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Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. The Basuto National Party ruled for the 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 Botswana 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... See More



 Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa

Geographic Coordinates:

 29 30 S, 28 30 E


 Total: 30,355 sq km
Land: 30,355 sq km
Water: 0 sq km

Area - Comparative:

 Slightly smaller than Maryland

Land Boundaries:

 Total: 909 km
Border countries: South Africa 909 km


 0 km (landlocked) (Rank: 223)

Maritime Claims:

 None (landlocked)


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


 Mostly highland with plateaus, hills, and mountains

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:

 Arable land: 10.87%
Permanent crops: 0.13%
Other: 89% (2005)

Irrigated Land:

 30 sq km (2008)

Total Renewable Water Resources:

 5.2 cu km (1987)

Freshwater Withdrawal:

 Total: 0.05 cu km/yr (40%/40%/20%)
Per capita: 28 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

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 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%


 1,924,886 (July 2011 est.)

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

Age Structure:

 0-14 years: 33.5% (male 323,934/female 321,727)
15-64 years: 61.1% (male 573,773/female 602,443)
65 years and over: 5.4% (male 50,956/female 52,053) (2011 est.)

Median Age:

 Total: 22.9 years
Male: 22.8 years
Female: 22.9 years (2011 est.)

Population Growth Rate:

 0.332% (2011 est.)

Birth Rate:

 26.93 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)

Death Rate:

 15.19 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)

Net Migration Rate:

 -8.42 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)


 Urban population: 27% of total population (2010)
Rate of urbanization: 3.4% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major Cities - Population:

 MASERU (capital) 220,000 (2009)

Sex Ratio:

 At birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
Under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.96 male(s)/female
Total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2011 est.)

Maternal Mortality Rate:

 530 deaths/100,000 live births (2008)

Infant Mortality Rate:

 Total: 55.04 deaths/1,000 live births
Male: 59.28 deaths/1,000 live births
Female: 50.67 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)

Life Expectancy At Birth:

 Total population: 51.63 years
Male: 51.51 years
Female: 51.76 years (2011 est.)

Total Fertility Rate:

 2.94 children born/woman (2011 est.)

Health Expenditures:

 13.2% of GDP (2009)

Physicians Density:

 0.05 physicians/1,000 population (2003)

Hospital Bed Density:

 1.33 beds/1,000 population (2006)

Drinking Water Source:

 Urban: 97% of population
Rural: 81% of population
Total: 85% of population
Urban: 3% of population
Rural: 19% of population
Total: 15% of population (2008)

Sanitation Facility Access:

 Urban: 40% of population
Rural: 25% of population
Total: 29% of population
Urban: 60% of population
Rural: 75% of population
Total: 71% of population (2008)

HIV/AIDS - Adult Prevalence Rate:

 23.6% (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - People Living With HIV/AIDS:

 290,000 (2009 est.)

HIV/AIDS - Deaths:

 14,000 (2009 est.)

Children Under 5 - Underweight:

 16.6% (2005)

Education Expenditures:

 12.4% of GDP (2008)


 Definition: age 15 and over can read and write
Total population: 84.8%
Male: 74.5%
Female: 94.5% (2003 est.)

Average Years of Schooling:

 Total: 10 years
Male: 10 years
Female: 10 years (2008)

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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)


 April 2, 1993

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 Pakalitha MOSISILI (since 23 May 1998)

Cabinet: Cabinet

Elections: according to the constitution, the leader of the majority party 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 who is next in the line of succession, or who 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 17 February 2007 (next to be held in 2012)

Election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - LCD 61, NIP 21, ABC 17, LWP 10, ACP 4, BNP 3, other 4

Judicial Branch:

 High Court (chief justice appointed by the monarch acting on the advice of the prime minister); Court of Appeal; Magistrate Courts; customary or traditional courts

Political Parties and Leaders:

 Alliance of Congress Parties or ACP (including the Lesotho People's Congress or LCP [Kelebone MAOPE], the Basotholand African Congress or BAC [Khauhelo RALITAPOLE], and a faction of the Basotho Congress Party or BCP [Ntsukunyane MPHANYA]); All Basotho Convention or ABC [Thomas THABANE]; Basotho Batho Democratic Party or BBDP; Basotho Congress Party or BCP; Basotho Democratic National Party or BDNP [Thabang NYEOE]; Basotho National Party or BNP [vacant]; Basotholand African National Congress or BANC; Christian Democratic Party or CDP [Enerst RAMOKOENA]; Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD [Pakalitha MOSISILI] (the governing party); Lesotho Workers Party or LWP [Macaefa BILLY]; National Independent Party or NIP [Anthony MANYELI]

Political Pressure Groups and Leaders:

 Media Institute of Southern Africa, Lesotho chapter [Thabang MATJAMA] (pushes for media freedom)

International Organization Participation:


Diplomatic Representation in the US:

 Chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Molefi Christopher NYAKA
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 Michele T. BOND
Embassy: 254 Kingsway, 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 Symbols:

 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

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Economy - Overview:

 Small, landlocked, and mountainous, Lesotho relies on remittances from Basotho employed in South Africa, customs duties from the Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU), and export revenue for the majority of government revenue. However, the government has recently strengthened its tax system to reduce dependency on customs duties. Completion of a major hydropower facility in January 1998 permitted the sale of water to South Africa and generated royalties for Lesotho. Lesotho produces about 90% of its own electrical power needs. As the number of mineworkers has declined steadily over the past several years, a small manufacturing base has developed based on farm products that support the milling, canning, leather, and jute industries, as well as an apparel-assembly sector. Despite Lesotho's market-based economy being heavily tied to its neighbor South Africa, the US is an important trade partner because of the export sector's heavy dependence on apparel exports. Exports have grown significantly because of the trade benefits contained in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Most of the labor force is engaged in subsistence agriculture, especially livestock herding, although drought has decreased agricultural activity. The extreme inequality in the distribution of income remains a major drawback. Lesotho has signed an Interim Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility with the IMF. In July 2007, Lesotho signed a Millennium Challenge Account Compact with the US worth $362.5 million. Economic growth dropped in 2009, due mainly to the effects of the global economic crisis as demand for the country's exports declined and SACU revenue fell precipitously when South Africa - the primary contributor to the SACU revenue pool - went into recession, but growth returned to 3.5% in 2010.

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity):

 $3.303 billion (2010 est.)
$3.223 billion (2009 est.)
$3.129 billion (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (Official Exchange Rate):

 $2.127 billion (2010 est.)

GDP - Real Growth Rate:

 2.4% (2010 est.)
3% (2009 est.)
4.7% (2008 est.)

GDP - Per Capita (PPP):

 $1,700 (2010 est.)
$1,700 (2009 est.)
$1,600 (2008 est.)

Note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - Composition By Sector:

 Agriculture: 8.4%
Industry: 33.9%
Services: 57.7% (2010 est.)

Labor Force:

 854,600 (2007 est.)

Labor Force - By Occupation:

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

Unemployment Rate:

 45% (2002)

Population Below Poverty Line:

 49% (1999)

Household Income / Consumption By Share:

 Lowest 10%: 1%
Highest 10%: 39.4% (2003)

Distribution of Family Income - Gini Index:

 63.2 (1995)
56 (1986-87)

Investment (Gross Fixed):

 29.3% of GDP (2010 est.)


 Revenues: $1.176 billion
Expenditures: $1.367 billion (2010 est.)

Taxes and Other Revenues:

 55.3% of GDP (2010 est.)

Budget Surplus / Deficit:

 -9% of GDP (2010 est.)

Inflation Rate (Consumer Prices):

 3.6% (2010 est.)
7.2% (2009 est.)

Central Bank Discount Rate:

 10% (31 December 2010 est.)
10.66% (31 December 2009 est.)

Commercial Bank Prime Lending Rate:

 11.2% (31 December 2010 est.)
13% (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Money:

 $416.5 million (31 December 2008)
$439.2 million (31 December 2007)

Stock of Quasi Money:

 $108.1 million (31 December 2008)
$160.2 million (31 December 2007)

Stock of Narrow Money:

 $588.6 million (31 December 2010 est.)
$467.2 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Broad Money:

 $1.057 billion (31 December 2010 est.)
$876 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Stock of Domestic Credit:

 $60.61 million (31 December 2010 est.)
$54.2 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Agriculture - Products:

 Corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock


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

Industrial Production Growth Rate:

 3% (2010 est.)

Electricity - Production:

 200 million kWh

Note: electricity supplied by South Africa (2008 est.)

Electricity - Consumption:

 236 million kWh (2008 est.)

Electricity - Exports:

 0 kWh (2009 est.)

Electricity - Imports:

 107 million kWh
note - electricity supplied by South Africa (2009 est.)

Oil - Production:

 0 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Consumption:

 2,000 bbl/day (2010 est.)

Oil - Exports:

 0 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Imports:

 1,690 bbl/day (2009 est.)

Oil - Proven Reserves:

 0 bbl (1 January 2011 est.)

Natural Gas - Production:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Consumption:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Exports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Imports:

 0 cu m (2009 est.)

Natural Gas - Proven Reserves:

 0 cu m (1 January 2011 est.)

Current Account Balance:

 -$334.4 million (2010 est.)
-$32 million (2009 est.)


 $823.2 million (2010 est.)
$715.9 million (2009 est.)

Exports - Commodities:

 Manufactures 75% (clothing, footwear, road vehicles), wool and mohair, food and live animals

Exports - Partners:

 US 58.4%, Belgium 34%, Canada 3.7% (2010)


 $1.885 billion (2010 est.)
$1.668 billion (2009 est.)

Imports - Commodities:

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

Imports - Partners:

 South Korea 26.9%, China 23.1%, Taiwan 22.1%, Hong Kong 6.6%, US 4.4% (2010)

Reserves of Foreign Exchange and Gold:

 $918.6 million (31 December 2010 est.)
$962 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Debt - External:

 $666.2 million (31 December 2010 est.)
$671.3 million (31 December 2009 est.)

Exchange Rates:

 Convert Lesotho Loti to Any Currency

Maloti (LSL) per US dollar -
7.9 (2010)
8.47 (2009)
7.75 (2008)
7.25 (2007)
6.85 (2006)

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Telephones - Main Lines In Use:

 38,800 (2010)

Telephones - Cellular:

 698,800 (2010)

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 exceeding 30 per 100 persons in 2009; rural services are scant

International: country code - 266; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2009)

Broadcast Media:

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

Radio Broadcast Stations:

 AM 1, FM 3, shortwave 1 (2007)

Television Broadcast Stations:

 1 (2007)

Internet Country Code:


Internet Hosts:

 632 (2010)

Internet Users:

 76,800 (2009)

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 26 (2010)

Airports - With Paved Runways:

 Total: 3
Over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
Under 914 m: 1 (2010)

Airports - With Unpaved Runways:

 Total: 23
914 to 1,523 m: 5
Under 914 m: 18 (2010)


 Total: 7,091 km
Paved: 1,404 km
Unpaved: 5,687 km (2003)

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Military Branches:

 Lesotho Defense Force (LDF): Army (includes Air Wing) (2010)

Military Service Age and Obligation:

 18-24 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription; women serve as commissioned officers (2009)

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:

 2.6% of GDP (2006)

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)

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Last Updated: December 2011

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