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Key findings
  • About two-thirds (65%) of Basotho live in zones served by the national electric grid, up 15 percentage points since 2012 (50%). o But only 36% of rural residents are within reach of the grid, compared to 96% of urbanites. More educated and economically better-off citizens are also far more likely to live in zones served by the electric grid than those with less schooling and lower economic status.
  • Slightly more than half (52%) of Basotho live in households that are connected to the national power grid.
  • Among those who are connected to the grid, 78% say their electricity works “most of the time” or “all of the time.”
  • Combining connection and reliability rates shows that 40% of all Basotho enjoy a reliable supply of electricity, including just 22% of rural residents and 29% of citizens experiencing high lived poverty.
  • Electricity ranks fifth among the most important problems that Basotho want their government to address.
  • About three-quarters (74%) of citizens say the government is doing a poor job of providing a reliable supply of electricity. This assessment is particularly widespread among older respondents (75%-76%), the less educated (76%), and the poor (78%).

Despite progress in expanding access to electricity (Maebe, 2023), Lesotho has one of the  lowest electrification rates on the continent, mainly due to limited rural penetration,  especially in the country’s mountainous areas (Smith, 2022; ISS African Futures, 2023; Sebusi,  2022; Mpholo, et al., 2021; OnePower Lesotho, 2022).  

More than 70% of the country’s people live in rural areas (United Nations Lesotho, 2019),  which makes extending electricity access to rural households and ensuring energy security a  development imperative (Reporter Lesotho, 2022). Lesotho’s Energy Policy (2015-2025) seeks  to make energy supply “universally accessible and affordable in a sustainable manner, with  minimal negative impact on the environment” (Kingdom of Lesotho, 2015).  

The country’s state-owned power utility, the Lesotho Electricity Co., meets more than half of  its energy needs during periods of peak demand through imports from South Africa’s Eskom  and Mozambique’s Electricidade de Moçambique, largely generated from coal (United  Nations Development Programme, 2020; Energy Catalyst, 2020; World Bank, 2020). In 2021,  electricity was the fifth-most imported product in Lesotho (OEC World, 2023).  

At the same time, Lesotho has immense potential to diversify its energy mix through  increased investments in wind, solar, and hydropower generation (International Trade  Administration, 2024). In line with national goals to transition away from an over-reliance on  fossil fuels, the government has called for more private-sector investment in renewable  technologies (African Development Bank, 2023). 

A recent Afrobarometer survey provides an on-the-ground look at electricity access in  Lesotho. Findings show that while about two-thirds of Basotho live in zones served by the  national electric grid, just four in 10 enjoy a reliable supply of electricity, including only one fifth of rural residents. 

Electricity ranks fifth on the list of problems that Basotho want their government to address.  Three-quarters of citizens say the government is performing poorly on this priority. 

Asafika Mpako

Asafika is the communications coordinator for Southern Africa

Stephen Ndoma

Stephen is the assistant project manager for Southern Africa