Country List | World Factbook Home
CIA Seal  World Factbook Seal Lesotho
Flag of Lesotho
Map of Lesotho
Introduction Lesotho
Basutoland was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. King MOSHOESHOE was exiled in 1990. Constitutional government was restored in 1993 after 23 years of military rule.
Geography Lesotho
Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa
Geographic coordinates:
29 30 S, 28 30 E
Map references:
total: 30,355 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 30,355 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly smaller than Maryland
Land boundaries:
total: 909 km
border countries: South Africa 909 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:
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, some diamonds and other minerals
Land use:
arable land: 10.71%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 89.29% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land:
10 sq km (1998 est.)
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, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Endangered Species, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping
Geography - note:
landlocked, completely surrounded by South Africa; mountainous, more than 80% of the country is 1,800 meters above sea level
People Lesotho
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 and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2002 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 39% (male 433,229; female 427,926)
15-64 years: 56.3% (male 600,476; female 642,538)
65 years and over: 4.7% (male 43,691; female 60,094) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.33% (2002 est.)
Birth rate:
30.72 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate:
16.81 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate:
-0.63 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.93 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.73 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
82.57 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 47 years
female: 47.8 years (2002 est.)
male: 46.3 years
Total fertility rate:
4.01 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
23.57% (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
240,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
16,000 (1999 est.)
noun: Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural)
adjective: Basotho
Ethnic groups:
Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%,
Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%
Sesotho (southern Sotho), English (official), Zulu, Xhosa
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 83%
male: 72%
female: 93% (1999 est.)
Government Lesotho
Country name:
conventional long form: Kingdom of Lesotho
conventional short form: Lesotho
former: Basutoland
Government type:
parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Administrative divisions:
10 districts; Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohales Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha's Nek, Quthing, Thaba-Tseka
4 October 1966 (from UK)
National holiday:
Independence Day, 4 October (1966)
2 April 1993
Legal system:
based on English common law and Roman-Dutch law; judicial review of legislative acts in High Court and Court of Appeal; has not accepted compulsory ICJ 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: none; according to the constitution, the leader of the majority party in the Assembly automatically becomes prime minister; the monarch is hereditary, but, under the terms of the constitution which 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 determine who is next in the line of succession, who shall serve as regent in the event that the successor is not of mature age, and may even depose the monarch
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 direct popular vote and 40 by proportional vote; members elected by popular vote for five-year terms); note - number of seats in the Assembly rose from 80 to 120 in the May 2002 election
elections: last held 25 May 2002 (next to be held NA May 2007)
election results: percent of vote by party - LCD 54%, BNP 21%, LPC 7%, other 18%; seats by party - LCD 76, BNP 21, LPC 5, other 18
Judicial branch:
High Court (chief justice appointed by the monarch); Court of Appeal; Magistrate's Court; customary or traditional court
Political parties and leaders:
Basotho Congress Party or BCP [Tseliso MAKHAKHE]; Basotho National Party or BNP [Maj. Gen. Justine Metsing LEKHANYA]; Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD [Phebe MOTEBANO, chairwoman; Pakalitha MOSISILI, leader] - the governing party; Lesotho People's Congress or LPC [Kelebone MAOPE]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Charles MOFELI]; Marematlou Freedom Party or MFP and Setlamo Alliance [Vincent MALEBO]; Progressive National Party or PNP [Chief Peete Nkoebe PEETE]; Sefate Democratic Party or SDP [Bofihla NKUEBE]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Dr. Lebohang Kenneth MOLEKO
FAX: [1] (202) 234-6815
telephone: [1] (202) 797-5533 through 5536
chancery: 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Robert G. LOFTIS
embassy: 254 Kingsway, Maseru West (Consular Section)
mailing address: P. O. Box 333, Maseru 100, Lesotho
telephone: [266] 312666
FAX: [266] 310116
Flag description:
divided diagonally from the lower hoist side corner; the upper half is white, bearing the brown silhouette of a large shield with crossed spear and club; the lower half is a diagonal blue band with a green triangle in the corner
Economy Lesotho
Economy - overview:
Small, landlocked, and mountainous, Lesotho's primary natural resource is water. Its economy is based on subsistence agriculture, livestock, remittances from miners employed in South Africa, and a rapidly growing apparel-assembly sector. The number of mineworkers has declined steadily over the past several years. A small manufacturing base depends largely on farm products that support the milling, canning, leather, and jute industries. Agricultural products are exported primarily to South Africa. Proceeds from membership in a common customs union with South Africa form the majority of government revenue. Although drought has decreased agricultural activity over the past few years, completion of a major hydropower facility in January 1998 now permits the sale of water to South Africa, generating royalties for Lesotho. The pace of privatization has increased in recent years. In December 1999, the government embarked on a nine-month IMF staff-monitored program aimed at structural adjustment and stabilization of macroeconomic fundamentals. The government is in the process of applying for a three-year successor program with the IMF under its Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility. Lesotho has a marked inequality in income distribution and serious unemployment/underemployment problems that will not yield to short-run solutions.
purchasing power parity - $5.3 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.6% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $2,450 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 18%
industry: 38%
services: 44% (2001)
Population below poverty line:
49% (1999 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 1%
highest 10%: 43% (1986-87)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
56 (1986-87 )
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
6.9% (2001 est.)
Labor force:
700,000 economically active
Labor force - by occupation:
86% of resident population engaged in subsistence agriculture; roughly 35% of the active male wage earners work in South Africa
Unemployment rate:
45% (2000 est.)
revenues: $76 million
expenditures: $80 million, including capital expenditures of $15 million
food, beverages, textiles, apparel assembly, handicrafts; construction; tourism
Industrial production growth rate:
15.5% (1999 est.)
Electricity - production:
0 kWh; note - electricity supplied by South Africa (2000)
Electricity - consumption:
100 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports:
0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports:
100 million kWh
note: electricity supplied by South Africa (2000)
Agriculture - products:
corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock
$250 million f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Exports - commodities:
manufactures 75% (clothing, footwear, road vehicles), wool and mohair, food and live animals
Exports - partners:
South African Customs Union 53.9%, North America 45.6% (1999)
$720 million f.o.b. (2001 est.)
Imports - commodities:
food; building materials, vehicles, machinery, medicines, petroleum products
Imports - partners:
South African Customs Union 89.5%, Asia 7% (1999)
Debt - external:
$715 million (2001 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
$123.7 million (1995) (1995)
loti (LSL); South African rand (ZAR)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
maloti per US dollar - 11.58786 (January 2002), 8.60918 (2001), 6.93983 (2000), 6.10948 (1999), 5.52828 (1998), 4.60796 (1997); note - the Lesotho loti is at par with the South African rand which is also legal tender; maloti is the plural form of loti
Fiscal year:
1 April - 31 March
Communications Lesotho
Telephones - main lines in use:
22,200 (2000)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
21,600 (2000)
Telephone system:
general assessment: rudimentary system
domestic: consists of a few landlines, a small microwave radio relay system, and a minor radiotelephone communication system; a cellular mobile telephone system is growing
international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998)
NA (2002)
Television broadcast stations:
1 (2000)
Internet country code:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
1 (2000)
Internet users:
5,000 (2002)
Transportation Lesotho
total: 2.6 km; note - owned by, operated by, and included in the statistics of South Africa
narrow gauge: 2.6 km 1.067-m gauge (1995)
total: 4,955 km
paved: 887 km
unpaved: 4,068 km (1996)
Ports and harbors:
28 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 4
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 2 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 24
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 20 (2002)
Military Lesotho
Military branches:
Lesotho Defense Force (LDF; including Army and Air Wing), Royal Lesotho Mounted Police
Military manpower - availability:
males age 15-49: 526,332 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service:
males age 15-49: 283,203 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$34 million (1999)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
Military - note:
The Lesotho Government in 1999 began an open debate on the future structure, size, and role of the armed forces, especially considering the Lesotho Defense Force's (LDF) history of intervening in political affairs.
Transnational Issues Lesotho
Disputes - international:

This page was last updated on 19 March 2003