Lesotho

Country Summary

Introduction

Background

Basutoland became Lesotho on independence from the United Kingdom in 1966. Constitutional reforms in the late 1990s restored relative political stability. However, the collapse of successive post 2012 coalition governments instigated a new cycle of instability, prompting yet-to-be-passed SADC-recommended constitutional, parliamentary, judiciary, security, public service, economic, and media reforms. 

Geography

Area

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

Climate

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

Natural resources

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

People and Society

Population

2,210,646 (2023 est.)

Ethnic groups

Sotho 99.7%, other 0.3% (includes Kwena, Nguni (Hlubi and Phuthi), Zulu)

Languages

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

Religions

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.)

Population growth rate

0.76% (2023 est.)

Government

Government type

parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Capital

name: Maseru

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 Ntsokoane Samuel MATEKANE (28 October 2022)

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)

Economy

Economic overview

lower middle-income economy surrounded by South Africa; environmentally fragile and politically unstable; key infrastructure and renewable energy investments; dire poverty; urban job and income losses due to COVID-19; systemic corruption

Real GDP (purchasing power parity)

$5.236 billion (2021 est.)
$5.167 billion (2020 est.)
$5.638 billion (2019 est.)

Real GDP per capita

$2,300 (2021 est.)
$2,300 (2020 est.)
$2,500 (2019 est.)

Agricultural products

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

Industries

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

Exports

$1.08 billion (2021 est.)
$902.123 million (2020 est.)
$1.093 billion (2019 est.)

Exports - partners

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

Exports - commodities

diamonds, clothing and apparel, wool, low-voltage protection equipment, wheat flours (2021)

Imports

$2.221 billion (2021 est.)
$1.98 billion (2020 est.)
$2.23 billion (2019 est.)

Imports - partners

South Africa 85%, China 5% (2019)

Imports - commodities

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

Exchange rates

maloti (LSL) per US dollar -
Exchange rates:
14.779 (2021 est.)
16.459 (2020 est.)
14.448 (2019 est.)
13.234 (2018 est.)
13.324 (2017 est.)


Page last updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2024