Maseru is the capital city of the Kingdom of Lesotho, and is located along the northwestern border of the country with the Republic of South Africa. The footprint of the urban area, recognizable by street grids and distinctive blue-roofed industrial buildings at image center, is only just visible against the surrounding landscape. The city has expanded eightfold since independence from the United Kingdom in 1966, and is now home to one in five citizens of the country. 
The Caledon (or Mohokare) River flows adjacent to Maseru and forms a part of the border between Lesotho and South Africa. Locally, the border extends from approximately image top center left to image bottom center right, with the cities of Ladybrand and Manyatseng located in South Africa. Moshoeshoe International Airport (left) provides access to the capital. Major industries in the city include flour mills and footwear and textile companies. Tourism is also a growing part of the local economy. 
The Kingdom of Lesotho is completely landlocked by the surrounding Republic of South Africa. Major landforms visible in the image include the Qeme and Berea Plateaus, erosional remnants of horizontally layered sedimentary rocks that formed in the Karoo Basin approximately 200 - 229 million years ago during the Upper Triassic Period. Photo courtesy of NASA.
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Paramount chief MOSHOESHOE I consolidated what would become Basutoland in the early 19th century and made himself king in 1822. Continuing encroachments by Dutch settlers from the neighboring Orange Free State caused the king to enter into an 1868 agreement with the UK by which Basutoland became a British protectorate, and after 1884, a crown colony. Upon independence in 1966, the country was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho. The Basotho National Party ruled the country during its first two decades. King MOSHOESHOE II 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 in 2007 were hotly contested and aggrieved parties disputed how the electoral law was applied to award proportional seats in the Assembly. In 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. In June 2017, THABANE returned to become prime minister.

Visit the Definitions and Notes page to view a description of each topic.



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

country comparison to the world: 141

Area - comparative

slightly smaller than Maryland

<p>slightly smaller than Maryland</p>

Land boundaries

total: 1,106 km

border countries (1): South Africa 1106 km


0 km (landlocked)

Maritime claims

none (landlocked)


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


mostly highland with plateaus, hills, and mountains


highest point: Thabana Ntlenyana 3,482 m

lowest point: junction of the Orange and Makhaleng Rivers 1,400 m

mean elevation: 2,161 m

Natural resources

water, agricultural and grazing land, diamonds, sand, clay, building stone

Land use

agricultural land: 76.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 10.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.1% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 65.9% (2018 est.)

forest: 1.5% (2018 est.)

other: 22.4% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

30 sq km (2012)

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: Orange (941,351 sq km)

Major rivers (by length in km)

Orange river source (shared with South Africa and Namibia [m]) - 2,092 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Population distribution

relatively higher population density in the western half of the nation, with the capital of Maseru, and the smaller cities of Mafeteng, Teyateyaneng, and Leribe attracting the most people as shown in this population distribution map

Natural hazards

periodic droughts

Geography - note

landlocked, an enclave of (completely surrounded by) South Africa; mountainous, more than 80% of the country is 1,800 m above sea level

People and Society


2,177,740 (July 2021 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

country comparison to the world: 147


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


Protestant 47.8% (Pentecostal 23.1%, Lesotho Evangelical 17.3%, Anglican 7.4%), Roman Catholic 39.3%, other Christian 9.1%, non-Christian 1.4%, none 2.3% (2014 est.)

Demographic profile

Lesotho faces great socioeconomic challenges. More than half of its population lives below the property line, and the country’s HIV/AIDS prevalence rate is the second highest in the world. In addition, Lesotho is a small, mountainous, landlocked country with little arable land, leaving its population vulnerable to food shortages and reliant on remittances. Lesotho’s persistently high infant, child, and maternal mortality rates have been increasing during the last decade, according to the last two Demographic and Health Surveys. Despite these significant shortcomings, Lesotho has made good progress in education; it is on-track to achieve universal primary education and has one of the highest adult literacy rates in Africa.

Lesotho’s migration history is linked to its unique geography; it is surrounded by South Africa with which it shares linguistic and cultural traits. Lesotho at one time had more of its workforce employed outside its borders than any other country. Today remittances equal about 17% of its GDP. With few job options at home, a high rate of poverty, and higher wages available across the border, labor migration to South Africa replaced agriculture as the prevailing Basotho source of income decades ago. The majority of Basotho migrants were single men contracted to work as gold miners in South Africa. However, migration trends changed in the 1990s, and fewer men found mining jobs in South Africa because of declining gold prices, stricter immigration policies, and a preference for South African workers.

Although men still dominate cross-border labor migration, more women are working in South Africa, mostly as domestics, because they are widows or their husbands are unemployed. Internal rural-urban flows have also become more frequent, with more women migrating within the country to take up jobs in the garment industry or moving to care for loved ones with HIV/AIDS. Lesotho’s small population of immigrants is increasingly composed of Taiwanese and Chinese migrants who are involved in the textile industry and small retail businesses.

Age structure

0-14 years: 31.3% (male 309,991/female 306,321)

15-24 years: 19.26% (male 181,874/female 197,452)

25-54 years: 38.86% (male 373,323/female 391,901)

55-64 years: 4.98% (male 52,441/female 45,726)

65 years and over: 5.6% (male 57,030/female 53,275) (2020 est.)

This is the population pyramid for Lesotho. A population pyramid illustrates the age and sex structure of a country's population and may provide insights about political and social stability, as well as economic development. The population is distributed along the horizontal axis, with males shown on the left and females on the right. The male and female populations are broken down into 5-year age groups represented as horizontal bars along the vertical axis, with the youngest age groups at the bottom and the oldest at the top. The shape of the population pyramid gradually evolves over time based on fertility, mortality, and international migration trends. <br/><br/>For additional information, please see the entry for Population pyramid on the Definitions and Notes page.

Dependency ratios

total dependency ratio: 59.2

youth dependency ratio: 51.3

elderly dependency ratio: 7.9

potential support ratio: 12.7 (2020 est.)

Median age

total: 24.7 years

male: 24.7 years

female: 24.7 years (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 164

Birth rate

23.3 births/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 50

Death rate

11.41 deaths/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 19

Net migration rate

-4.59 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 196

Population distribution

relatively higher population density in the western half of the nation, with the capital of Maseru, and the smaller cities of Mafeteng, Teyateyaneng, and Leribe attracting the most people as shown in this population distribution map


urban population: 29.5% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.77% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Major urban areas - population

202,000 MASERU (capital) (2018)

Sex ratio

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female

0-14 years: 1.01 male(s)/female

15-24 years: 0.92 male(s)/female

25-54 years: 0.95 male(s)/female

55-64 years: 1.15 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 1.07 male(s)/female

total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2020 est.)

Mother's mean age at first birth

20.9 years (2014 est.)

note: median age at first birth among women 25-49

Maternal mortality ratio

544 deaths/100,000 live births (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 17

Infant mortality rate

total: 50.23 deaths/1,000 live births

male: 55.92 deaths/1,000 live births

female: 44.37 deaths/1,000 live births (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 23

Life expectancy at birth

total population: 58.9 years

male: 56.82 years

female: 61.04 years (2021 est.)

country comparison to the world: 221

Drinking water source

improved: urban: 93% of population

rural: 72.4% of population

total: 78.2% of population

unimproved: urban: 7% of population

rural: 27.6% of population

total: 21.8% of population (2017 est.)

Physicians density

0.07 physicians/1,000 population

Sanitation facility access

improved: urban: 88.6% of population

rural: 52.3% of population

total: 62.4% of population

unimproved: urban: 11.4% of population

rural: 47.7% of population

total: 37.6% of population (2017 est.)

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: intermediate (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever


definition: age 15 and over can read and write

total population: 79.4%

male: 70.1%

female: 88.3% (2015)

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)

total: 12 years

male: 12 years

female: 13 years (2017)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 35.5%

male: 31.2% NA

female: 41.5% NA (2019 est.)


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, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, 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

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 27.78 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 2.51 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 2.56 megatons (2020 est.)


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

Land use

agricultural land: 76.1% (2018 est.)

arable land: 10.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.1% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 65.9% (2018 est.)

forest: 1.5% (2018 est.)

other: 22.4% (2018 est.)


urban population: 29.5% of total population (2021)

rate of urbanization: 2.77% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0% of GDP (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 127

Major infectious diseases

degree of risk: intermediate (2020)

food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever

Food insecurity

severe localized food insecurity:

due to localized shortfalls in production and loss of income-generating activities -  a slow economic recovery in 2021 will continue to impose constraints on households’ incomes, impinging on their economic capacity to access food; overall, the number of food insecure people is expected to decline from the estimated 582,000 that faced acute food insecurity in the October 2020−March 2021 period; the possibility of a third wave of COVID‑19 cases in the country and neighboring South Africa, increases the risk for the enforcement of new containment measures, which could prolong the high levels of unemployment and cause further income losses among the most vulnerable households


Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 73,457 tons (2006 est.)

Major rivers (by length in km)

Orange river source (shared with South Africa and Namibia [m]) - 2,092 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: Orange (941,351 sq km)

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 20 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 20 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 3.8 million cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

3.022 billion cubic meters (2017 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 translates 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)

etymology: in the Sesotho language the name means "[place of] red sandstones"

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)


history: previous 1959, 1967; latest adopted 2 April 1993 (effectively restoring the 1967 version)

amendments: proposed by Parliament; passage of amendments affecting constitutional provisions, including fundamental rights and freedoms, sovereignty of the kingdom, the office of the king, and powers of Parliament, requires a majority vote by the National Assembly, approval by the Senate, approval in a referendum by a majority of qualified voters, and assent of the king; passage of amendments other than those specified provisions requires at least a two-thirds majority vote in both houses of Parliament; amended several times, last in 2011

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 only: 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 Moeketsi MAJORO (since 20 May 2020); note - Prime Minister Thomas THABANE resigned on 19 May 2020

cabinet: consists of the prime minister, appointed by the King on the advice of the Council of State, the deputy prime minister, and 26 other ministers 

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:
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)
National Assembly (120 seats; 80 members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by simple majority vote and 40 elected through proportional representation; members serve 5-year terms)

elections: Senate - last nominated by the king 11 July 2017 (next NA)
National Assembly - last held on 3 June 2017 (next to be held in 2022)

election results: Senate - percent of votes by party - NA, seats by party - NA; composition - men 25, women 8, percent of women 24.2%
National Assembly - percent of votes by party - ABC 40.5%, DC 25.8%, LCD 9%, AD 7.3%, MEC 5.1%, BNP 4.1, PFD 2.3%, other 5.9%; seats by party - ABC 51, DC 30, LCD 11, AD 9, MEC 6, BNP 5, PFD 3, other 5; composition - men 95, women 27, percent of women 22.5%; note - total Parliament percent of women 22.9%

Judicial branch

highest courts: 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; military courts

Political parties and leaders

All Basotho Convention or ABC [Moeketsi MAJORO]
Alliance of Democrats or AD [Monyane MOLELEKI]
Basotho Action Party or BAP [Ngosa MAHAO]
Basotho National Party or BNP [Thesele MASERIBANE]
Democratic Congress or DC [Mathibeli MOKHOTHU]
Democratic Party of Lesotho or DPL [Limpho TAU]
Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD [Mothetjoa METSING]
Movement of Economic Change or MEC [Selibe MOCHOBOROANE]
National Independent Party or NIP [Kimetso MATHABA]
Popular Front for Democracy of PFD [Lekhetho RAKUOANE]
Reformed Congress of Lesotho or RCL [Keketso RANTSO]

International organization participation


Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Sankatana Gabriel MAJA, Counselor (28 May 2021)

chancery: 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 797-5533

FAX: [1] (202) 234-6815

email address and website:

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Rebecca E. GONZALES (since 8 February 2018)

embassy: 254 Kingsway Avenue, Maseru

mailing address: 2340 Maseru Place, Washington DC  20521-2340

telephone: [266] 22312666

FAX: [266] 22310116

email address and website:

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


Economic 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. Agriculture is vulnerable to weather and climate variability.

Lesotho relies on South Africa for much of its economic activity; Lesotho imports 85% 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 26% of total GDP in 2016; however, SACU revenues are volatile and expected to decline over the next 5 years. Lesotho also gains royalties from the South African Government 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.

The government maintains a large presence in the economy - government consumption accounted for about 26% of GDP in 2017. The government remains Lesotho's largest employer; in 2016, the government wage bill rose to 23% of GDP – the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa. 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 accounted for nearly 35% of total exports in 2015. Lesotho managed steady GDP growth at an average of 4.5% from 2010 to 2014, dropping to about 2.5% in 2015-16, but poverty remains widespread around 57% of the total population.

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$4.88 billion note: data are in 2017 dollars (2020 est.)

$5.49 billion note: data are in 2017 dollars (2019 est.)

$5.51 billion note: data are in 2017 dollars (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 178

Real GDP growth rate

-1.6% (2017 est.)

3.1% (2016 est.)

2.5% (2015 est.)

country comparison to the world: 203

Real GDP per capita

$2,300 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2020 est.)

$2,600 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2019 est.)

$2,600 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars

country comparison to the world: 207

GDP (official exchange rate)

$2.462 billion (2019 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices)

5.3% (2019 est.)

3.8% (2018 est.)

5.1% (2017 est.)

country comparison to the world: 185

Credit ratings

Fitch rating: B (2019)

GDP - composition, by sector of origin

agriculture: 5.8% (2016 est.)

industry: 39.2% (2016 est.)

services: 54.9% (2017 est.)

GDP - composition, by end use

household consumption: 69.2% (2017 est.)

government consumption: 26.4% (2017 est.)

investment in fixed capital: 31.4% (2017 est.)

investment in inventories: -13.4% (2017 est.)

exports of goods and services: 40.8% (2017 est.)

imports of goods and services: -54.4% (2017 est.)

Agricultural products

milk, potatoes, maize, vegetables, fruit, beef, game meat, mutton, beans, wool


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

Labor force - by occupation

agriculture: 86%

industry and services: 14% (2002 est.)

note: most of the resident population is engaged in subsistence agriculture; roughly 35% of the active male wage earners work in South Africa

Household income or consumption by percentage share

lowest 10%: 1%

highest 10%: 39.4% (2003)


revenues: 1.09 billion (2017 est.)

expenditures: 1.255 billion (2017 est.)

Public debt

33.7% of GDP (2017 est.)

36.2% of GDP (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 155

Fiscal year

1 April - 31 March

Current account balance

-$102 million (2017 est.)

-$201 million (2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 87


$900 million note: data are in current year dollars (2020 est.)

$1.09 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2019 est.)

$1.25 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 181

Exports - partners

United States 29%, Belgium 26%, South Africa 25%, Switzerland 6% (2019)

Exports - commodities

diamonds, clothing and apparel, low-voltage protection equipment, wheat products, footwear (2019)


$1.96 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2020 est.)

$2.2 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2019 est.)

$2.39 billion note: data are in current year dollars (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 176

Imports - partners

South Africa 85%, China 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

refined petroleum, clothing and apparel, packaged medicines, delivery trucks, poultry meats (2019)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold

$657.7 million (31 December 2017 est.)

$925.2 million (31 December 2016 est.)

country comparison to the world: 143

Debt - external

$868 million (2019 est.)

$834 million (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 166

Exchange rates

maloti (LSL) per US dollar -

14.48 (2017 est.)

14.71 (2016 est.)

14.71 (2015 est.)

12.76 (2014 est.)

10.85 (2013 est.)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24

total: 35.5%

male: 31.2% NA

female: 41.5% NA (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 25


Electricity access

electrification - total population: 36% (2019)

electrification - urban areas: 63% (2019)

electrification - rural areas: 26% (2019)


Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 11,574 (2020)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 189

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 1,562,648 (2020)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 72.94 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 156

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: small market with few business incentives; fixed-line tele-density and mobile penetration remains below regional average; introduction of mobile broadband in the country and LTE technology; 5G testing among first in region; landlocked, Lesotho has access to several submarine cables on African coast through neighboring countries yet Internet is expensive; importer of broadcasting equipment and computers from South Africa (2020)

domestic: fixed-line is 1 per 100 subscriptions; mobile-cellular service dominates the market with a subscribership now over 114 per 100 persons; rudimentary system consisting of a modest number of landlines, a small microwave radio relay system, and a small radiotelephone communication system (2019)

international: country code - 266; Internet accessibility has improved with several submarine fiber optic cables that land on African east and west coasts, but the country's land locked position makes access prices expensive; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (2019)

note: the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a significant impact on production and supply chains globally; since 2020, some aspects of the telecom sector have experienced downturn, particularly in mobile device production; many network operators delayed upgrades to infrastructure; progress towards 5G implementation was postponed or slowed in some countries; consumer spending on telecom services and devices was affected by large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes; the crucial nature of telecom services as a tool for work and school from home became evident, and received some support from governments

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 (2019)

Internet users

total: 1.03 million (2021 est.)

percent of population: 29% (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 148

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 5,060 (2020)

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (2020 est.)

country comparison to the world: 182


Airports - with paved runways

total: 3

over 3,047 m: 1

914 to 1,523 m: 1

under 914 m: 1 (2019)

Airports - with unpaved runways

total: 21

914 to 1,523 m: 5

under 914 m: 16 (2013)


total: 5,940 km (2011)

paved: 1,069 km (2011)

unpaved: 4,871 km (2011)

country comparison to the world: 144

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Lesotho Defense Force (LDF): Army (includes Air Wing) (2021)

note - the Lesotho Mounted Police Service is responsible for internal security and reports to the Minister of Police and Public Safety

Military expenditures

1.6% of GDP (2020 est.)

1.5% of GDP (2019)

1.8% of GDP (2018)

2% of GDP (2017)

1.8% of GDP (2016)

country comparison to the world: 80

Military and security service personnel strengths

the Lesotho Defense Force (LDF) has approximately 2,000 personnel (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the LDF has a small inventory of older equipment from a variety of countries; since 2007, it has received only very small quantities of second hand equipment (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18-24 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription; women can serve as commissioned officers (2019)

Military - note

Lesotho's declared policy for its military is the maintenance of the country's sovereignty and the preservation of internal security; in practice, external security is guaranteed by South Africa

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

Trafficking in persons

current situation: Lesotho is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking and for men subjected to forced labor; Basotho women and children are subjected to domestic servitude and children, to a lesser extent, commercial sexual exploitation within Lesotho and South Africa; some Basotho women willingly migrate to South Africa seeking work in domestic service only to be forced into prostitution; some Basotho men who voluntarily migrate to South Africa for work become victims of forced labor in agriculture and mining or are coerced into committing crimes

tier rating: Tier 3 — Lesotho does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so, therefore it was downgraded to Tier 3; positive steps included partnering with an NGO and an international organization in awareness-raising activities, participating in a regional data collection tool, and training 27 diplomats on trafficking in persons; however, authorities did not investigate, prosecute, or convict any traffickers or officials complicit in trafficking and did not investigate concerns of official complicity in trafficking crimes restricted law enforcement actions; fewer victims were identified and received no protective services; no standard operating procedures for victim identification or implementation of the national referral mechanism; the government did not finance  the Victims of Trafficking Trust Fund or the Child and Gender Protection Unit; front-line responders to trafficking crimes are inadequately trained; penalties for human trafficking are not stringent enough to serve as a deterrent (2020)