He established Matekane Group of Companies in 1986 as Matekane Transport and Plant Hire. It evolved into a multi-sector corporation embodying aviation, property development, mining, logistics supply chain, hospitality, farming, and aviation. He is the founder of Maluti Sky airline, which offers scheduled and charter flights. The airline was founded in 2009 as MGC Airlines, becoming the first privately owned airline in Lesotho.
African Leadership Magazine interviews Sam Matakane the African Business Leadership Awards – ABLA 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner SAM MATEKANE is the Group Chairman, Matekane Group of Companies, Lesotho:
As an entrepreneur and a leading business magnate in Lesotho, you established Matekane Group of Companies in 1986. Kindly tell us about your entrepreneurial journey.
Every man and woman has a dream, and I am living proof that it is all possible. I started off as a herdboy, looking after livestock. As I grew older, I ventured into car mechanics before getting into transport and logistics. From thereon, diversification of interests took me into aviation, mining, hospitality, pharmaceuticals and corporate investment. Like most business pursuits, I have had my fair share of losses and setbacks but, perhaps, my grit and tenacity have always been at hand to motivate and inspire me.
What are some of your proudest achievements in business?
A boy from the rural mountains of Lesotho having commercial airline is quite a big deal for me. But I must say signing my first cheque of 1million was quite exciting and life changing for me, especially back in the days when a million was a huge amount and a show of success. The Forbes Award was breathtaking! And now, accepting this Lifetime Achievement Award is also a momentous occasion and somewhat deals my business career perfectly.
You are also known for your philanthropy. Kindly tell us about your CSR programs and other investments to empower and improve the lives of people.
In business, you can’t succeed if you do not give back and empower others to find and pursue opportunities. The Sam Matekane Foundation was created for this purpose. Our core mission is investing in people by empowering them to bring great ideas to fruition through innovative, inspirational, and inclusive problem-solving.
As a result, we have managed to set up numerous co-operatives across the country with the aim of resolving urgent problems in critical sectors of our economy – agriculture, education, and health.
And speaking of the health sector, our interventions, when COVID-19 struck Lesotho, managed to save many lives. We mobilized hospital equipment and medicines, and more recently, we have been assisting in the procurement of vaccines for the country. For more on my CSI projects, please visit www.sammatekanefoundation.org.ls
You recently entered the political landscape and running for Prime Minister’s Office of Lesotho. What informed your decision and what would you do differently?
As I said, when we launched our party: no one can dispute that our country is quickly heading for an abyss where it will be completely destroyed. If we don’t take action now, our country will become a failed state. We don’t want this for Lesotho.
Current national circumstances, characterized by many years of public mismanagement have necessarily compelled me to step into the political arena and attempt to resolve the issues plaguing our nation. A sacrifice had to be made.
Most people do not realise that I have put my legacy and empire at risk by taking this step. Our country was soon to become a failed state and we have to stop that from happening.
Once in power, we will focus on good governance, rule of law, respect for human rights and attracting investment into the country.
What is your take on the African business environment and how do you intend to continue to achieve maximally for your country and the continent, considering the opportunities with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)?
I am encouraged by the growing interest young people in Lesotho are taking in business. This is the same for many African countries as well.
We have a young, vibrant and energetic population that wants to work; that wants to innovate and create dynamic solutions to our challenges. Sadly, they are hindered by unimaginative public policies which affect the extent to which they can be successful. A lot of politicians have been talking – for many years – about the potential of young people in Africa. It’s now time for decisive action!
AfCTA is proof that when we work together as Africans to resolve common problems, we can achieve a lot. As we roll out AfCTA across the continent, we need to recognise two distinct features that will help us achieve our common aspirations.
This is: (1) the need for people and goods to move freely and (2) the need to emphasise and build entrepreneurial capacities in countries like Lesotho and the rest of Africa. Entrepreneurs are like Warriors in Battle, you can’t win a war without warriors. It is the same in business. You cannot achieve economic growth without entrepreneurs. I know for certain that African Entrepreneurship Warriors are out there and waiting to conquer. Let’s make it happen!
Remember one thing, Lesotho is not poor, it is poorly managed. I have committed my life to ensuring change comes and the time has come!
As a distinguished honouree and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award during the African Business Leadership Awards (ABLA), how do you feel about this additional accolade, and of what significance is it to you?
Firstly, I wish to thank the adjudicators of the African Business Leadership Awards for this recognition, which is quite humbling. I come from a relatively small village called Mantsonyane in Lesotho and this recognition extends far beyond me as an individual; you have recognized and celebrated the achievements of an entire community that shaped the leader I am today.
I feel honoured and seen; thank you.