PRIME Minister, Thomas Thabane, has paid tribute to Vodacom Lesotho’s pioneering introduction of life-changing mobile technology in the country at a time when there were less sophisticated slower fixed telephone lines and the telefax for communication.
Dr Thabane made the remarks during the official unveiling of the mobile communication company’s new M80 million headquarters in Maseru. The event was also attended by several cabinet ministers and captains of industry.
The new state of the art facility has four storeys with open planned floors, conference and boardrooms.
It also contains a gymnasium for staffers, an in-house wellness centre, an innovation room for relaxation, a cafeteria as well as solar panels that generate half of the building’s power requirements.
Dr Thabane lauded Vodacom Lesotho for ensuring that Basotho had also benefited from its social responsibility initiatives over the past 21 years.
“In 1996 when Vodacom first set foot in Lesotho, Basotho communicated through fixed line telephones and fax machines which were exclusively in the hands of a small urban minority,” Dr Thabane said.
“Today we have a national mobile networks that covers 80 percent of Lesotho. Basotho now have access to mobile telephones, data services and the internet. Thousands of Basotho who previously had limited access to financial services now do business and send money to family and loved ones using M-Pesa.
“This is but a small part of the legacy of Vodacom in Lesotho. Wherever you go along the land of this beautiful land of ours, you will find the Vodacom logo prominently displayed. Whether it is a new state of the art building like we are in today or the small mokhukhu (shack) in the most rural part of Lesotho, Vodacom has truly become part of our national landscape.”
The communications giant has an estimated 1.3 million subscriber base and Dr Thabane said the company could do more to empower Basotho to participate in business.
“This position of leadership places a special responsibility and we are happy to see that Basotho business people have been financially empowered as a result of their shareholding initiative with Vodacom. We must now anticipate that new business relationships will emerge that will empower a wider and broader spectrum of Basotho.
“Vodacom Lesotho through its social responsibility programmes and through the Vodacom Foundation supports a serious and important endeavour in the areas of health, education, social development, gender equality and women and youth development.
“Yet the need remains huge as we tackle development issues facing our country. We call upon Vodacom to become a strong advocate within our business community for even greater social responsibility for our corporates.”
He said that while Vodacom invested in excess of M1.3 billion on new equipment and technology in 2016, the downside was that a larger portion of this money was spent on foreign companies and foreign skills.
“If your status and ambitions for technology as a catalyst for our future are to be the realised, then there must be Basotho owned companies and skilled Basotho people utilised much more than they currently are.
“The Vodacom Incubator Park is a serious and genuine attempt to support the new generation of Basotho as business people.”
For his part, Matjato Moteane, the chairperson of the Vodacom Lesotho board of directors said the company was committed to reducing carbon emissions hence the use of clean solar energy in its operations.
Vodacom Lesotho Chief Executive, Rishaad Tayob described the new company headquarters as the biggest milestone in the company’s 21 year history of operations in Lesotho.
“We pride ourselves in being a company whose sole purpose is to serve Basotho and with this new home, these roots that we have now planted in Lesotho’s soil, our commitment and resolve to continue to serve Lesotho and Basotho has been multiplied a hundred-fold,” Mr Tayob said.