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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

Area 142/257

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:

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)

Total renewable water resources

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%,


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


Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%

Population 150/238


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 2015 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 32.67% (male 319,592/female 316,672)

15-24 years: 19.73% (male 182,697/female 201,510)

25-54 years: 37.2% (male 354,193/female 370,287)

55-64 years: 4.98% (male 51,693/female 45,234)

65 years and over: 5.43% (male 53,706/female 52,117) (2015 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: 23.8 years

male: 23.8 years

female: 23.8 years (2015 est.)

Population growth rate 172/233

0.32% (2015 est.)

Birth rate 49/224

25.47 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Death rate 1/225

14.89 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)

Net migration rate 205/222

-7.36 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2015 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 (2015 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth


note: median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2009 est.)

Maternal mortality rate 12/184

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

Infant mortality rate 37/224

total: 49.03 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 52.82 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 45.13 deaths/1,000 live births (2015 est.)

Life expectancy at birth 215/224

total population: 52.86 years

male: 52.76 years

female: 52.97 years (2015 est.)

Total fertility rate 69/224

2.72 children born/woman (2015 est.)

Contraceptive prevalence rate

47% (2009/10)

Health expenditures 10/191

11.5% of GDP (2013)

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

23.39% (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS

314,600 (2014 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths

9,300 (2014 est.)

Obesity - adult prevalence rate 120/191

11.9% (2014)

Children under the age of 5 years underweight 54/138

13.5% (2010)

Education expenditures 1/173

13% of GDP (2008)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 11 years

male: 11 years

female: 12 years (2012)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24 18/134

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 traslates 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 2004 (2015)

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; Courts Martial

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


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 animal herding and subsistence agriculture, although Lesotho produces less than 20% of the nation's demand for food. Rain-fed agriculture is vulnerable to weather and climate variability. 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. Lesotho is a member of the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), and revenues from SACU accounted for roughly 44% of total government revenue in 2014. 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 37% of GDP in 2014 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.

GDP (purchasing power parity) 170/230

$5.777 billion (2015 est.)

$5.63 billion (2014 est.)

$5.442 billion (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2.035 billion (2015 est.)

GDP - real growth rate 118/225

2.6% (2015 est.)

3.4% (2014 est.)

3.6% (2013 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP) 189/230

$3,000 (2015 est.)

$2,900 (2014 est.)

$2,800 (2013 est.)

note: data are in 2015 US dollars

Gross national saving 37/179

26.9% of GDP (2015 est.)

24.8% of GDP (2014 est.)

24.4% of GDP (2013 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 79.7%

government consumption: 32%

investment in fixed capital: 29.6%

investment in inventories: -3.9%

exports of goods and services: 39%

imports of goods and services: -76.4%

(2015 est.)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 5.2%

industry: 28.3%

services: 66.5% (2012 est.)

Agriculture - products

corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock


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

Industrial production growth rate 152/202

0.8% (2015 est.)

Labor force 149/233

899,100 (2015 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 184/207

28.1% (2014 est.)

25% (2008 est.)

Population below poverty line

49% (1999 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1%

highest 10%: 39.4% (2003)

Distribution of family income - Gini index 1/144

63.2 (1995)

56 (1986-87)


revenues: $1.161 billion

expenditures: $1.256 billion (2015 est.)

Taxes and other revenues 8/219

57% of GDP (2015 est.)

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-) 163/220

-4.7% of GDP (2015 est.)

Public debt


Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Inflation rate (consumer prices) 149/226

3.9% (2015 est.)

3.8% (2014 est.)

Central bank discount rate 27/156

9.36% (31 December 2012)

10% (31 December 2010)

Commercial bank prime lending rate 80/184

10.5% (31 December 2015 est.)

10.34% (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of narrow money 172/192

$332.8 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$353.7 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Stock of broad money 172/193

$942.6 million (31 December 2014 est.)

$825.7 million (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of domestic credit 187/191

$14.06 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$14.77 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Current account balance 72/197

-$128 million (2015 est.)

-$176 million (2014 est.)

Exports 167/224

$786.7 million (2015 est.)

$815 million (2014 est.)

Exports - commodities

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

Imports 168/223

$1.671 billion (2015 est.)

$1.837 billion (2014 est.)

Imports - commodities

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

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold 131/170

$980.8 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$1.071 billion (31 December 2014 est.)

Debt - external 167/206

$900.4 million (31 December 2014 est.)

$885.2 million (31 December 2013 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment - at home 115/120

$427.4 million (31 December 2015 est.)

$370.6 million (31 December 2014 est.)

Exchange rates

maloti (LSL) per US dollar -

12.58 (2015 est.)

10.85 (2014 est.)

10.85 (2013 est.)

8.2 (2012 est.)

7.26 (2011 est.)


Electricity - production 162/220

486 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - consumption 164/219

707 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - exports 162/218

0 kWh (2013 est.)

Electricity - imports 85/219

255 million kWh (2012 est.)

Electricity - installed generating capacity 180/214

80,000 kW (2012 est.)

Electricity - from fossil fuels 214/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from nuclear fuels 130/214

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from hydroelectric plants 1/214

100% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Electricity - from other renewable sources 195/212

0% of total installed capacity (2012 est.)

Crude oil - production 159/214

0 bbl/day (2014 est.)

Crude oil - exports 152/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - imports 87/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Crude oil - proved reserves 158/215

0 bbl (1 January 2015 est.)

Refined petroleum products - production 203/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - consumption 192/212

1,600 bbl/day (2013 est.)

Refined petroleum products - exports 196/214

0 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Refined petroleum products - imports 187/213

1,553 bbl/day (2012 est.)

Natural gas - production 214/216

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - consumption 165/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - exports 136/215

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - imports 93/214

0 cu m (2013 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves 162/212

0 cu m (1 January 2014 est.)

Carbon dioxide emissions from consumption of energy 191/212

270,100 Mt (2012 est.)


Telephones - fixed lines 161/219

total subscriptions: 51,200

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 3 (2014 est.)

Telephones - mobile cellular 151/217

total: 2.1 million

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 110 (2014 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 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)

Radio broadcast stations

AM 1, FM 3, shortwave 1 (2007)

Television broadcast stations

1 (2007)

Internet country code


Internet hosts 131/232

11,030 (2012)

Internet users 169/217

total: 102,000

percent of population: 5.3% (2014 est.)


Airports 132/236

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 151/223

total: 5,940 km

paved: 1,069 km

unpaved: 4,871 km (2011)

Military and Security

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 43/132

1.94% of GDP (2012)

2.3% of GDP (2011)

1.94% of GDP (2010)

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