced by today’s event. Partnership is a critical requirement to weather the turbulence created by the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic. I wish each of you continued good health and prosperity. 

Thank you.