Laws restrict foreigners from certain business – Minister

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The chief legal officer of LCCI Matṧeliso Lehohla

By Neo Kolane

The ministry of trade and industry and the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) completed the National Trade Roadshow in Maseru this week.

The National Trade Roadshow started on April 24 in Mokhotlong district.

The purpose of the roadshow was to alert the business community about the changes brought about by the Business Licensing and Registration Act of 2019 and to explain implementation modalities.

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During the rounding up of the show, the chief legal officer of LCCI, Matṧeliso Lehohla, said the new legislation is meant to facilitate promotion of private sector development through inclusion of all types of businesses into the formal sector, provide for simple and short business licensing and registration procedures as well as facilitating speedy issuing of licenses and business registration.

Lehohla said it also introduces a risk based system where businesses that are not risky will be registered either before or after the operations have commenced.

She said such types of businesses did not pose a threat to the environment, public health, security and safety. She added that the business identification card should be valid for three years, unless the business or a holder ceases to exist.

She indicated that the card sets out a procedure for the issuance of business registration identity card to entrepreneurs.  

“The business registration identity card will be used by all public authorities in their dealing with the business enterprises. This will ensure that a business can be easily identified by its business identity number by all public authorities rather than a different number for each authority,” she said.

For foreign investors, Lehohla said that there are essential documents needed before operating in Lesotho.

She made mention of the business permit – a document that authorises a foreign investor to engage in a business in Lesotho. That, she warned, is only applicable to foreign traders working in Lesotho.

Another one is the business identification card which is mandatory for all the business, both for locals and the foreign trading operators.

Lehohla emphasised that licenses are issued only to businesses that pose a risk to public health, environment and safety and security. The holder must have a business permit (foreign business), and the business identification card.

In his remarks, the acting minister of trade and industry, Lebohang Monaheng urged Basotho to stop allowing foreigners take over their businesses by lending them their trading licenses.

He expressed concern that many businesses in Lesotho are run by foreigners and it was high “was high time that such types of businesses returned to the hands of Basotho.”

“There are businesses identified by the ministry, which Basotho have more enthusiasm and capacity to run, such as the transport and logistics industry. Such businesses should be left in the hands of Basotho.”

“The ministry is determined to ensure that businesses will help Basotho to improve more so that foreigners do not get to intrude and take advantage,” Monaheng said, while advising for deep involvement in establishing cooperatives to realise their dreams.

The president of LCCI, Ntaote Seboka, said the law binds every Mosotho to support the ministry of trade and industry to ensure that the law is implemented.

Seboka said small business to large businesses no matter its size and ownership.

 “This law will affect even businesses operating illegally. Foreigners will not trade without having business permits,” Seboka said.

The Business Licensing and Registration Act 2019 and its Regulations of 2020 repeal the old Trading Enterprises Act 0f 1993 and the Trading Enterprises Regulations of 1999 and its amendments.

The new law introduces a modern and investor user-friendly legal framework and streamlines licensing processes and procedures.