More information about Lesotho is available on the Lesotho Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Lesotho in 1966, immediately following its independence from the United Kingdom. Post-independence, the country has seen a mix of rule by decree, coup, military government, and democratically elected government. Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy that faces challenges including poverty, income inequality, and one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world. It is currently governed by a five-party coalition. Since independence, Lesotho and the United States have had productive bilateral relations. U.S. foreign policy priorities in Lesotho focus on achieving the development of a stable, prosperous, and healthy country.
U.S. Assistance to Lesotho
U.S. assistance to Lesotho focuses on reversing the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic and promoting economic development. Since 2006, the U.S. government, through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), has committed more than $460 million to the bilateral HIV response in Lesotho. PEPFAR remains committed to supporting health system strengthening and governance– particularly in laboratory services, strategic information, human resources, and supply chain management. In 2020, the U.S. government leveraged the strong bilateral health partnership to bolster Lesotho’s COVID-19 response efforts.
The Government of Lesotho has demonstrated substantial political will to fight HIV/AIDS and has undertaken many efforts to address the epidemic. In April 2016, Lesotho became the first country in Africa to launch “Test and Treat,” ensuring that all those who test HIV positive are immediately eligible to begin treatment. Lesotho has made great strides under PEPFAR and achieved UNAIDS’ “90-90-90” definition of epidemic control by 2020. Under this goal, 90% of people are tested and know their status, 90% of those who know their HIV status are on medication, and 90% of those on medication are virally suppressed.
The $362.5 million Millennium Challenge Corporation Compact– concluded in September 2013– developed Lesotho’s health care, water, and sanitation infrastructure. The compact also promoted private sector development. In December 2017, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) selected Lesotho to begin the process of developing a second MCC Compact. The second compact will focus on improving processes through which the government delivers public goods and services and growing the private sector. U.S. assistance also promotes trade facilitation, renewable energy development, good governance, and disaster risk reduction through sustainable agricultural practices.
Through the Peace Corps program, started in 1967, more than 2,500 Americans have lived and worked in Basotho communities as volunteers.
More than 500 Basotho have gone to the United States on U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs including the International Visitors Leadership Program, the Fulbright and Humphrey educational exchange programs, and the Young African Leaders Initiative.
Bilateral Economic Relations
The Government of Lesotho encourages greater U.S. participation in the commercial sector and welcomes interest from potential U.S. investors and suppliers. Lesotho is eligible for preferential trade benefits under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Lesotho is the second largest exporter of textiles and garments to the U.S. under AGOA. The top U.S. export categories to Lesotho are machinery, medical equipment, , and aircraft. The country belongs to the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which has signed a trade, investment, and development cooperative agreement (TIDCA) with the United States. The TIDCA establishes a forum for consultative discussions, cooperative work, and possible agreements on a wide range of trade issues, with a special focus on customs and trade facilitation, technical barriers to trade, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, and trade and investment promotion.
Lesotho’s Membership in International Organizations
Lesotho and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Lesotho is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and the African Union (AU).
The U.S. Ambassador to Lesotho is Rebecca E. Gonzales. Other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.
Lesotho maintains an embassy in the United States at 2511 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, (tel: 202-797-5533).
More information about Lesotho is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here: