The kingdom of Lesotho is known for its stunning hills, an abundance of good water all around and yes, diamonds. File Image: IOL
JOHANNESBURG - The kingdom of Lesotho is known for its stunning hills, an abundance of good water all around and yes, diamonds.

My first day there was without doubt crowned by a short audience with King Letsie lll. The tall and very well-educated monarch is an impressive man who reminded me so much of our own Madiba. He is also passionate about farming.

Recently, he was appointed as Food Security Ambassador for the AU.

Five years ago, 7percent of Lesotho’s gross domestic product (GDP) was, wait for it, asparagus.

This kingdom also has a huge supply of water and even supplies South Africa with this extremely vital life-giving source.

The main income industries are diamonds, textiles, water, sorghum, malt and wheat.

According to the 2017 statistics, the country’s GDP is $2.7 billion (R37.68bn).

As Lesotho's currency, the Loti is pegged on the rand - a litre of petrol currently costs R12.95 and a can of Coca-Cola is R10.

While petrol is cheaper, Coke is more expensive.

It therefore boggles the mind that in Lesotho the local food cost is nearly 20percent higher than in South Africa while fuel is cheaper.

The facts are that Lesotho is landlocked and imports most of its food. Lesotho imports 87percent of its food from South Africa.

The sad reality is that if Lesotho harnessed its agricultural potential, this import need could be halved.

Another interesting fact is that people that stay in the South African town of Ladybrand indeed prefer to shop in Maseru, which is just 21.4km away, and find it cheaper to shop in a foreign country than in their own.

The reverse is that people from Lesotho prefer staying in Ladybrand than in Maseru and commute daily to and from.

The negative of this is that a business official needs his or her passport stamped twice a day entering and leaving one country to another, even though we are in a Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and Africans.

For Lesotho to be a leader in many possible industries, political stability needs to be established on a long-term basis.

That being said, I had one of the best lunches in Maseru with home-grown cultivated trout, produced by one of the two trout farms in Lesotho.

Lesotho has also embarked on a huge new income earner: cannabis farming with 32 current licences issued. Hoping this will be a high for the nation.

Neil de Beer is the founder and president of the Investment Fund Africa. [email protected]

BUSINESS REPORT