Economic Sectors of Lesotho


Lesotho, a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, has a developing economy that is primarily driven by three main economic sectors: the primary sector (agriculture), the secondary sector (industry), and the tertiary sector (services). These sectors contribute differently to Lesotho’s GDP, employment, and overall development. In this discussion, we’ll explore the statistics for each economic sector of Lesotho.

Primary Sector: The primary sector in Lesotho encompasses agricultural activities, which are vital for food security, employment, and livelihoods, particularly in rural areas. Agriculture in Lesotho is characterized by subsistence farming, where smallholder farmers cultivate crops and rear livestock for their own consumption and for local markets.

The country’s major agricultural products include maize, sorghum, wheat, and vegetables. Livestock farming, particularly sheep and goats, is also significant. However, Lesotho’s agricultural sector faces challenges such as limited arable land, soil degradation, and vulnerability to climate change impacts.

According to Smber, the primary sector accounted for about 8-10% of Lesotho’s GDP in recent years. It employs a substantial portion of the population, providing livelihoods for rural communities.

Secondary Sector: The secondary sector in Lesotho consists of manufacturing and industry, which have been growing in importance over the years. This sector includes textiles, apparel, and assembly industries, with a significant focus on producing garments for export markets. Lesotho has been a beneficiary of preferential trade agreements, such as the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which provides duty-free access to the U.S. market for certain products.

Textile and garment manufacturing have become key drivers of Lesotho’s industrial growth, attracting foreign investment and creating employment opportunities, particularly for women. However, the country’s heavy reliance on the textile sector makes it vulnerable to changes in global demand and competition.

The secondary sector’s contribution to Lesotho’s GDP has ranged from around 30% to 35% in recent years. This sector has played a significant role in absorbing labor from rural areas and contributing to urbanization.

Tertiary Sector: The tertiary sector, comprising services, is a cornerstone of Lesotho’s economy. It encompasses a wide range of activities, including trade, tourism, finance, education, healthcare, and public administration. Lesotho’s tourism sector benefits from its stunning landscapes, historical sites, and cultural attractions.

Trade and remittances from Basotho working in neighboring South Africa also contribute significantly to the tertiary sector’s growth. Additionally, financial services and telecommunications have been growing in importance as the country seeks to diversify its economy.

The tertiary sector’s contribution to Lesotho’s GDP has consistently been the largest among the three sectors, ranging from around 50% to 60%. The services sector also absorbs a substantial portion of the workforce, reflecting the country’s shift toward urban areas and non-agricultural employment.

Challenges and Opportunities: Lesotho’s economic sectors face various challenges and opportunities:


  1. Vulnerability to External Shocks: Lesotho’s economy is vulnerable to external factors, such as changes in demand for textiles and fluctuations in global commodity prices.
  2. Climate Change: Climate change impacts, including erratic rainfall and droughts, affect agricultural productivity and food security.
  3. Unemployment: Despite economic growth, unemployment and underemployment remain challenges, particularly among the youth.
  4. Dependency on Few Sectors: Lesotho’s heavy reliance on textiles and remittances makes its economy susceptible to external shocks.


  1. Tourism Potential: Lesotho’s natural beauty and cultural attractions offer potential for growth in the tourism sector.
  2. Diversification: Developing other sectors, such as agriculture and renewable energy, can enhance economic resilience.
  3. Regional Integration: Leveraging regional trade agreements and partnerships can expand market access.
  4. Skills Development: Investing in education and skill development can enhance productivity and employment opportunities.

In conclusion, Lesotho’s economy is characterized by its primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors. Agriculture remains important for food security and rural livelihoods, while manufacturing and industry, particularly textiles, contribute to export earnings and job creation. The services sector, driven by trade, tourism, and remittances, is the largest contributor to GDP. Challenges such as vulnerability to external shocks and unemployment need to be addressed through diversification, skills development, and sustainable economic policies. Seizing opportunities in tourism, regional integration, and sectoral growth will be crucial for Lesotho’s economic development and resilience.

Major Trade Partners of Lesotho

Lesotho, a landlocked country situated in Southern Africa, relies heavily on trade to support its economy and generate employment opportunities. Due to its limited resources and small domestic market, Lesotho’s trade relationships with its major partners play a crucial role in shaping its exports, imports, and overall economic activities. These trade partnerships are influenced by factors such as geographic proximity, trade agreements, and market preferences. Let’s explore the dynamics of Lesotho’s major trade partners and their significance for the country’s economy.

  1. South Africa: As an enclave within South Africa, Lesotho’s most significant trade partner is its larger neighbor to the west. The two countries share a customs union, the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which facilitates trade by eliminating tariffs on most goods traded between them. This arrangement provides Lesotho with duty-free access to the South African market, which is crucial for its export-oriented textile and garment industry.

Lesotho’s textiles and garments account for a significant portion of its exports, and South Africa serves as a key destination for these products. Additionally, Lesotho benefits from remittances sent by Basotho workers employed in South Africa.

  1. United States: According to COUNTRYAAH.COM, the United States is a major trade partner for Lesotho due to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which provides eligible African countries, including Lesotho, with duty-free access to the U.S. market for certain products. Lesotho’s textile and apparel industry has benefited significantly from AGOA preferences, with textiles and garments being major export products.

AGOA has played a vital role in driving Lesotho’s industrial growth and creating employment opportunities, particularly for women. The U.S. market’s demand for apparel has made it a critical trade partner for the country.

  1. European Union (EU) Countries: Lesotho also engages in trade with European Union countries, exporting textiles, garments, and other products. The EU’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) provides preferential access to the European market for certain developing countries, including Lesotho. This arrangement has facilitated Lesotho’s exports to the EU.
  2. Other African Countries: Lesotho trades with other African countries, including those in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). These trade relationships are influenced by regional cooperation agreements, such as the SADC Free Trade Area, which aims to promote trade and economic integration among member states. Lesotho’s agricultural products and textiles are among the goods traded within the region.
  3. China: China is an emerging trade partner for Lesotho. The country exports goods such as textiles and garments to China, while also importing goods like machinery and electronics. Chinese investment in infrastructure and development projects in Lesotho has contributed to the strengthening of trade relations between the two countries.

Challenges and Opportunities: Lesotho’s trade relationships are shaped by challenges and opportunities:


  1. Dependency on Few Products: Lesotho’s heavy reliance on a few export products, particularly textiles and garments, makes its economy vulnerable to changes in global demand.
  2. Economic Vulnerability: Lesotho’s small economy and limited diversification can expose it to external shocks and market fluctuations.
  3. Employment Challenges: While the textile industry has provided employment, the country faces challenges related to underemployment and youth unemployment.


  1. Diversification: Expanding trade relationships beyond textiles and garments can reduce dependence on a few sectors.
  2. Investment: Attracting foreign direct investment and developing other industries, such as agriculture and tourism, can diversify the economy.
  3. Regional Integration: Leveraging regional trade agreements and partnerships can provide access to larger markets and boost trade.
  4. Skills Development: Enhancing skills and education can create a more qualified workforce and drive innovation in various sectors.

In conclusion, Lesotho’s major trade partners are pivotal to its economic growth and development. South Africa, the U.S., the EU, and other African countries play significant roles in shaping Lesotho’s exports, imports, and overall trade activities. While challenges such as economic vulnerability and employment issues persist, opportunities for diversification, investment, and regional integration can contribute to Lesotho’s efforts to strengthen its trade relationships and build a more resilient economy.