By Neo Kolane
A toothpick manufacturing machine that has cost the government M2-million is lying idle at the Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO) premises at Sebaboleng in Maseru.
During a tour of the BEDCO premises on Wednesday, the acting executive officer of BEDCO, Pesha Shale said there was a need for designing a business model which would be followed by a budget allocation. This, he added, would enable the business community to use the machine.
He said the corporation was eager to see the machine being in good use and benefiting the entrepreneurs.
“As BEDCO, our business is not to run the plant. It is to be used by the business people. We will only assist them in toothpick production, packaging and distribution,” he explained.
The machine was purchased by the ministry of small business development, cooperatives and marketing in the 2019/2020 financial year.
“There is a budget allocated at the ministry for BEDCO to build the capacity of small businesses,” he added.
He said the corporation would conduct skills training to entrepreneurs so as to increase their ability to manage and run their entities efficiently and profitably.
“It was decided that the toothpick manufacturing machine be installed at BEDCO, while the one that makes duvets be installed at the Maseru Industrial Area. The machine used to produce egg trays would be installed at the Lesotho National Development Corporation’s industrial area in Mohale’s Hoek,” Shale said.
Shale explained that BEDCO was entrusted with the responsibility to manage the operations of the machines while designing proper business models that would enhance the capacity of human resources in business.
“During training, the entrepreneurs will be offered knowledge on how to access finance for small businesses to buy some manufacturing equipment,” he promised.
During the inspection tour, the minister of development planning, Selibe Mochoboroane said that M25-million was allocated to buy all three machines.
“It seems there is an agreement between a certain company and the ministry of small business development, cooperatives and marketing when it comes to the machinery that makes duvets but with the other two machines there will be a cost to the government
Mochoboroane said it is because entrepreneurs need to be highly skilled in business administration while he observed that the equipment was second-hand.
“Someone with the technical know-how has said that the machines were dysfunctional,” Mochoboroane briefly said.
On May 10, 2019, BEDCO in collaboration with the ministry of small business development, cooperatives and marketing and Limkokwing University of Creative Technology launched Lesotho’s first toothpick production machine.
Former small business development, cooperatives and marketing minister Chalane Phori was in some media reports quoted as saying the China sourced machinery would boost the country’s manufacturing sector.
According to local media reports at the time, Phori had said the machinery would be used to train Basotho entrepreneurs who have formed cooperative societies across the country on manufacturing a variety of products.
Phori added that the fact that Lesotho was not manufacturing such simple products as toothpicks should be a source of embarrassment.
“It is embarrassing for me after eating leafy vegetables to be using a simple thing as a toothpick, manufactured in another country.
“We will conduct with the public health codes on how to handle toothpicks for better hygiene,” Phori said.