By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – The Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) in concert with the Lesotho Post Bank, yesterday held the ‘Lesotho Annual Exporter Awards 2023’ amid pomp and circumstance in one of the hotels in Maseru.

These awards are supported by the USAID Africa Trade and Investment (ATI) and are the result of the partnership between LNDC and the USAID Trade and Investment Hub (Trade Hub). A US-government funded project that is mounted to capacitate increased and improved participation of Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) beneficiary countries that are trading with the United States (US) and South Africa.

The categories are best emerging brand, best market sustaining exporter, best innovative and versatile exporter, and best diversifying market and product exporter, and overall exporter of the year. Each category had a winner and a runner.

LNDC’s Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Advocate Molise Ramaili said the awards recognize best performances and those businesses that had distinguished themselves in exploiting the global markets.

“As an export-led economy, a strong export performance and private sector-led industrial growth are vital to the health of Lesotho’s economy, the annual exporters awards are one of the most important events in the annual calendar for LNDC, and other national stakeholders in export promotion. These awards ceremony provide an opportunity for LNDC to interact face-to-face with private sector companies that are the backbone of this nation’s economy.

The Acting CEO highlighted that the awards are envisaged to inculcate the competitive spirit amongst the local exporters.

He added that they are also an incentive to encourage the exporters to improve their business performance and come up with innovative market access strategies.

‘Mamahabe Mojela, the Deputy Principal Secretary (DPS) of the Ministry of Trade, Industry,  Business Development and Tourism pointed out that the businesses have not only contributed to the economic growth,  but they represent the country’s development aspirations,  culture and values.

She told them: “Your relentless pursuit of excellence has earned us respect and recognition in external markets, paving the way for further trade opportunities and strengthening global partnerships. I therefore urge our exporters to seize the opportunity to lead by example and contribute to the global movement towards a more sustainable and responsible trade ecosystem.”

Sanlei, which produces and exports high grade trout, stole the show taking home three awards in different categories. The company’s Logistics and Stakeholder Manager, Peter Sibuyira said the winning is an inspiration to them.

Standing tall as the overall winner Iconics, the producers in thermal heating clothes, co-founder, Pitso Ramosebetsi who was taken aback by surprise when their business was announced, said they have set their eyes on partnering with big retailers such as Woolworths.

Ramosebetsi said they are listed in online shopping platforms including Takealot.

Last year’s overall winner, Zeri Leather also won the Regional Exporter of the year Award and were competing with winners from eight countries. Zeri Leather founding partner, Lebeoane Matsimane said they had an opportunity to design bags for high profiles including His Majesty King Letsie III, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa and the US President Joe Biden.