By: Tšoloane Mohlomi

In continuation and under the auspices of the recent celebrations of Europe Day, the European Union Delegation to Lesotho has revealed a blueprint of essential projects earmarked for future implementation.  

With the symbolic day held every year, not only celebrating peace and unity in the European continent, but also signifying an extension of patronage to the rest of the world, the delegation hopes this will be the beginning of a new era in their bilateral relations.

The European Union (EU) delegation to Lesotho currently led by H.E. Paola Amadei, and has been a strategic partner to Lesotho for nearly 50 years; the institution has in the past retained a traditional cooperation with the country, with many programmes residing in the areas of water, energy, governance and social protection.

Now in the dawn of a new era, and with the recent adoption of three new financing agreements and two implementation agreements equating to EUR 29 million, this amid a new cooperation strategy adopted in December of 2021 which will see the kingdom of Lesotho attain funding to the tune of a staggering EUR 83 million until 2024, the delegation hopes these concerted efforts will further aid in uplifting the country.

Moreover with over 75% of funding earmarked for climate action – this will undoubtedly be dubbed one of the greenest cooperation programmes in the world.

Speaking at a recent media briefing held at the EU Delegation’s offices in Maseru, H.E. Ambassador Paola Amadei, said in the spirit of compatriotism and in commemorating the special day, this year and for the second year in running they had decided to dedicate the day to youth. As a result they partnered with different youth groups and tertiary institutions to engage in a relevant dialogue aimed towards youth empowerment.

“Having celebrated the national anniversary of Erasmus last year on the ninth of May through the Global Programme of the European Union for higher Education, this year we were at the National University of Lesotho ( NUL)  together with She Hive Association youth club and the Transform Lesotho Initiative, where we held a restricted youth discussion with youth representatives from NUL and students from the rural districts, later on we had an open discussion where NUL students participated on key subjects affecting youth.

“The event was organized by the EU delegation to Lesotho in collaboration with the Embassy of France to Lesotho, and the focus was on youth employment, youth entrepreneurship, youth mental health and youth in the scope of environmental issues and the fight against climate change. The subjects were selected in agreement with the co organizing youth organizations,” she said.

In continuation, Ambassador Amadei after expressing delight of the 17th of May launching of the three new cooperative agreements, together with two contribution agreements between the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the German Cooperation Agency (GIZ), lauded the two partners (Lesotho & EU) for their virtuous and steadfast cooperation over the years.

Going into detail the EU delegation’s Head of Cooperation, Mr Mario Varrentti reiterated his commissions continued pledge to leave an everlasting impact in Lesotho, he said with the cooperation with Lesotho dating back to 1976 they had left a tangible impact over the course of time, contributing to the Lesotho Highlands Water project, the development of the Metolong Dam, Waste water management facilities in Maseru and contributed to water supply in Maputsoe, Teyateyaneng and Roma.

He said although there were many tangible impacts, there existed also many intangible impacts, which contributed in establishing a rather targeted social protection mechanism in the country, currently being expanded as part of the EU’s new cooperation programmes to subsequently contribute to the government reforms and to the work of civil society over the years.

Mr Varrentti said to them (EU) their most sustainable investment remained human development, contributing to the establishment of  a number of Master programmes, like the Master of Science in Sustainable energy established at the National University of Lesotho, thanks to past cooperation programmes between Lesotho and the European Union.

“This very year we also helped establish another master programme at NUL in Intergraded Water Management accompanied by 15 scholarships. The first patch of graduates will go through the programme as we speak,” he said.

Adding that “Our cooperation strategy is focused on a number of key sectors, the water sector, energy sector, social protection and governance. The objective is to help tackle some of the challenges Lesotho faces, how to address the climate crisis, how to ensure access to water and energy to more people, how to reduce inequality and poverty through social protection and government reform.”

Mr Varretti explained that last month they had translated this new cooperation strategy which comes on top of ongoing cooperation activities. Divided into three new concrete programmes, the programmes are Renewable Lesotho, Equitable Lesotho and the Support measures.

Renewable Lesotho facilitates Lesotho’s vision of becoming able to developing its renewable energy generation capacity, energy efficiency measures while providing more electricity access to Basotho and ultimately becoming energy sufficient.

There rationale behind renewable Lesotho is self evident as there are triple benefits from tapping the enormous potential for renewable energy generation in the country, either it being hydro, wind and solar.

“The first is clearly a climate advantage, as at the moment Lesotho imports around half of its electricity needs from South Africa and Mozambique, where the electricity is produced mostly through fossil fuels, so we believe by transitioning into renewable energy or even 100 percent renewable energy Lesotho can play its role in global efforts to reducing carbon emissions and also set an example to other countries in the region embarking on a similar journey towards renewable energy,” he added.

The EU contribution for the programme is EUR 15,000,000 (over M300 million) which is open to additional contributions from other partners. The programme will provide support to the energy sector as a whole; including public entities, private sector through business catalyst and match making support, as well as education and vocational training actors.

In addition, a funding mechanism including grant based support and finance based support for initiatives in the energy sector ranging from on- and off-grid  will be renewable energy generation to energy efficiency will be established.

This programme also aims to support the establishment of the National Energy Fund, to leverage additional resources for the vision of a renewable Lesotho and generate employment opportunities in the sector as a whole.

Equitable Lesotho’s overall objective is to reduce multidimensional poverty for the most vulnerable populations in Lesotho. Its specific objectives are to improve access to basic services, including birth registration, and sustainable energy solutions by women and children. To enhance effective delivery of social assistance systems for all beneficiaries and increase use of gender-sensitive quality data and statistics.

The EU contribution for this programme amounts to EUR 8 million (over M160 million) and will be co-funded by UNICEF to tune of EUR 826,000 (about M17 million).

The Support Measures overall objective is to strengthen civil society and establish a cooperation facility to support the implementation of EU’s cooperation programme including strategic communication activities.

Its key objectives are to strengthen the equitable participation and representation of women, men, girls and boys in all their diversity in policy – and decision making at all levels. To support Lesotho’s development strategies, the implementation of the EU – Lesotho cooperation strategy and Team Europe initiatives. Lastly it is also to promote the values that inspire the partnership between Lesotho and the EU.

The EU’s contribution for this programme is EUR 6,000,000 (over M123 million).