Getting to Know Little Brother – Lesotho
So for the first time in six years, I am in paid employment. Perhaps now I’ll start to feel like a real struggling writer as opposed to one that had all the time in the world to write. I read an article recently about writers in days gone by and the jobs they had and how it shaped their writing in ways these formulaic courses of today simply cannot do. Creating clone writers does little for the industry and hopefully we will see some shift in the modern writers approach in the future. That said I’m hoping my nine to fiver will give me some insight into all things international. It certainly shouldn’t hurt my ‘Little Brother’ posts.
Now I’m at the UN we are supposed to use disclaimers if we publish anything. So let me state for the record: ‘That anything I publish is not necessarily the opinon of the United Nations. And any similarities in opinion are purely coincidental’. Chances are that they wouldn’t care too much any way but just to be sure to be sure. So without any further delay let me introduce the little known kingdom of – Lesotho.
Lesotho is an enclave of South Africa. That’s right it’s a country within a country. Formerly known as Basutoland it became independent from Britain in 1966. In four short decades the country went from Kingdom to military rule and finally to its first coalition government. Right now they seem to be in the midst of a military coup again but there is hope for another election in the coming months. Like Bhutan the terrain is mountainous although with the highest point at 3482 metres it would not have the same majesty as the Himalayas. That said 80 percent of the country is 1800 metres above sea level which is the sort of height that would negate most of the Southern Alps of New Zealand. There is true majesty in it’s scenery.
Only 10 percent of Lesotho’s 30,000 square kilometres is arable meaning that much of it’s food supply is sourced from neighbour South Africa. Those of the two million citizens who are lucky enough to have available land live mainly through subsistence farming. The population growth of Lesotho is minimal and only South Africa has lower growth on the continent. There are two major reasons – The high death rate and net migration. They are a young country with a median age of 23 and life expectancy of only 52.
In truth when you go through the bare statistics it’s harder to paint a pretty picture of this small but developing nation. There are figures that point to a better future. When it comes to percentage of GDP Lesotho tops the world in education spending and is near top in health spending but there is a need. There is a 23% prevalence of AIDS in Lesotho’s adult population. That puts it at No 2 in the world after Swaziland. In fact the entire southern tip of Africa constitutes the top ten countries with a prevalence of HIV. Without looking at gun laws, and civil wars and inequality and dictatorships – it is there in health education that the southern section of Africa suffers most.
While most Basotho live on 1.25 USD per day there are others who are doing well for themselves. The diamond mining industry in Lesotho has grown in recent years and contributes about 8% to GDP. But probably the most positive figure in all this is that unemployment went from 45% to 25% in just a decade. Fingers crossed February’s planned election goes ahead.
“Khotso, Pula, Nala” (Sotho)
“Peace, Rain, Prosperity”