LESOTHO National Development Corporation (LNDC) Chief Executive Officer Kelebone Leisanyane recently completed his first year at the helm of the government-owned investment and trade promotion showcase.
Mr Leisanyane took over the reins at the LNDC in December 2014 with a mandate to help diversify the economy. In this wide-ranging interview, Mr Leisanyane speaks to Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Bereng Mpaki, about the accomplishments and challenges of his first year.
LT: Were you given a specific mandate when you joined the LNDC?
KL: The mandate of the LNDC is stipulated in section 4, subsection 1 of the LNDC Act No. 20 of 1967 as amended by Order no 13 of 1990 and amendment Act no. 7 of 2000 and it reads as follows: “To initiate, promote and facilitate the development of manufacturing and processing industries, mining and commerce in a manner calculated to raise the level of income and employment in Lesotho.” This was the mandate that I was given when I joined the corporation in December 2014 and it hasn’t changed up to today.
LT: In what state did you find the LNDC in when you joined?
KL: A state of apprehension is probably a harsh word to use. A better description would be optimistic anticipation by all that my leadership and stewardship of the corporation would bring certainty, stability and strategic direction. These attributes were, unfortunately, not evident in the recent past yet essential if the LNDC is to deliver on its mandate.
LT: Which areas needed immediate intervention upon your arrival?
KL: The LNDC’s Strategic Plan was coming to an end in March 2015, and there was an urgent need to develop a new one which was to take effect from 1 April 2015.
There was also an immediate need for the corporation to develop and implement the Performance Management System which would assist in instilling a culture of urgency, accountability and high performance by all employees to ensure that goals are attained.
There was an urgent need to fast-track and complete the construction of 11 factory shells at Tikoe Industrial Estate which had experienced protracted delays for different reasons since June 2012. The delays were hindering the roll-out of the corporation’s pipeline projects and hence job creation.
The other urgent task was for the corporation to assist the parent ministry, which was then the Ministry of Trade and Industry, Marketing and Cooperatives in its lobbying efforts for the timely and seamless renewal of AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act), which was to expire in September 2015.
LT: What progress has been made under your stewardship to date?
KL: This question would probably be best answered by our stakeholders. However, as the CEO and leader of the corporation, I believe that we have made significant progress over the past 12 months and have laid the foundation for growth in both the scope of our operations and in the ability for us to deliver on our mandate.
Notable achievements include:
- Development and implementation of the corporation’s Strategic Plan
- Development and implementation of the corporation’s Performance Management System
- Completion of 11 factory shells in Ha Tikoe which unlocked over 5 000 jobs
- Development of the Fairways Plaza
- Timely and seamless renewal of AGOA.
LT: LNDC-aided investment in the country is concentrated in the textiles and garment manufacturing sectors. Does the LNDC have any plans to diversify on these products and their markets?
KL: It is true that out of a total of 74 LNDC-assisted companies, employing a total of 48 111 employees, 41 of them are in the textile and garment industry. However, the current status of our project pile indicates a significant shift from textile and garments toward more diversified products ranging from automotive accessories, aquaculture, cosmetics and agro-products. This is a clear indication that our diversification strategy is bearing fruit.
LT: The LNDC has been encountering a lot of challenges in collecting rent from tenants using the corporation’s properties? What is the state of affairs now?
KL: The LNDC had extensive consultations with the majority of its commercial and industrial tenants to remind them of their obligation to pay for the services that are being rendered to them. The industrial tenants in particular have been informed that the corporation has a backlog of investors who cannot be accommodated because of the shortage of factory space.
As a result, the majority of the tenants are now meeting their rental obligations, and some have agreed payments terms with the corporation in order to settle their rental arrears. Those tenants who are not responsive to our persuasion are being pursued in the courts of law and also denied any kind of assistance by the corporation.
LT: What do you regard as the major challenges holding back the corporation from fully realising its mandate?
KL: Lack of infrastructure; shortage of factory space, inadequate waste treatment facilities and shortage of water for the northern industrial estates of Maputsoe and Nyenye.
The slow pace of investment climate reforms is another area, since Lesotho is ranked number 114 out of 189 economies on the World Bank Doing Business Indicators report, while Botswana and South Africa are ranked 72 and 73 respectively. Areas needing immediate attention include, issuing construction permits, getting credit from the banks, getting electricity, registering property and resolving insolvencies.
The perception of political instability is also a major challenge as well as an insufficient number of diversified revenue streams for the corporation.
LT: What projects can be expected from the LNDC in 2016 and beyond?
KL: Infrastructure development for the Ha Belo Special Economic Zone in Butha–Buthe
- Infrastructure development for phase III of Tikoe industrial estate
- Construction of five factory shells for local investors at Tikoe industrial estate.
- Refurbishment of the Maputsoe road network
- Refurbishment of LNDC Centre and Kingsway Mall
- Refurbishment of Devcourt residences
- Mixed development of the Race Course
- Rollout of additional supply chain financing products for our local private sector to supplement the current Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme.