Located in Southern Africa and surrounded by its large neighbour South Africa, Lesotho is a small country covering an area of 30,000 sq km (18,750 sq miles). With a population of just over two million, the country is known for its impressive mountain regions. King Moshoeshoe I, often referred to as the father of the Basotho nation, is buried in the Maluti Hills at his Thaba Bosiu stronghold. It is from there that he strategised and successfully defended his nation against advancing African and European invaders for most of the 19th century. In 1868, he allied himself with the British in a bid to stave off the less favourable Boers. In 1871, his nation was annexed to the British Cape Colony. Having British Protectorate status prevented Basutoland from being swallowed up into the new Republic of South Africa. Basutoland gained its own independence from Britain in 1966 and changed its name to Lesotho. Since then, it has endured significant political instability. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the country's economy is heavily-reliant on South Africa’s and regional trade bodies such as the Southern African Customs Unions (SACU). Textile manufacturing, which plays an important role within the economy, has come under considerable pressure from cheap Chinese imports. The capital Maseru is located on the country’s northern border.
The Basotho people have lived in Southern Africa since the 15th century although the Basotho nation emerged during the 17th century under the visionary leadership of King Moshoeshoe I. He brought together dispersed tribes of Sotho and Tswana people to form the Basotho kingdom. Moshoeshoe I instilled a sense of identity and unity that inspired his people to defend their kingdom during what was a violent and tumultuous period in Southern Africa’s history. Its rich cultural history remains a great source of pride to many Basotho today. Lesotho’s post-independence political era has been a combination of tricky politically-expedient alliances and counter-alliances between the civilian government, the military and the monarch. Following victory in the 1965 elections, the Basotho National Party led by Leabua Jonathan came into office at independence in 1966. During the four year period to 1970, multiparty democracy was practised. In a bid to quell domestic dissent and restrain the machinations against his country by the apartheid regime in South Africa, Jonathan brought Lesotho under one-party authoritarian rule. Multiparty democracy was restored in 1993 after at least two coups and the exiling of the King. Inconclusive elections in 2012 led to the formation of a coalition government.
With a life expectancy of just 34 years, the national death rate outnumbers the national birth rate posing great challenges to the country's future. The HIV/AIDS infection rate remains one of the highest in the world. Youth unemployment stood at 45.1% in 2008. According to the African Economic Outlook, economic diversiﬁcation with emphasis on the value chains in agriculture, industry and mining will help mitigate the potential risks from the expiration of the WTO African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) concessions in 2014.
Lesotho is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Southern African Customs Unions (SACU), the Common Monetary Area (CMA), the African Union (AU), the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, among others.