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Lesotho country facts

Kingdom of Lesotho Africa Maseru 1,942,008 inhabitants 30,355 sq km 63.98 inhabitants/sq km maloti (LSL) population evolution



Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. The Basuto National Party ruled the country during its first two decades. King MOSHOESHOE was exiled in 1990, but returned to Lesotho in 1992 and was reinstated in 1995 and subsequently succeeded by his son, King LETSIE III, in 1996. Constitutional government was restored in 1993 after seven years of military rule. In 1998, violent protests and a military mutiny following a contentious election prompted a brief but bloody intervention by South African and Batswana military forces under the aegis of the Southern African Development Community. Subsequent constitutional reforms restored relative political stability. Peaceful parliamentary elections were held in 2002, but the National Assembly elections of February 2007 were hotly contested and aggrieved parties disputed how the electoral law was applied to award proportional seats in the Assembly. In May 2012, competitive elections involving 18 parties saw Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas THABANE form a coalition government - the first in the country's history - that ousted the 14-year incumbent, Pakalitha MOSISILI, who peacefully transferred power the following month.



Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa

Geographic coordinates

29 30 S, 28 30 E

Area (sq km)

total: 30,355 sq km
land: 30,355 sq km
water: 0 sq km

Area - comparative (sq km)

slightly smaller than Maryland

Land boundaries (km)

total: 909 km
border countries: South Africa 909 km

Coastline (km)

0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)


temperate; cool to cold, dry winters; hot, wet summers


mostly highland with plateaus, hills, and mountains

Elevation extremes (m)

lowest point: junction of the Orange and Makhaleng Rivers 1,400 m
highest point: Thabana Ntlenyana 3,482 m

Natural resources

water, agricultural and grazing land, diamonds, sand, clay, building stone

Land use (%)

arable land: 10.14%
permanent crops: 0.13%
other: 89.72% (2011)

Irrigated land (sq km)

26.37 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources (cu km)

3.02 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural) ()

total: 0.04 cu km/yr (46%/46%/9%)
per capita: 21.79 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural hazards

periodic droughts

Environment - current issues

population pressure forcing settlement in marginal areas results in overgrazing, severe soil erosion, and soil exhaustion; desertification; Highlands Water Project controls, stores, and redirects water to South Africa

Environment - international agreements

party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography - note

landlocked, completely surrounded by South Africa; mountainous, more than 80% of the country is 1,800 m above sea level

People and Society


noun: Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural)
adjective: Basotho

Ethnic groups (%)

Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%,

Languages (%)

Sesotho (official) (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa

Religions (%)

Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%


note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality, higher death rates, lower population growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2014 est.)   evolution and prospects (1950-2100)

Age structure (%)

0-14 years: 32.9% (male 321,017/female 318,265)
15-24 years: 19.9% (male 184,006/female 203,336)
25-54 years: 36.8% (male 349,365/female 364,970)
55-64 years: 4.9% (male 51,274/female 44,847)
65 years and over: 5.4% (male 52,955/female 51,973) (2014 est.)

Age structure in Lesotho

Median age (years)

total: 23.6 years
male: 23.6 years
female: 23.6 years (2014 est.)

Population growth rate (%)

0.34% (2014 est.)

Birth rate (births/1,000 population)

25.92 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)

Death rate (deaths/1,000 population)

14.91 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)

Net migration rate (migrant(s)/1,000 population)

-7.62 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)

Urbanization (%)

urban population: 27.6% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 3.57% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

MASERU (capital) 239,000 (2011)

Sex ratio (male(s)/female)

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 0.91 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 0.96 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.99 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2014 est.)

Maternal mortality rate (deaths/100,000 live births)

620 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)

Infant mortality rate (deaths/1,000 live births)

total: 50.48 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 54.38 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 46.45 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)

Life expectancy at birth (years)

total population: 52.65 years
male: 52.55 years
female: 52.75 years (2014 est.)

Total fertility rate (children born/woman)

2.78 children born/woman (2014 est.)

Health expenditures (% of GDP)

12.8% of GDP (2011)

Physicians density (physicians/1,000 population)

0.05 physicians/1,000 population (2003)

Hospital bed density (beds/1,000 population)

1.3 beds/1,000 population (2006)

Drinking water source (% of population)

improved: urban: 93.2% of population
rural: 76.7% of population
total: 81.3% of population
unimproved: urban: 6.8% of population
rural: 23.3% of population
total: 18.7% of population (2012 est.)

Sanitation facility access (% of population)

improved: urban: 37% of population
rural: 26.7% of population
total: 29.6% of population
unimproved: urban: 63% of population
rural: 73.3% of population
total: 70.4% of population (2012 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate (%)

23.1% (2012 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

358,700 (2012 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

15,500 (2012 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate (%)

14.6% (2008)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight (%)

13.5% (2010)

Education expenditures (% of GDP)

13% of GDP (2008)

Literacy (%)

definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 89.6%
male: 83.3%
female: 95.6% (2010 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education) (years)

total: 11 years
male: 11 years
female: 12 years (2012)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 (%)

total: 34.4%
male: 29%
female: 41.9% (2008)


Country name

conventional long form: Kingdom of Lesotho
conventional short form: Lesotho
local long form: Kingdom of Lesotho
local short form: Lesotho
former: Basutoland

Government type

parliamentary constitutional monarchy


name: Maseru
geographic coordinates: 29 19 S, 27 29 E
time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

Administrative divisions

10 districts; Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohale's Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha's Nek, Quthing, Thaba-Tseka


4 October 1966 (from the UK)

National holiday

Independence Day, 4 October (1966)


previous 1959, 1967; latest adopted 2 April 1993 (effectively restoring the 1967 version); amended 2001 (2013)

Legal system

mixed legal system of English common law and Roman-Dutch law; judicial review of legislative acts in High Court and Court of Appeal

International law organization participation

accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations; accepts ICCt jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: King LETSIE III (since 7 February 1996); note - King LETSIE III formerly occupied the throne from November 1990 to February 1995 while his father was in exile
head of government: Prime Minister Motsoahae Thomas THABANE (since 8 June 2012)
cabinet: Cabinet
elections: the leader of the majority party, or coalition of parties, in the Assembly automatically becomes prime minister; the monarchy is hereditary, but, under the terms of the constitution that came into effect after the March 1993 election, the monarch is a "living symbol of national unity" with no executive or legislative powers; under traditional law, the college of chiefs has the power to depose the monarch, determine next in line of succession or shall serve as regent in the event that the successor is not of mature age

Legislative branch

bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (33 members - 22 principal chiefs and 11 other members appointed by the ruling party) and the Assembly (120 seats, 80 by popular vote and 40 by proportional vote; members elected by popular vote to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held on 26 May 2012 (next to be held in 2017)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - DC 48, ABC 30, LCD 26, BNP 5, PFD 3, NIP 2, other 6

Judicial branch

highest court(s): Court of Appeal (consists of the court president, such number of justices of appeal as set by Parliament, and the Chief Justice and the puisne judges of the High Court ex officio); High Court (consists of the chief justice and such number of puisne judges as set by Parliament); note - both the Court of Appeal and the High Court have jurisdiction in constitutional issues
judge selection and term of office: Court of Appeal president and High Court chief justice appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister; puisne judges appointed by the monarch on advice of the Judicial Service Commission, an independent body of judicial officers and officials designated by the monarch; judges of both courts can serve until age 75
subordinate courts: Magistrate Courts; customary or traditional courts; Courts Martial

Political parties and leaders

Pakalitha Mosisili All Basotho Convention or ABC [Motsoahae Thomas THABANE]
Basotho Batho Democratic Party or BBDP [Geremane RAMATHEBANE]
Basotho Congress Party or BCP [Thulo MAHLAKENG]
Basotho Democratic National Party or BDNP [Thabang NYEOE]
Basotho National Party or BNP [Thesele MASERIBANE]
Democratic Congress or DC [Pakalitha MOSISILI]
Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD [Mothetjoa METSING]
Lesotho Peoples Congress or LPC [Kelebone MAOPE]
Lesotho Workers Party or LWP [Macaefa BILLY]
Marematlou Freedom Party or MFP [Vincent MALEBO]
National Independent Party or NIP [Kimetso MATHABA]

Political pressure groups and leaders

Media Institute of Southern Africa, Lesotho chapter [Tsebo MATÅ ASA] (pushes for media freedom)

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Eliachim Molapi SEBATANE (since 2 November 2011)
chancery: 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 797-5533
FAX: [1] (202) 234-6815

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Carl B. FOX
embassy: 254 Kingsway Road, Maseru West (Consular Section)
mailing address: P. O. Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho
telephone: [266] 22 312666
FAX: [266] 22 310116

Flag description

three horizontal stripes of blue (top), white, and green in the proportions of 3:4:3; the colors represent rain, peace, and prosperity respectively; centered in the white stripe is a black Basotho hat representing the indigenous people; the flag was unfurled in October 2006 to celebrate 40 years of independence

National symbol(s)

Basotho hat

National anthem

name: "Lesotho fatse la bo ntat'a rona" (Lesotho, Land of Our Fathers)
lyrics/music: Francois COILLARD/Ferdinand-Samuel LAUR
note: adopted 1967; the anthem's music derives from an 1823 Swiss songbook


Economy - overview

Small, mountainous, and completely landlocked by South Africa, Lesotho is a least developed country in which about three-fourths of the people live in rural areas and engage in subsistence agriculture. Lesotho produces less than 20% of the nation's demand for food. Rain-fed agriculture is vulnerable to weather and climate variability; an estimated 725,500 people will require food assistance in 2012/13. The distribution of income in Lesotho remains inequitable. Lesotho relies on South Africa for much of its economic activity. Lesotho imports 90% of the goods it consumes from South Africa, including most agricultural inputs. Households depend heavily on remittances from family members working in South Africa, in mines, on farms and as domestic workers, though mining employment has declined substantially since the 1990s. Government revenue depends heavily on transfers from South Africa. Customs duties from the Southern Africa Customs Union accounted for 44% of government revenue in 2012. The South African Government also pays royalties for water transferred to South Africa from a dam and reservoir system in Lesotho. However, the government continues to strengthen its tax system to reduce dependency on customs duties and other transfers. Access to credit remains a problem for the private sector. The government maintains a large presence in the economy - government consumption accounted for 39% of GDP in 2013 and the government remains Lesotho's largest employer. Lesotho's largest private employer is the textile and garment industry - approximately 36,000 Basotho, mainly women, work in factories producing garments for export to South Africa and the US. Diamond mining in Lesotho has grown in recent years and may contribute 8.5% to GDP by 2015, according to current forecasts. Lesotho's $362.5 million Millennium Challenge Account Compact, which focused on strengthening the healthcare system, developing the private sector, and providing access to improved water supplies and sanitation facilities, will end in September 2013. Despite the 2008/09 global economic crisis, the economy has had strong, but declining growth since 2010.

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$4.265 billion (2013 est.)
$4.096 billion (2012 est.)
$3.918 billion (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2.457 billion (2013 est.)

GDP - real growth rate (%)

4.1% (2013 est.)
4.5% (2012 est.)
5.7% (2011 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$2,200 (2013 est.)
$2,200 (2012 est.)
$2,100 (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars

GDP - composition, by sector of origin (%)

agriculture: 7.4%
industry: 34.5%
services: 58.2% (2013 est.)

Labor force

874,200 (2013 est.)

Labor force - by occupation (%)

agriculture: 86%
industry and services: 14%
note: most of the resident population is engaged in subsistence agriculture; roughly 35% of the active male wage earners work in South Africa (2002 est.)

Unemployment rate (%)

25% (2008 est.)
45% (2002 est.)

Population below poverty line (%)

49% (1999)

Household income or consumption by percentage share (%)

lowest 10%: 1%
highest 10%: 39.4% (2003)

Distribution of family income - Gini index

63.2 (1995)
56 (1986-87)


revenues: $1.462 billion
expenditures: $1.483 billion (2013 est.)

Taxes and other revenues (% of GDP)

59.5% of GDP (2013 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) (% of GDP)

-0.9% of GDP (2013 est.)

Public debt (% of GDP)


Inflation rate (consumer prices) (%)

5% (2013 est.)
6.1% (2012 est.)

Central bank discount rate (%)

9.36% (31 December 2012 est.)
10% (31 December 2010 est.)

Commercial bank prime lending rate (%)

10% (31 December 2013 est.)
10.12% (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$425.1 million (31 December 2013 est.)
$408.9 million (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of broad money

$903.4 million (31 December 2013 est.)
$840.9 million (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$85,420 (31 December 2013 est.)
$75,280 (31 December 2012 est.)

Agriculture - products

corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock


food, beverages, textiles, apparel assembly, handicrafts, construction, tourism

Industrial production growth rate (%)

4.3% (2013 est.)

Current account balance

-$518.4 million (2013 est.)
-$587.4 million (2012 est.)


$941.2 million (2013 est.)
$972.4 million (2012 est.)

Exports - commodities (%)

manufactures (clothing, footwear), wool and mohair, food and live animals, electricity, water, diamonds


$2.148 billion (2013 est.)
$2.239 billion (2012 est.)

Imports - commodities (%)

food; building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum products

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$857.9 million (31 December 2013 est.)
$749.4 million (31 December 2012 est.)

External debt ($)

$794 million (31 December 2013 est.)
$779.8 million (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home

$635.7 million (31 December 2013 est.)
$398 million (31 December 2012 est.)

Exchange rates

Currency converter
maloti (LSL) per US dollar -
9.575 (2013 est.)
8.2 (2012 est.)
7.32 (2010 est.)
8.47 (2009)
7.75 (2008)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March


Electricity - production (kWh)

200 million kWh (2010 est.)

Electricity - consumption (kWh)

307 million kWh (2010 est.)

Electricity - exports (kWh)

0 kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - imports (kWh)

247 million kWh (2011 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity (kW)

76,000 kW (2010 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels (% of total installed capacity)

0% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels (% of total installed capacity)

0% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants (% of total installed capacity)

100% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources (% of total installed capacity)

0% of total installed capacity (2010 est.)

Crude oil - production (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - exports (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Crude oil - imports (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves (bbl)

0 bbl (1 January 2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption (bbl/day)

1,777 bbl/day (2011 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports (bbl/day)

0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports (bbl/day)

3,711 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Natural gas - production (cu m)

0 cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - consumption (cu m)

0 cu m (2010 est.)

Natural gas - exports (cu m)

0 cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - imports (cu m)

0 cu m (2011 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves (cu m)

0 cu m (1 January 2013 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy (Mt)

445,600 Mt (2011 est.)


Telephones - main lines in use

43,100 (2012)

Telephones - mobile cellular

1.312 million (2012)

Telephone system

general assessment: rudimentary system consisting of a modest number of landlines, a small microwave radio relay system, and a small radiotelephone communication system; mobile-cellular telephone system is expanding
domestic: privatized in 2001, Telecom Lesotho was tasked with providing an additional 50,000 fixed-line connections within five years, a target not met; mobile-cellular service dominates the market and is expanding with a subscribership roughly 65 per 100 persons in 2011; rural services are scant
international: country code - 266; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2011)

Broadcast media

1 state-owned TV station and 2 state-owned radio stations; government controls most private broadcast media; satellite TV subscription service available; transmissions of multiple international broadcasters obtainable (2008)

Internet country code


Internet hosts

11,030 (2012)

Internet users

76,800 (2009)



24 (2013)

Airports - with paved runways

total: 3
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2013)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 21
914 to 1,523 m: 5
under 914 m: 16 (2013)

Roadways (km)

total: 5,940 km
paved: 1,069 km
unpaved: 4,871 km (2011)


Military branches

Lesotho Defense Force (LDF): Army (includes Air Wing) (2012)

Military service age and obligation (years of age)

18-24 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription; women serve as commissioned officers (2012)

Manpower available for military service

males age 16-49: 472,456
females age 16-49: 508,953 (2010 est.)

Manpower fit for military service

males age 16-49: 270,184
females age 16-49: 275,734 (2010 est.)

Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually

male: 19,110
female: 20,037 (2010 est.)

Military expenditures (% of GDP)

1.94% of GDP (2012)
2.3% of GDP (2011)
1.94% of GDP (2010)

Military - note

Lesotho's declared policy is maintenance of its independent sovereignty and preservation of internal security; in practice, external security is guaranteed by South Africa; restructuring of the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) and Ministry of Defense and Public Service over the past five years has focused on subordinating the defense apparatus to civilian control and restoring the LDF's cohesion; the restructuring has considerably improved capabilities and professionalism, but the LDF is disproportionately large for a small, poor country; the government has outlined a reduction to a planned 1,500-man strength, but these plans have met with vociferous resistance from the political opposition and from inside the LDF (2008)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

South Africa has placed military units to assist police operations along the border of Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique to control smuggling, poaching, and illegal migration

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Lesotho is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking and for men subjected to forced labor; Basotho women and children are subjected to domestic servitude and children, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation within Lesotho and South Africa; some Basotho women willingly migrate to South Africa seeking work in domestic service only to be forced into prostitution; some Basotho men who voluntarily migrate to South Africa for work become victims of forced labor in agriculture and mining or are coerced into committing crimes
tier rating: Tier 2 Watch List - Lesotho does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; the government has decreased its anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim protection efforts during 2012; authorities have initiated fewer prosecutions, ceased arresting suspected trafficking offenders due to a backlog of prosecutions, and stopped referring victims to NGO centers for care; the government has not implemented key portions of the 2011 anti-trafficking act, including failing to develop formal referral procedures, establish victim care centers, and complete a national action plan (2013)

Largest cities of Lesotho

These are the 50 largest cities of Lesotho ordered based on their number of inhabitants.

# City Population
1 Maseru 194,387
2 Hlotse 46,416
3 Mafeteng 40,591
4 Teyateyaneng 25,149
5 Quthing 17,073
6 Mokhotlong 5,484