By Mpho Shelile

MASERU – Selling locally produced goods is vital for fostering economic development, supporting small businesses, reducing environmental impact, building communities, enhancing and preserving culture, and reducing dependency on imports. It plays a crucial role in creating sustainable and vibrant local economies while contributing to a more connected and self-reliant community.

October 10th marked the grand opening of Made in Lesotho Cooperative, MILCO in short. Located at Sefika Complex, it’s the first store of its kind, obligated to sell ONLY products produced by Basotho. In an interview with Bokang Ngatane, one of the owners of MILCO. She stated that the store is a cooperative owned by 351 Basotho; who joined hands in making this store a success. “The store was supposed to be opened last month but due to some setbacks along the way, the stored a month later. We are excited to be selling only products, with the aim of fighting to eradicate poverty and help improve the economy of the country by providing a space for locally produced goods”, said Bokang.

As mentioned before, MILCO is the brain child of a large group of people, who came together and brought the vision to life. STANLIB for example, made a sizeable donation (M101 000, 00,) that covered the costs of the MILCO building. Other notable sponsors include Basotho Enterprise Development Corporation (BEDCO), Standard Lesotho bank and Revenue Services Lesotho. MILCO is also a legally registered cooperative.

The new store is expected to have an overall positive impact on the economy, the same is expected for its impact on the environment and Basotho culture. MILCO will promote sustainability by reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance shipping. Additionally, they offer customers a way to connect with the culture and heritage of their region while enjoying unique and often high-quality products.

No product or service is off limits: foodstuffs, cosmetics, clothing, shoes, hair products, building materials, music, mobile money, books, bedding, furniture, kitchenware, heating tools, towels, the list is endless. The ONLY condition is that they must be made in Lesotho. “MILCO is going to give Basotho different platforms on which they can showcase and sell their goods. The physical store is located at Sefika complex and an online platform where customers can view and interact with products. Tech is very influential in the modern world. Basotho will also be able to sell their products in bulk and be allowed a platform to showcase them,” she said.

 “If anyone would like to join MILCO, bear in mind that there      are certain rules to follow, one must be 15 or above and only Basotho are allowed membership. MILCO will provide the necessary storage of their goods until they are sold, be responsible enough to take proper care of their products until they are to be transported to MILCO. It will intergrate all Basotho products and services in one place and assist entrepreneurs to reach international markets where there are MILCO branches. MILCO will gradually help producers with getting the best products”, she declared. The company will also serve as a platform for Basotho to transfer their products to their desired destinations if it is within the company’s reach.

Stating that they aim to end the dishonor of Basotho farmers being called ‘baitšokoli’, they promise to help farmers gain the recognition they deserve. “The Innovation hub is where NUL gives students the platform to be creative and innovative. Coming up with new ideas that can come into fruition and be sold all over Lesotho and Johannesburg, we are also proud to state that the market is responding really well. And our customers seem happy with our services so far.” Bokang exclaimed.

“We advertise mostly though our NUL Research and Innovations page and the MILCO page. We have an interactive audience and an extensive following; a website for MILCO, Instagram (IG) both which we are very active on”, Bokang shared.

 “Are you a businessman or businesswoman in the production of goods and services in Lesotho? Would you like your product or service to be sold at the soon-to-operate chain-store called MILCO? MILCO, otherwise known as Made In Lesotho Cooperative store, is an ambitious proposed chain-store to be incubated under the NUL Innovation Hub which will sell ONLY Lesotho products. It is undergoing registration with relevant authorities. In the mean-time, the NUL Innovation Hub is seeking information about potential products that MILCO will sell”, Bokang concluded