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Info Africa - Lesotho

Lesotho is a small country in southern Africa. In fact, it lies within the larger country of South Africa. In 1966, Basutoland gained independence from the British and changed its name to the Kingdom of Lesotho. King Letsie III is the Head of State; however; since gaining independence, the position of the King has been reduced to a symbolic and unifying role. The monarch has no legislative or executive powers. Lesotho is mainly made up of highlands and some regions can only be reached on horseback, by foot or light aircraft. There is a scarcity of resources in Lesotho primarily because of the harsh environment of the highlands. Because of this, Lesotho remains heavily dependent on South Africa. Unfortunately, Lesotho has one of the world’s highest HIV/AIDS infection rates. However, the government is working hard to alleviate this problem. In 2004, Prime Minister Mosisili tested for HIV/AIDS publicly as a way of encouraging people to take HIV tests. The people of Lesotho are known as the Basotho. While the majority of the people speak the national language called Sesotho, they also speak excellent English. Maseru, which means the place of red sandstone, is Lesotho’s capital city. It is a young and growing cities, with more and more buildings and centres being built.  The city is home to some shopping centers, markets and hotels. The main road of the city is Kingsway, where most action takes place. The people of Lesotho have adapted to living in a mountainous environment. For instance, the Basotho blanket, a woolen blanket with beautiful patterns, is the ideal garment for this cold environment. It is also known to keep the rain off. In villages, flags fly from a tall pole to indicate that something is being sold at that location. A white flag means ‘joalla,’ a locally brewed sorghum beer, yellow means maize beer is being sold, red means meat is being sold and green indicates that vegetables are being sold. A lot of Basotho men are migrant workers in the South African mines. This has had an effect on the Basotho society as the women of the family are the ones keeping their homes and families together. Lesotho has solid traditions and beliefs, which are all celebrated in the annual Morija Arts Festival.

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CATEGORIES: Demographics - Quick Facts - Economy - Communications - Health Issues
Country Flag: Lesotho's Flag

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

Nationality: Mosotho (singular), Basotho (plural)

Capital: Maseru

Population: 2,022,331

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 2006 est.)

Age structure:

  • 0-14 years: 36.8% (male 374,102/female 369,527)
  • 15-64 years: 58.3% (male 572,957/female 606,846)
  • 65 years and over: 4.9% (male 39,461/female 59,438) (2006 est.)

Population growth rate: -0.46% (2006 est.)

Literacy rate:

  • ages 15 and above can read and write.
  • 84.8% of the population is literate (male: 74.5% , female: 94.5%) (2003 est.)

Major religions: Christian 80%, indigenous beliefs 20%

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

Quick Facts
  • total: 30,355 sq km
  • land: 30,355 sq km
  • water: 0 sq km

Area comparative to Canadian province: half the size of Nova Scotia

Natural resources: water, agricultural and grazing land, diamonds, sand, clay, building stone

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.


Lesotho is a small, landlocked country, whose economy is mainly based on subsistence agriculture, namely livestock. The recent droughts have decreased the agricultural activity. Lesotho also relies on remittances from miners who work in South Africa as well as the customs from the Southern Africa Customs Union. This revenue accounts for the majority of government revenue. Lately, the government has strengthened its tax system as a means of reducing its dependency on custom duties. The completion of a hydropower facility in 1998 allows Lesotho to sell water to South Africa; another means for Lesotho to generate revenue. After qualifying for the trade benefits contained in the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, Lesotho’s apparel-assembly sector has been growing significantly. Lesotho has signed an Interim Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility with the International Monetary Fund. Lesotho remains heavily dependent on South Africa as an employer and as the buyer of its main natural resource, namely water.

Major industries:

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

Agricultural products:

  • corn
  • wheat
  • pulses
  • sorghum
  • barley
  • livestock

Oil production: 0 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Railways: -

Road map: 5,940 km (paved:1,087 km , unpaved: 4,853 km) (1999)

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


Telephone lines in use: 37,200 (2004)

Cellular lines in use: 159,000 (2004)

Television Stations: 1 (2000)

Radio Stations: AM 25 , FM 1, Shortwave 8 (1999)

Internet users: 43,000 (2005)

Health Issues

HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate: 28.9% (2003 est.)

People living with HIV/AIDS: 320,000 (2003 est.)

More Information

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