This study chronicles the economic history of Basotho business owners in post-colonial Lesotho, from 1966 to 2012. It focuses on their individual and collective entrepreneurial initiatives as they endeavoured to play a significant role in the country s economic development after independence. Using the political economy of Lesotho as a context, the study explored how indigenously-owned business survived in the local economy, notwithstanding a myriad of constraints and marginalisation it faced.
Using archival documents, oral histories and ethnography at the Lesotho Chamber of Commerce and Industry, carried out in 2013, the study documents and utilises the history of Basotho in business to question the dominant post-Second World War development ideology. This ideology prescribed a technical blueprint, which Basotho, like other indigenous people in developing countries, were expected to follow in order to modernise their economies and nurture the perceived lack of entrepreneurial capacity and business acumen, typically found in the West. For the development of indigenously-owned business, technocratic development prioritised the prevalence of various psycho-social entrepreneurial subjectivities and economic rationality, which, according to the model, are indispensable to computational and enthusiastic maximisation of economic gains by and for individuals and national economic development.
After independence, Lesotho embraced the post-Second World War dominant development ideology. Accordingly, it followed the economic models of the developmental state from 1966 to 1986 and neo-liberalism from 1987 to the present, in order to transform the backward and externally dependent country s economy. These models were prescribed by the Bretton Woods Institutions and were shepherded by development experts, mainly economists. In line with William Easterly s conception of development as the tyranny of the experts , the study argues that development discourse and practice concealed a narrative of indigenously-owned business, which contrary to popular misconceptions, demonstrates economic spontaneity, freedom of expression and economic solidarity. Apart from trivialising Basotho s entrepreneurial initiatives, it also perpetuated the classic imperialist thinking that African people lacked the capacity to develop independently and had no history to prove otherwise.
Basotho business owners efforts would have realised better results had it not been for constant violent and strategic suppression by successive governments that used the altruistic-sounding predispositions of development intervention in order to mask their sinister motives of greed, corruption and encouragement of elitism at the expense of the majority of Basotho in business. Nonetheless, Basotho in business did not stand submissively in the margins of the economy. They organised themselves politically and economically through voluntary associations, credit schemes, movements and cooperatives to change their economic fortunes and challenge exclusion and post-colonial governments authoritarianism and lack of democratic benevolence. Basotho business owners economic pursuits exposed the exclusive character of the neo-liberal ethic and political patronage by demonstrating economic pluralism and economic solidary that can inform the creation of inclusive social, political and economic conditions and formations for the marginalised majority in the Global South.