By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU- The Prime Minister (PM) Rt Hon Samuel Matekane has presented Lesotho’s economic prospects and outlined measures the country is seized with in tackling structural challenges while also making investments in infrastructures.

This the PM tabled before the 15th BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) Summit held in Johannesburg, South Africa last week. The Summit had convened from August 22 to 24, under the theme ‘BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Mutually Accelerated Growth, Sustainable Development and Inclusive Multilateralism’.

Matekane had joined over 60 Heads of State and Government from across Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and the Caribbean, including Leaders of leading United Nations (UN) agencies and financial institutions.

“As we approach the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, it is evident that many countries lag behind in our collective pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“To address this situation, Lesotho recently signed the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework 2024-2028 aptly entitled “ka lebelo la Ntšoekhe” and loosely translated as ‘fast-pace’ implementation.  This serves as a testament to our resolve to accelerate progress towards achieving the SDGs,” he said.

He told the Summit that the country is   engaging the youth to explore more innovative approaches to ensure speedy and effective implementation of the UN Agenda 2030 for the benefit of current and future generations.

Matekane underscored the crucial need for immediate action required to address the impending global challenges such as climate change.

The PM issued a call to the effect that the collective ability to address the world’s challenges is dependent on collective unity adding that Lesotho has embarked on an ambitious clean energy initiative.

“In the current Public Sector Investment Programme there are several infrastructure projects that are aimed at addressing the gaps in the energy and transport infrastructure. Lesotho is endowed with natural resources, specifically water and diamonds. Moreover, we have a huge potential for green energy generation such as hydro; solar and wind power for domestic markets and export into the Southern Africa power pool,” he said. 

Matekane also proposed the BRICS countries to partner with Lesotho and invest in the ventures that the country boasts saying they offer guaranteed lucrative returns on investment.

He took the opportunity to invite the leaders to the “Water and Hydrogen Conference and EXPO” that is slated for October 12 and 13th in Maseru.

He continued: “We welcome strategic partnerships with like-minded nations and institutions. We invite all of you to grace this ground-breaking conference with your presence.

“Furthermore, we recognise the importance of infrastructure as a catalyst for promoting economic growth and attracting private investment. Therefore, the development of air transport and road networks is equally important. In light of this, the Government has prioritized the construction of interconnecting roads that will link Lesotho and certain parts of South Africa with the port of Durban.

“Moreover, efforts are being made to enhance and upgrade the international airport.  This presents an auspicious opportunity for investment and collaboration with the BRICS countries and the business sector.”

Taking stock of the establishment of the New Development Bank, which is mandated to service the bloc, said Lesotho anticipates funding opportunities in order to carry out and to implement various agreements such as the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AfCFTA) and China and India preferential arrangements.

He is of the belief that these funding possibilities can facilitate real growth and meaningful participation in regional and global value chains.

“Even as that happens, we need to place greater emphasis on the three fundamental pillars underpinning BRICS, namely; promoting financial and economic development through cooperation and openness, respecting the sovereignty of other countries and pursuing peaceful resolutions to conflicts; and working to ensure justice and representation in the global governance system.  

With BRICS and Africa in partnership, [a] better life for all is achievable.

“We pledge our support to them and cooperation in building a stronger and more cohesive south-south cooperation,” he appealed.

The PM mentioned that the BRICS offer a unique opportunity to establish partnerships with the BRICS countries, the private sector and business communities that will eventually translate in the development of the African countries as well as the global south. 

He noted that the Summit comes amid the backdrop of the challenges bedeviling the world, saying the prevailing geopolitical tensions, global pandemics and the far-reaching effects of climate change, continue to have a devastating impact on human life, livelihoods, economies and communities around the world. 

This he said translates to the ever rising food and fuel prices as well as the unsustainable levels of debt. He stressed that these bear heavily on the people in the global south, a term synonymous with the least developed countries, these are countries who generally are in the process of industrialization and historically were subjected to colonization by the global North countries, especially European countries.

He further called on the urgent dialogue amongst the developing nations to promote economic development, peace and prosperity has never been greater.

Matekane added: “We call for dialogue and negotiation as fundamental tools for achieving economic development and peaceful resolution of conflicts around the world. In this regard the reform of the UN Security is central to the achievement of sustainable peace.

“We call on the BRICS countries to support the African Common Position in this regard. In the same token, the reform of the Bretton woods Institutions is key to ensuring equitable economic growth. This is an agenda that we must all join hands in pursuing.”

Taking note of some of the opportunities that come associated with the BRICS which African countries could exploit include:

  • Opening up markets for products from smaller economies;
  • Investing in key sectors such as manufacturing, agriculture and agro-processing, services industries – energy, tourism, transport and general infrastructure in small countries like Lesotho; and
  •  Extending support to our countries as they strive for industrialization and technological advancement.

Some notable developments that happened at the Summit was the announcement by the SA’s President Cyril Ramaphosa that six countries have been admitted to assume membership of the BRICS family and they will become full members with effect from January 1, 2024. The incoming members are the Argentine Republic, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

President Vladimir Putin of Russia had joined the discussions virtually as it was decided that he could not personally come to South Africa since the International Criminal Court (ICC) had already issued a warrant of arrest for him for crimes against humanity.

There was also an Africa-China Dialogue at the sidelines of the Summit and was co-chaired by President Ramaphosa and President Xi Jinping of China. During this dialogue, China pledged to support the African Union (AU) in obtaining G20 membership.

The Summit has been hailed from the different quarters as successful and a step in a positive direction for the Member States and countries aspiring to join the bloc.

One of the notable guests at the Summit was the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.

Addressing the leaders, he said Africa is underrepresented within the global financial architecture adding that it still lacks a permanent seat on the Security Council.

Guterres as the global governance needs to change just as the world has evolved.

He underscored the need for reforms to make global frameworks universal and representative of today’s world realities.

Amongst others, the Summit had called for the greater representation of the emerging markets and developing countries within the international organizations and multilateral fora; it reiterated the need for all countries to cooperate in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms under the principles of equality and mutual respect; and the bloc had thrown its weight in support for a comprehensive reform of the UN, including its Security Council in order to cause it to be more democratic, representative, effective and efficient.

The PM’s delegation was made of the Minister of Trade, Industry, Business Development and Tourism, Hon Mokhethi Shelile and Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Relations, Hon Lejone Mpotjoane.