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. MOSISILI returned to power in snap elections in February 2015 after the collapse of THABANE’s coalition government and an alleged attempted military coup.



Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa

Geographic coordinates

29 30 S, 28 30 E

Map references



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

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Maryland

Land boundaries

total: 1,106 km
border countries (1): South Africa 1,106 km


0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)


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


mostly highland with plateaus, hills, and mountains


mean elevation: 2,161 m
elevation extremes: 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

agricultural land: 76.1%
arable land 10.1%; permanent crops 0.1%; permanent pasture 65.9%
forest: 1.5%
other: 22.4% (2011 est.)

Irrigated land

30 sq km (2012)

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

Ethnic groups

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


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 2016 est.)


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


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


Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%

Demographic profile

Lesotho faces great socioeconomic challenges. More than half of its population lives below the property line, and the country’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is the second highest in the world. In addition, Lesotho is a small, mountainous, landlocked country with little arable land, leaving its population vulnerable to food shortages and reliant on remittances. Lesotho’s persistently high infant, child, and maternal mortality rates have been increasing during the last decade, according to the last two Demographic and Health Surveys. Despite these significant shortcomings, Lesotho has made good progress in education; it is on-track to achieve universal primary education and has one of the highest adult literacy rates in Africa.
Lesotho’s migration history is linked to its unique geography; it is surrounded by South Africa with which it shares linguistic and cultural traits. Lesotho at one time had more of its workforce employed outside its borders than any other country. Today remittances equal about 17% of its GDP. With few job options at home, a high rate of poverty, and higher wages available across the border, labor migration to South Africa replaced agriculture as the prevailing Basotho source of income decades ago. The majority of Basotho migrants were single men contracted to work as gold miners in South Africa. However, migration trends changed in the 1990s, and fewer men found mining jobs in South Africa because of declining gold prices, stricter immigration policies, and a preference for South African workers.
Although men still dominate cross-border labor migration, more women are working in South Africa, mostly as domestics, because they are widows or their husbands are unemployed. Internal rural-urban flows have also become more frequent, with more women migrating within the country to take up jobs in the garment industry or moving to care for loved ones with HIV/AIDS. Lesotho’s small population of immigrants is increasingly composed of Taiwanese and Chinese migrants who are involved in the textile industry and small retail businesses.

Age structure

0-14 years: 32.4% (male 317,933/female 314,849)
15-24 years: 19.56% (male 181,907/female 200,113)
25-54 years: 37.58% (male 358,643/female 375,313)
55-64 years: 5% (male 52,016/female 45,549)
65 years and over: 5.47% (male 54,466/female 52,281) (2016 est.)

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 67.3%
youth dependency ratio: 60.3%
elderly dependency ratio: 6.9%
potential support ratio: 14.4% (2015 est.)

Median age

total: 24 years
male: 24 years
female: 24 years (2016 est.)

Population growth rate

0.3% (2016 est.)

Birth rate

25.1 births/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Death rate

14.9 deaths/1,000 population (2016 est.)

Net migration rate

-7.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2016 est.)


urban population: 27.3% of total population (2015)
rate of urbanization: 3.05% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas - population

MASERU (capital) 267,000 (2014)

Sex ratio

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: 1.14 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.03 male(s)/female
total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2016 est.)

Maternal mortality rate

487 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.)

Infant mortality rate

total: 47.6 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 51.2 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 43.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2016 est.)

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 53 years
male: 52.9 years
female: 53.1 years (2016 est.)

Total fertility rate

2.68 children born/woman (2016 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

47% (2009/10)

Health expenditures

10.6% of GDP (2014)

Hospital bed density

1.3 beds/1,000 population (2006)

Drinking water source

urban: 94.6% of population
rural: 77% of population
total: 81.8% of population
urban: 5.4% of population
rural: 23% of population
total: 18.2% of population (2015 est.)

Sanitation facility access

urban: 37.3% of population
rural: 27.6% of population
total: 30.3% of population
urban: 62.7% of population
rural: 72.4% of population
total: 69.7% of population (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate

22.73% (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

308,100 (2015 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

9,900 (2015 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate

11.9% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight

10.3% (2014)

Education expenditures

13% of GDP (2008)


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 79.4%
male: 70.1%
female: 88.3% (2015 est.)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 11 years
male: 10 years
female: 11 years (2014)

Mother's mean age at first birth

note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2014 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 34.4%
male: 29%
female: 41.9% (2013 est.)


Country name

conventional long form: Kingdom of Lesotho
conventional short form: Lesotho
local long form: Kingdom of Lesotho
local short form: Lesotho
former: Basutoland
etymology: the name translates as "Land of the Sesotho speakers"

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 several times, last in 2011 (2016)

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


citizenship by birth: yes
citizenship by descent: yes
dual citizenship recognized: no
residency requirement for naturalization: 5 years


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 Pakalitha MOSISILI (since 18 March 2015)
cabinet: Cabinet
elections/appointments: 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, to determine next in line of succession, or to serve as regent in the event that a successor is not of mature age; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or majority coalition in the Assembly automatically becomes prime minister

Legislative branch

description: bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (33 seats; 22 principal chiefs and 11 other senators nominated by the king with the advice of the Council of State, a 13-member body of key government and non-government officials; members serve 5-year terms) and the National Assembly (120 seats; 80 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 40 directly elected in single-seat constituencies by proportional representation vote; members serve 5-year terms)
elections: last held on 28 February 2015 (next to be held in 2020)
election results: National Assembly - percent of vote by party - DC 38.4%, ABC 37.8%, LCD, 9.9%, BNP 5.5%, PFD 1.7%, RCL 1.2%, NIP 1.0%, MFP 0.6%, BCP 0.5%, LPC 0.3%, other 3.1%; seats by party - DC 47, ABC 46, LCD 12, BNP 7, PFD 2, RCL 2, NIP 1, MFP 1, BCP 1, LPC 1

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; military courts

Political parties and leaders

All Basotho Convention or ABC [Motsoahae Thomas THABANE]
Basotho Congress Party or BCP [Thulo MAHLAKENG]
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 [Molahlehi LETLOTLO]
Marematlou Freedom Party or MFP [Vincent MALEBO]
National Independent Party or NIP [Kimetso MATHABA]
Popular Front for Democracy of PFD [Lekhetho RAKUOANE]
Reformed Congress of Lesotho or RCL [Keketso RANTSO]

Political pressure groups and leaders

Media Institute of Southern Africa, Lesotho chapter [Tsebo MAT�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 Matthew T. HARRINGTON (since October 2014)
embassy: 254 Kingsway Road, Maseru West (Consular Section)
mailing address: P.O. Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho
telephone: [266] 22 312 666
FAX: [266] 22 310 116

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)

mokorotio (Basotho hat); national colors: blue, white, green, black

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; music derives from an 1823 Swiss songbook


Economy - overview

Small, mountainous, and completely landlocked by South Africa, Lesotho depends on a narrow economic base of textile manufacturing, agriculture, remittances, and regional customs revenue. About three-fourths of the people live in rural areas and engage in

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

The government maintains a large presence in the economy - government consumption accounted for 27% of GDP in 2016 and the government remains Lesotho's largest employer. Access to credit remains a problem for the private sector. Lesotho's largest private

GDP (purchasing power parity)

$6.019 billion (2016 est.)
$5.878 billion (2015 est.)
$5.717 billion (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$1.806 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate

2.4% (2016 est.)
2.8% (2015 est.)
3.4% (2014 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP)

$3,100 (2016 est.)
$3,000 (2015 est.)
$3,000 (2014 est.)
note: data are in 2016 dollars

Gross national saving

27.8% of GDP (2016 est.)
24.1% of GDP (2015 est.)
23.4% of GDP (2014 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 70.4%
government consumption: 27.2%
investment in fixed capital: 30.2%
investment in inventories: -1.6%
exports of goods and services: 40.9%
imports of goods and services: -67.1% (2016 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 7.3%
industry: 31.1%
services: 61.5% (2016 est.)

Agriculture - products

corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock


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

Industrial production growth rate

0.7% (2016 est.)

Labor force

919,900 (2016 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

28.1% (2014 est.)
25% (2008 est.)

Population below poverty line

57.1% (2010 est.)

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: $835.9 million
expenditures: $978.3 million (2016 est.)

Taxes and other revenues

46.3% of GDP (2016 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-)

-7.9% of GDP (2016 est.)

Public debt

53.4% of GDP (2015 est.)
47.8% of GDP (2014)

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

8.3% (2016 est.)
3.2% (2015 est.)

Central bank discount rate

6.75% (2 February 2016)
6.25% (31 December 2015)

Commercial bank prime lending rate

12.3% (31 December 2016 est.)
10.59% (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of narrow money

$342.3 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$340.6 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of broad money

$535.4 million (31 December 2015 est.)
$569.1 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of domestic credit

$71.01 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$47.8 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Current account balance

-$144 million (2016 est.)
-$178 million (2015 est.)


$851.6 million (2016 est.)
$844.1 million (2015 est.)

Exports - commodities

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


$1.688 billion (2016 est.)
$1.737 billion (2015 est.)

Imports - commodities

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

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$812.5 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$904.2 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Debt - external

$948.8 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$866.7 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home

$438.2 million (31 December 2016 est.)
$376.2 million (31 December 2015 est.)

Exchange rates

maloti (LSL) per US dollar -
16.15 (2016 est.)
12.76 (2015 est.)
12.76 (2014 est.)
10.85 (2013 est.)
8.2 (2012 est.)


Electricity - access

population without electricity: 1,700,000
electrification - total population: 17%
electrification - urban areas: 43%
electrification - rural areas: 8% (2013)

Electricity - production

500 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - consumption

800 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - exports

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports

300 million kWh (2014 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity

80,000 kW (2014 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants

100% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production

0 bbl/day (2015 est.)

Crude oil - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - imports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves

0 bbl (1 January 2016 es)

Refined petroleum products - production

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption

5,000 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports

0 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports

5,121 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Natural gas - production

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves

0 cu m (1 January 2014 es)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy

300,000 Mt (2013 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 45,364
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 2 (July 2015 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular

total: 2.237 million
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 115 (July 2015 est.)

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 now over 110 per 100 persons
international: country code - 266; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2015)

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 users

total: 313,000
percent of population: 16.1% (July 2015 est.)


Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

7P (2016)


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)


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

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

Military expenditures

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

Military - note

Lesotho's declared policy for its military is the maintenance of the country's sovereignty and the preservation of internal security; in practice, external security is guaranteed by South Africa

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; in Lesotho and South Africa, Basotho women and children are subjected to domestic servitude, and Basotho children increasingly endure commercial sexual exploitation; 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; foreign nationals continue to traffic fellow citizens in Lesotho
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; in 2014, Lesotho was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented would constitute making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; the government failed to initiate any prosecutions against alleged traffickers and has not convicted any offenders under the 2011 anti-trafficking act, which remains unimplemented for a fifth year; authorities did not develop formal victim identification and referral procedures, did not establish victim care centers, as required under the 2011 anti-trafficking act, and did not support NGOs offering victims protective services (2015)