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Lesotho Pins Hopes on U2's BONO

Published date:
Sunday, 21 May 2006
Business Report

Maseru - The desperate nation of Lesotho is pinning high hopes on Irish rock star Bono to rescue its embattled clothing and textile industry, the fraying mainstay of the economy.

Bono, the front man for U2 and crusader for African development, visited Lesotho this week on a six-nation tour of Africa to put the international spotlight on the continent's problems.

He met King Letsie III, Queen Masenate Mohato Bereng Seeiso, and the minister of trade and industries, co-operatives and marketing, Mpho Malie, to discuss how to persuade foreigners to buy Lesotho's clothing, textiles and other products.

He also promoted his new Red Product label to raise funds to combat HIV/Aids through the sale of top brands. Lesotho has one of the world's highest infection rates in the world.

Lesotho is counting on its clothing and textile factories that supply the US, Europe and Asia, to wipe out its huge unemployment problem.

But Chinese and Indian competition, coupled with the rising rand and the end last year of the multi-fibre agreement that imposed quotas on Chinese textile exports, have badly battered the local textile industry.

Belinda Edmonds, the director of US clothing company Cool Ideas, warned in Maseru that the shock of ending the multi-fibre agreement would be followed next year by the expiry of the third-country fabric provision in the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows Lesotho and other selected African countries duty-free access to the US market.

The third-country fabric provision allows Lesotho to import cheap fabric from Asia to make clothing to sell duty free to the US. When this provision expires, Lesotho manufacturers will have to buy either poorer fabric from Agoa-compliant countries in Africa or much more expensive fabric from the US to keep their duty-free access.

The Basotho are counting on Bono to throw his weight behind lobbying efforts to persuade the US congress to extend the third-country fabric provision.

"Rock star Bono has the power to effect change in Lesotho," said Malie, expressing confidence that the star wielded enough clout to save the textile and clothing industry.

Daniel Maraisane, the general secretary of the Lesotho Clothing and Allied Workers' Union, said Bono's meetings would pave the way for a similar meeting in Europe in September where Lesotho would lobby Europeans to buy Basotho products.

Bono's visit was also a springboard for his wife's Product Red brand to be introduced. It involves the sale of specially designed items with distinctive red label or packaging.

"Red is about doing what you enjoy and doing good at the same time," said Bono. "If the group of Eight countries working together cannot make changes in the lives of Basotho, how can they change the rest of Africa?" asked Bono. - Independent Foreign Service

“ Latest AGOA Trade Data currently available on

Click here to view a sector profile of Lesotho’s bilateral trade with the United States, disaggregated by total exports and imports, AGOA exports and GSP exports.

Other regularly updated trade statistics on include: (click each link to view)

  • AGOA-Beneficiary Countries’ AGOA and GSP Trade Aggregates

  • AGOA Trade by Industry Sector

  • Apparel Trade under AGOA’s Wearing Apparel Provisions

  • Latest Apparel Quotas under AGOA

  • Bilateral Trade Data for all AGOA-eligible countries individually.

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