About Lesotho [ Country ]

Here we've distilled information and facts from various sources about the location, size, population, geography, transport, climate, economy, history, government, law, and so on, of Lesotho; into a view that makes sense for a traveller to, or within, this country.


Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa


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


Mostly highland with plateaus, hills, and mountains


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

Geo Notes

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

Approved Official Names

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

Capital City

name: Maseru
geographic coordinates: 29 19 S, 27 29 E
time difference: UTC+2

Administrative Divisions

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

Natuaral Hazards

Periodic droughts

Environmental 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

Life Expectancy

total population: 50.67 years
male: 50.58 years
female: 50.76 years (2010 est.)

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 (2010 est.)

Languages Spoken

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

Religions Practiced

Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%

Legal System

Based on English common law and Roman-Dutch law; judicial review of legislative acts in High Court and Court of Appeal; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations

National Holiday

Independence Day, 4 October (1966)

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)


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. 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 aggrieved parties continue to dispute how the electoral law was applied to award proportional seats in the Assembly.

Economy Overview

Small, landlocked, and mountainous, Lesotho relies on remittances from miners employed in South Africa and customs duties from the Southern Africa Customs Union 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 a rapidly expanding 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. The economy is still primarily based on subsistence agriculture, especially livestock, 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 plunged in 2009, due mainly to the effects of the global economic crisis. Lesotho's budget relies heavily on customs receipts from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).

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

Lesotho location map

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

Lesotho flag

1,919,552 (July 2010 est.)


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

Ethnic Groups

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


23.2% (2007 est.)

Independence Date

4 October 1966 (from the UK)

Government Type

Parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Voting Rights

18 years of age; universal

Internet Users

73,300 (2008)

Internet Hosts

632 (2010)

Internet Country Code


Number Airports

26 (2010)

Number Paved Airports

total: 3
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 1
under 914 m: 1 (2010)


total: 7,091 km
paved: 1,404 km
unpaved: 5,687 km (2003)

National Budget

revenues: $1.107 billion
expenditures: $1.188 billion (2009 est.)

Account Balance

$194 million (2009 est.)
$244.2 million (2008 est.)

Exchange Rates

maloti (LSL) per US dollar - 9.8 (2009), 7.75 (2008), 7.25 (2007), 6.85 (2006), 6.3593 (2005)

Inflation Rate

7.2% (2009 est.)
10.7% (2008 est.)

Main Industries

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

Agricultural Products

Corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock

Labor Force

854,600 (2007 est.)

Main Occupations

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)

GDP (USD Parity)

$3.151 billion (2009 est.)
$3.101 billion (2008 est.)
$2.984 billion (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

GDP Per Capita

$1,600 (2009 est.)
$1,600 (2008 est.)
$1,600 (2007 est.)
note: data are in 2009 US dollars

Family Income Percent

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

Family Income Gini

63.2 (1995)
56 (1986-87)

Below Poverty

49% (1999)