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Lesotho Flag

Country Profile

Capital City: Maseru (1997 pop. est. 386 000)

Other Cities: Teyateyaneng (pop. est. 240 754), Leribe (300 160), Mafeteng (211 970), Mohale's Hoek (184 034).

Local Time: UTC +2h

Location: South Africa
Area: 30 355 sq. km. (11 718 sq. mi.).
Terrain: High veld, plateau and mountains.
Border countries: South Africa

Climate: Temperate; summers hot, winters cool to cold; humidity generally low and evenings cool year round. Rainy season in summer, winters dry. Southern hemisphere seasons are reversed.

Type: Modified constitutional monarchy.
Independence: 4 October 1966. (from 1868 until independence Lesotho was placed under British protection.)

Nationality: Noun--Mosotho (sing.); Basotho (pl.) Adjective--Basotho.
Population (2001 est.): 2,107,670.
Ethnic groups: Basotho 99.7%; Europeans 1,600; Asians 3,000.
Religions: 80% Christian, including Roman Catholic (majority), Lesotho Evangelical, Anglican, other denominations.
Languages: Official--Sesotho and English. Others--Zulu, Xhosa. Literacy: (1998) 70%.


Currency: In 1980, Lesotho introduced its own currency: Loti (plural Maloti). It is equivalent to the South African Rand.

Natural resources: Water, agricultural and grazing land, some diamonds and other minerals. Lesotho is an exporter of excess labor.

Agriculture products: Corn, wheat, pulses, sorghum, barley; livestock.

Industries: Food, beverages, textiles, apparel assembly, handicrafts; construction; tourism.

Exports partners:
USA 97.6%, Canada 1.5%, France 0.5% (2003)

Imports partners: Hong Kong 36.6%, Taiwan 36.2%, China 12%, Germany 9.9% (2003)

Internet Links

Official Sites of Lesotho

Lesotho Government

Diplomatic Missions
Permanent Mission of Lesotho to the United Nations in Geneva

Permanent Mission of Lesotho to the United Nations, New York

The Embassy of The Kingdom of Lesotho in Washington

Lesotho High Commission in London

Embassies of Lesotho

Foreign missions and International Organisations in Lesotho

Lesotho Meteorological Services

Map of Lesotho



Background:  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

Location:  Southern Africa, an enclave of South Africa

Geographic coordinates:  29 30 S, 28 30 E

Map references:  Africa

Area:  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

Coastline:  0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims:  none (landlocked)

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

Terrain:  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: 11% permanent crops: 0% other: 89% (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

Population:  2,207,954 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:   47.8 years (2002 est.)  male: 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.)

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

Ethnic groups:  Sotho 99.7%, Europeans, Asians, and other 0.3%,

Religions:  Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%

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

Literacy:  definition: age 15 and over can read and write total
population: 83% male: 72% female: 93% (1999 est.)

Government Lesotho

Country name:   Kingdom of Lesotho conventional short form: Government
type:  parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Capital:  Maseru

Administrative divisions:  10 districts; Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe,
Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohales Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha's Nek, Quthing,

Independence:  4 October 1966 (from UK)

National holiday:  Independence Day, 4 October (1966)

Constitution:  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

Suffrage:  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 NA 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:  NA

International organization participation:  ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO,

Diplomatic representation in the US:  chief of mission: Ambassador
Molelekeng Ernestina RAPOLAKI FAX: [1]
 [1] (202) 797-5533 through 5536 chancery:
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.

GDP:  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:  49.2% (1999 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:  lowest 10%: 0.9%
highest 10%: 43.4% (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.)

Budget:  revenues: $76 million expenditures: $80 million, including
capital expenditures of $15 million (FY99/00 est.)

Industries:  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

Exports:  $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)

Imports:  $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)

Currency:  loti (LSL); South African rand (ZAR)

Currency code:  LSL; ZAR

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 international: satellite
earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations:  AM 1, FM 2, shortwave 1 (1998)

Radios:  NA (2002)

Television broadcast stations:  1 (2000)

Televisions:  NA

Internet country code:  .ls

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):  1 (2000)

Internet users:  4,000 (2000)

Transportation Lesotho

Railways:  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)

Highways:  total: 4,955 km paved: 887 km unpaved: 4,068 km (1996)

Waterways:  none

Ports and harbors:  none

Airports:  28 (2001)

Airports - with paved runways:  total: 4 over 3,047 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m:
1 under 914 m: 2 (2001)

Airports - with unpaved runways:  total: 24 914 to 1,523 m: 4 under 914 m:
20 (2001)

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:  NA%

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:  none

This page was last updated on 1 January 2002

LENA-Lesotho News Agency

Mopheme News

Public Eye DAILY

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Arts & Culture
Leribe Craft Center

Masioanoke Gallery

Morija Arts & Cultural Festival

Business & Economy
Central Bank of Lesotho

Lesotho National Development Corporation

Lesotho Highlands Development Authority

Lesotho Highlands Water Project

Destination Lesotho - Travel and Tour Guides
Lesotho - Tourism and Environment

Lesotho Tourism


Malealea Lodge

Institute of Southern African Studies

National University of Lesotho

History of the Basotho

Lesotho History





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