flag Lesotho Lesotho: Trade Profile

Foreign Trade in Figures

Though it is a landlocked country, foreign trade plays a key role in Lesotho’s economy, representing around 149% of GDP (World Bank, latest data available). The southern African nation is a member of the SACU (Southern African Customs Union) Free Trade Area and enjoys privileged access to markets in the EU (through the Economic Partnership Agreement and the SADC-EFTA Free Trade Agreement), the United States (African Growth Opportunity Act), Latin America (Mercosur), as well as Canada, Japan, and the Scandinavian countries. The country's trade policy is designed to liberalize the economy and reach more export markets. However, long and complicated red tape and the large number of documents required can limit or even discourage exchanges. Lesotho mainly exports diamonds (35.2%), knit women's suits (8.5%), non-knit men's suits (8.4%), water (5.3%), and knit t-shirts (5.3%); whereas its main imports include refined petroleum (12%), light rubberized knitted fabric (5.4%), raw cotton (4.5%), electricity (2.8%), and synthetic filament yarn woven fabric (2% - data OEC 2022).

Lesotho's main customers are South Africa (37.4%), the United States (28.1%), Belgium (18.9%), United Arab Emirates (6.3%), and the United Kingdom (2.8%). Its main suppliers are South Africa (78.4%), China (6.1%), Taiwan (4.8%), Zimbabwe (3.5%), and India (1.7% - data OEC 2022).

Lesotho's trade balance is structurally in deficit, a trend that is expected to continue. According to WTO data, in 2022, Lesotho collected USD 894 million from exports of goods but spent USD 1.8 billion on imports (-4.4% and +1.7% y-o-y, respectively). The country imported services worth USD 442 million, while it exported only USD 14 million. The World Bank estimated the country’s trade deficit to account for 52.5% of GDP in the same year. Exports are facing challenges due to weak regional and global demand, particularly in apparel, textiles, and natural resources, which continue to dominate the export market. As per the World Bank's first estimates, exports of goods and services increased by 2.2% in 2023, while imports increased at a faster pace (10.3%).

Foreign Trade Indicators 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 1,7341,3801,8241,8561,772
Exports of Goods (million USD) 919845935894794
Imports of Services (million USD) 447384408445402
Exports of Services (million USD) 2913221816
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -1-1n/an/an/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -13-18n/an/an/a
Trade Balance (million USD) -719-713-753-747n/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 136134139n/an/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 929394n/an/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 454246n/an/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank - Latest available data.

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To go further, check out our service Import controls and Export controls

To go further, check out our service Import-Export Flows


Main Services

Source: United Nations Statistics Division, Latest Available Data

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List of tariffs and local taxes that apply to your product on our service Customs Duties


Trade Compliance

International Conventions
Member of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
International Economic Cooperation
Member of South African Development Community (SADC)

Member of Southern African Customs Union (SACU)

Useful Resources
Lesotho Revenue Authority – LRA
National Organisation of Intellectual Property
You can contact the Ministry of Law and Constitutional Affairs by Email.

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Latest Update: May 2024