Lesotho has been hit hard by the financial crisis. Revenue from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which accounts for over 60 percent of the government’s revenue base, is declining, threatening to exacerbate macroeconomic risks to the economy. Furthermore, loss of textile markets due to the slowdown in the United States and decline in diamond trade are posing new challenges.
“Lesotho offers positive proof that development cooperation works,” said Minister of Finance and Development Planning Timothy Thahane. “We were pleased to host Ms. Ezekewsili and her team, and delighted to show the range of positive development results being achieved to grow Lesotho’s economy, create jobs, and improve health and the quality of life of the Basotho people.”
Minister Thahane and Ezekwesili reviewed policy work covered by the World Bank, including developing alternate sources of revenue, increasing trade, and taking advantage of being close to Africa’s largest economy, South Africa. Key focus areas include improving the business climate, increasing effectiveness of public spending, and boosting competitiveness.
During her visit, Ezekwesili took the opportunity to visit development projects financed by the World Bank and Lesotho’s development partners, including:
- Likotsi Filter Clinic: This innovative public-private partnership (PPP) is boosting provision of quality health care services in under-served areas of Lesotho. The partnership, part of a larger US$100 million health sector program, involves the Ts’epong Consortium, managed by one of Africa’s largest private health care providers in South Africa, Netcare. The World Bank provided technical assistance and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank’s private sector arm, acted as lead advisor to the Government of Lesotho throughout the planning, structuring, tendering and implementation phases of the PPP agreement. The Global Partnership for Output Based Aid (GPOBA) is providing a US$6.25 million grant to help subsidize the cost of access to services for the residents of Maseru District, the capital city and home to nearly one-third of the country’s population
- Education Development: A US$20million grant from the Education for All multi-donor fund is helping to improve the quality of educational infrastructure and basic education in Lesotho, further supporting the significant strides made in the education sector. The education MDGs are within reach, primary education is free and compulsory, and there are almost equal numbers of boys and girls attending primary school. Yet, Lesotho faces huge challenges. The project is expected to run for three years, and will support the construction and refurbishment of over 300 classrooms, appropriately designed to accommodate disabled children, provide gender-friendly latrines and support the operation of more than 100 reception classes. These activities will be matched with a supporting set of interventions to improve the overall quality of teaching and learning to raise the quality of skills at the post-primary level, including through technical and vocational education.
At the end of her trip, Ms. Ezekwesili visited transport and road infrastructure projects, including the Mantsonyane-Lesobeng road and view the construction of Senqu-Senqunyane bridges that are connecting communities in remote, inaccessible areas of the highlands, enabling economic growth, jobs, and improved human welfare.
Ezekwesili’s visit to Lesotho began on November 11 and was the last stop on her four-country visit to Africa that also included Rwanda, Burundi and Botswana.