Good morning everybody, both here and those who will be participating virtually, and welcome to this Multi-Sectoral Hybrid Webinar – the first of its kind, at least as far as the Petroleum Fund is concerned! We are delighted that you accepted our invitation to participate in this historic event, and we look forward to meaningful and mutually-beneficial discussions for the day. In particular, I wish to express our gratitude to our panellists for taking the time off their busy schedules, and apply their minds on the topic: The Petroleum Fund at the Helm of Enhancing the Business Sector: Can We Harness the Petroleum Fund as a Resource or Partner in Economic Emancipation? We cannot wait to hear your authoritative views on this subject!
As you are aware, the Energy Sector, within which the Fund operates, has gained increasing significance as one of the enablers to Lesotho’s National Development Goals. This is more so critical as the country continues to grapple with the major challenges of overall economic vulnerability, unemployment, poverty and other inequalities. These are not unique to our country, but are pervasive all over the world. What with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which exacerbated these challenges! It will require “All hands on deck!” to realise recovery and progress!
In March 2020, the Petroleum Fund launched its new Strategic Plan 2020-2025. This Plan has been aligned to the country’s National Development Agenda, as elaborated in the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP II), and the Lesotho Energy Policy 2015-2025. It specifically outlines several strategic activities that are aimed at contributing to the realization of the requirements towards the security of supply of petroleum products. These include ensuring that petroleum products are available and equitably distributed across the country; ensuring wider access to petroleum products and related services to the end-users; creating an enabling environment that will attract investment and financing at all levels of the downstreampetroleum sector value chain. In a word, our Plan also recognises the importance of our active participation in stimulating the country’s economy and creating jobs for our people. Therefore the importance of collaborating with other local development institutions, such as the Business Community, the Financial Sector, the Petroleum Industry, Academia, and others, cannot be overemphasised, if we are to turn the fortunes of our country in the right direction.
I must also not be shy to mention that this engagement comes as a result of the recently concluded work on the Brand Audit and development of the Fund’s Communications Strategy – two seminal pieces of work. As part of executing these assignments, surveys were carried out, on the visibility and general knowledge by the public, about the Petroleum Fund. We scored poorly in both aspects. As a result, a number of initiatives have recently been rolled out in an attempt to improve our image! Our Brand Audit Report and the Communications Strategy are critical communications tools to both our internal and external stakeholders. They empower staff, our partners and the public with fairly adequate information with which the Petroleum Fund, as a public institution can be held accountable.
With the foregoing in mind, we realised that, while we have developed and put in place some very ambitious and pragmatic approaches to meeting the security of supply mandate, while also facilitating growth and development, these ideas of ours had not infused inputs from a lot of other development partners inside the country. As a result, this event could not have come at the right time. As we go forward, we will seek to strengthen linkages and collaborations with all our partners and stakeholders which we are continuing to build. At the same time, we will strive to establish new partnerships and collaborations, especially in key emerging areas relevant to our mandate.
The Fund, on its own, cannot address all the issues affecting the petroleum sector in the country. This requires the concerted efforts of all stakeholders, especially as we all seek to create opportunities for our people and develop our country. My appeal to all of you therefore is that we keep walking together as we all seek to serve this great Nation.
Once again, I welcome you to this event, on behalf of Management and Staff of the Petroleum Fund, and wish everyone fruitful discussions for the day.