Lesotho is a small landlocked country with a population of over 2 million surrounded by its much larger neighbor, South Africa. The rural population accounts for 75 percent of the total population with about 40 percent of the Basothos living there involved in the agricultural sector. This sector, despite experiencing declines in production in recent years remains a central part of the nation’s economy.
Lesotho has a GDP of $1,141 per capita which categorizes it as lower to middle-income country with a 3 percent economic growth rate in the past three years. This progress can be attributed to the performance of textile manufacturing and as well as the agricultural sector after it recovered from the 2015 and 2016 droughts. However, this progress was thwarted by the rand/dollar depreciation. Unemployment, high level of inequality and poverty remain an issue for Lesotho reflected by 2017 estimates that indicate 51.8 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line.
Long-Term Strategies to Improve Credit Access in Lesotho
The government of Lesotho has been creating strategies to meet the goal of improving access to financial services for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises in order to alleviate the aforementioned challenges including extreme poverty. One of the main strategies outlined by the central bank of Lesotho is attaining higher savings and investment ratios. The report shows that achieving this goal has results of economic growth and an increase in employment as well as food security.
However, given that more than 50 percent small and medium-sized enterprises lack access to credit in particular, it would be essential to work on widening that resource further to augment the overall economic growth in Lesotho. One of the main interventions used to achieve this improvement is called a public credit guarantee scheme (CGS).
This strategy involves resolving the lack of financial history records which poses a risk, through third-party credit risk mitigation to lenders. This is because the scheme allows for a part of the losses to be absorbed by the loans given to small and medium enterprises, in exchange for a fee. Moreover, this solution is particularly viable in developing nations such as Lesotho as it is growing to cover more than half of the developing world already.
This is increasingly relevant in agriculture, one of the biggest economic sectors, which has not yielded as much contribution to the economy due to the fact that most of the people involved still practice subsistence farming. The government attributes this lag in diversifying and increasing agricultural productivity to credit market failure, lack of access to information and technical support, restricted market integration and climate change.
Furthermore, the sector is marked as high risk and low return by the financial sector, a label that can potentially be reversed with the development of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises through improved access to financial services including credit access in Lesotho.
Importance of Credit Access in Lesotho
Given its potential to accelerate economic growth, improving access to credit access in Lesotho has the ability to significantly augment big sectors such as agriculture. Creating a strong financial sector that increases credit access in Lesotho can have the effect of strengthening the 40 percent of the population involved in agriculture in its transition from subsistence farming to advanced agriculture by allowing the ability acquire the technology as well as the technical support that is lacking.
The work towards creating a financial sector that could meet these development objectives has had challenges due to inadequacies in technical and entrepreneurial skills as well as the lack of proper documentation of financial records. Although this poses an issue with increasing credit access in Lesotho and creating an inclusive financial sector as a whole, without a strong foundation of a stable, liquid and efficient financial sector, the nation will continue to have challenges in creating sustainable growth.
– Bilen Kassie