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Lesotho Prime Minister Seeks Broader Exports

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili of Lesotho, a poor sub-Saharan African nation, said his country needs to diversify away from its heavy dependence on...

GENEVA — Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili of Lesotho, a poor sub-Saharan African nation, said his country needs to diversify away from its heavy dependence on apparel exports.

This story first appeared in the June 24, 2008 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Mosisili said the end of the global quota regime in 2005 “had adverse effects” on the country’s textile and apparel industry, which is also the biggest employer.

“About 30,000 jobs were lost,” he said here recently.

The prime minister said the country has managed to revive most of those jobs in the apparel sector thanks to new companies coming to Lesotho, mainly from Asia, to invest in the sector.

“I have no doubt we can do a lot more,” he said, but also noted that as the country was recovering from the “textile shock” and the loss of the substantial number of jobs, the food and energy crises pose new challenges. “We no doubt need to diversify. We can’t put all our eggs in one basket.”

Mosisili acknowledged the importance apparel exports have played in helping many countries develop their economies. The prime minister also lauded the support offered by a U.S. preferential trade program aimed at helping poor African nations secure market access for their products.

“The African Growth and Opportunity Act has been a very important factor in our textile industry,” he said. “It’s been one of those programs that has served us very well.”

Mosisili noted Lesotho has been one of the most successful sub-Saharan African countries to export apparel to the U.S. under AGOA. According to World Trade Organization data, in 2006 U.S. imports from AGOA-eligible nations that entered duty free totaled $1.3 billion.

In 2005, U.S. imports of apparel from Lesotho contracted 15 percent to $408 million compared with the year before and in 2006 were valued at $407 million, according to WTO statistics.