For a long time I had an infatuation with the idea of taking over the Kingdom of Lesotho and turning it into a ski resort. I spent weeks reading about Lesotho and finding information regarding it. I was very surprised to see that this small African monarchy was actually doing quite well in comparison to many of its other African brethren. It had an 85% literacy rate, almost 100% fresh water and no human rights abuses. Yes, the poverty rate was high but it’s high in all African nations.
Recently I went on holiday to Lesotho. I flew from Cape Town to Bloemfontein (which is a very boring city mind you) and then drove across the border into Lesotho. We were greeted by a delightful, polite and friendly border guard who welcomed us to her country.
This was a nice contrast to the South African border guard who was dull and somewhat rude. We then drove down the long road through Butha-Buthe to our lodge at Oxbow. This was a particularly rural area, even for Lesotho. Probably due to the extreme altitude and cold; ah yes, Lesotho is the highest nation in the world from lowest to highest point, so is understandable freezing.
So we drove down the road which was dotted with settlements and agriculture. The first thing I noticed was that the only crop they grow is maize. A useful crop but with little to no export value whatsoever, besides that the crops were in abundance if you brought the terrain into mind. All flat areas were covered with crops and the residents utilized hills for their housing. Now onto the houses, housing ranged from traditional Maluti huts to what would be called lower-middle class housing in South Africa. We drove past one monster of a mansion in a field of small housing which we guessed belonged to the Governor. Out of all the houses I found the Maluti huts the nicest. They are traditional, cheap and look nice. A small hut can accommodate 3 people while a large one could probably fit up to 15.
So we reached the snow capped Maluti Mountains and settled into the apparent four star Oxbow lodge. Compared to other nation’s accommodation, it was terrible, but after a long day of skiing and being stuck in a blizzard, we were glad to be back and even happier after a long night under seven Lesotho crafted blankets.
So why is Lesotho so poor? It doesn’t have a corrupt government (besides the one Governor maybe), it has the only Ski resort in Africa and it has many crafted traditional items that are very useful and actually look nice. Well, it’s quite hard to do anything when you’re so far from sea level that you can hardly breathe and that 65% of your budget has to go into warmth. Hardly anything thrives in Lesotho. Most parts are practically tundra with no life and just ice and snow. They have one Ski Resort which can only provide jobs for skilled professionals and one diamond mine which is so high up and dangerous to get to that productivity is severely marred.
Lesotho is a wonderful little nation with a friendly people and lovely culture. It is just forced into poverty by location. It’s only exports are tourism and water. The tourism doesn’t do as well as most people would rather travel to Europe to ski but the water trade is practically what keeps them alive. As I said, Lesotho has almost 100% fresh water and as I have tasted it, I would say it is some of the best water I have ever tasted. In fact, Lesotho is the #1 exporter of Water in Africa and sells it to many nations.
So now before I rap this up, a business proposal. Lesotho manufactures two tourist items. The Maluti hats and blankets. The locals sell the hats for R50 (approx $6) and the blankets for R100 (approx $14). I did some research and these items (which are only made in Lesotho) sell from anywhere from $100 to $500 in Europe and America. So if only someone could act as an agent for the crafters, many families would get food on their tables.