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National Day  4 October

Her Excellency Ms ‘Mahlompho Mokaeane
High Commissioner
High Commission of the Kingdom ot Lesotho
7 Chesham Place
London SW1X 8HN
T: 020 7235 5686
F: 020 7235 5023
E: hicom@lesotholondon.org.uk
E: lesotholondon@gmail.com

“COMING FROM A POOR, rural background, development issues are what really drives me,” states Lesotho’s new High Commissioner Ms ‘Mahlompho Mokaeane. “Lesotho has a 27 per cent youth unemployment rate,” she continues. “I have a huge mandate to see that people back home have opportunities to get to where I am – or at the very least, have their basic needs seen to.”

Ms Mokaeane arrived in London back in April, together with her husband (also a diplomat) and their three daughters. She’s been amazed to observe the capital’s infrastructure and services – “especially the transport system. It’s quite inspiring to see such facilities.” This interest also stems from studying urban planning at university. “Growing up in a place with a lack of services and infrastructure really bothered me,” she says. “So, in order to implement change, I became involved in student politics, becoming one the few females to be elected to join the Student Representative Council.” As President of the Youth League, her love of politics and leadership blossomed, and she “saw that when you are in power, you can really influence decision-making.” Her career developed from there; she joined the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, and immediately became active in rural development issues at constituency level.

The most memorable day of her career came in February 2007, when she was elected to the National Assembly as the youngest member of parliament. “Aged 26 and a lady, people were shocked, but it was quite exciting!” she exclaims. “In those days in Africa, we were still struggling with gender equality. At the time, it was a huge achievement.”  Ms Mokaeane was then elected to represent her country in the pan-African Parliament. “In continental politics, I started to realise that we could learn from other countries, helping us to draft policies.”

After spending some time back home with her constituents working on developmental projects, she became Secretary General of the Woman’s League. This involved “working closely with women, trying to overcome the challenges of our huge rural population.” With her party back in government, she returned to Parliament as Senator in 2015, when she was nominated to Cabinet as Deputy Minister of Gender and Youth, Sport and Recreation. “I’d been a youth activist for quite some time and went on to pioneer the first ever youth policy (2017-2030) for my country.”

Reflecting on her career so far, Ms Mokaeane says her experiences have allowed her to appreciate the challenges facing her country and to understand Lesotho’s goals for the future. She believes her work has provided an opportunity to learn what is going on in Lesotho “from the grassroots up to national level.” Coming into international politics, she considers that “it has been a learning curve to appreciate where Lesotho stands on the global stage. But now as a diplomat, I must get some international exposure, meeting other countries, working with the Commonwealth and the UN. But most of all, I must provide some solutions.”

As High Commissioner, Ms Mokaeane “must first reinforce the bilateral relationship with the UK. She’s encouraged that the UK has just reopened the High Commission back home. I was pleased to meet High Commissioner Anne Macro before her departure.”

Secondly, she’s learning how best to explore business and investment opportunities that she can take back home. “Trade is essential to help Lesotho to develop. I’m excited to learn that post-Brexit, the UK will reinforce relationships with the Commonwealth countries. Lesotho will benefit through trading directly with the UK. Furthermore,” she says, “Lesotho is part of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and I’ve learnt that the UK would like to work directly with SACU. But whichever way the UK decides to go in terms of Brexit, we are optimistic to explore potential opportunities.”

In London, Ms Mokaeane has been able to observe first-hand the effectiveness of career diplomats. “I think that it’s high-time that we have career diplomats in Lesotho. My country is currently reforming its Constitution, but we should reform the diplomatic sector too – there will be more continuity, and it will really help with trade and investment opportunities, as well as bilateral and multilateral relationships.”

Ms Mokaeane is clearly passionate about her work: “What inspires me most is the desire to see Lesotho be a developed country.” As lofty as her ambitions may be, and despite her success, the High Commissioner’s feet remain firmly on the ground. Some of her favourite times have been spent with her local women’s groups, “just singing songs, and teaching each other how best we can work and raise our families.”

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