Swaziland ranks as a lower middle income country, but it's estimated that 63% of the population lives in poverty. Most of the high-level economic activity is in the hands of non-Africans, but ethnic Swazis are becoming more active. Small entrepreneurs are moving into middle management positions. Although 70% of Swazis live in rural areas, nearly every homestead has a wage earner. The past few years have seen wavering economic growth, which has been exacerbated by the economy's inability to create new jobs at the same rate that new job seekers enter the market. This is due in part to the country's population growth rate, which strains the natural heritage and the country's ability to provide adequate social services, such as health care and education. Overgrazing, soil depletion, drought, and floods are persistent problems.
Nearly 60% of Swazi territory is held by the Crown in trust of the Swazi nation. The balance is privately owned, much of it by foreigners. The question of land use and ownership remains a very sensitive one. For Swazis living on rural homesteads, the principal occupation is either subsistence farming or livestock herding. Culturally, cattle are important symbols of wealth and status, but they are being used increasingly for milk, meat, and profit.
Swaziland enjoys well-developed road links with South Africa. It also has railroads running east to west and north to south. The older east-west link, called the Goba line, makes it possible to export bulk goods from Swaziland through the Port of Maputo in Mozambique. Most of Swaziland's imports were shipped through this port. Conflict in Mozambique in the 1980s diverted many Swazi exports to ports in South Africa. Swaziland mainly uses the port today for exports of sugar, citrus, and forest products, with future usage of the port expected to increase. A north-south rail link, completed in 1986, provides a connection between the Eastern Transvaal rail network and the South African ports of Richard's Bay and Durban.
The sugar industry, based solely on irrigated cane, is Swaziland's leading export earner and private-sector employer. Soft drink concentrate (a U.S. investment) is another large export earner, followed by wood pulp and lumber from cultivated pine forests. Pineapple and citrus fruit are other important agricultural exports.
Swaziland mines coal and diamonds for export. There also is a quarry industry for domestic consumption. In 2005, mining contributed about 0.6% of Swaziland's GDP, and predictions for the industry are mixed as coal mining is expected to increase but quarried stone production is expected to decrease.
A number of industrial firms have located at the industrial estate at Matsapha near Manzini. In addition to processed agricultural and forestry products, the industrial sector at Matsapha also produces garments, textiles, and a variety of light manufactured products. The Swaziland Industrial Development Company (SIDC) and the Swaziland Investment Promotion Authority (SIPA) have assisted in bringing many of these industries to the country. Government programs encourage Swazi entrepreneurs to run small and medium-sized firms. Tourism also is important, attracting more than 424,000 visitors annually, mostly from Europe and South Africa.
From the mid-1980s, foreign investment in the manufacturing sector boosted economic growth rates significantly. Beginning in mid-1985, the depreciated value of the currency increased the competitiveness of Swazi exports and moderated the growth of imports, generating trade surpluses. During the 1990s, the country often ran small trade deficits. South Africa and the European Union are major customers for Swazi exports.
Swaziland became eligible for the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) in 2000 and qualified for the apparel provision in 2001. AGOA created over 30,000 jobs, mostly for women, in Swaziland's apparel industry. However, the industry suffered in 2005-2006, due to both increased global competition as a result of the end of the Agreement on Textiles and Clothing (ATC) on January 1, 2005, and the strong Rand (Swaziland's currency is linked to the South African Rand at par), which reduced exports. There are an estimated 16,000 people employed in the apparel industry.
Swaziland, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, and the Republic of South Africa form the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), where import duties apply uniformly to member countries. Swaziland, Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa also are members of the Common Monetary Area (CMA) in which repatriation and unrestricted funds are permitted. Swaziland issues its own currency, the lilangeni (plural: emalangeni).
GDP (2009): $2.9 billion.
GDP real growth rate: 2.4% (2008); 0.4% (2009).
Gross national income per capita (2008): $2,285.
Inflation: 12.6% (2008); 7.5% (2009).
Natural resources: Coal, quarry stone, timber, talc.
Agriculture (8.3% of GDP): Products--sugarcane, corn, citrus fruits, livestock, wood, pineapple, tobacco, rice, peanuts.
Manufacturing (28.2% of GDP): Types--sugar refining, light manufactured goods, wood pulp, textiles, processed foods, consumer goods.
Trade (2008): Exports--$1.57 billion: soft drink concentrates, sugar, pulp, canned fruits, cotton yarn. Major markets--South Africa (80%), EU (10%), Mozambique (10%). Imports--$1.58 billion: chemicals, clothing, foodstuffs, machinery, motor vehicles, petroleum products.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
On July 26, 2005 King Mswati III ratified Swaziland's constitution. It went into effect February 8, 2006. This is Swaziland's first constitution in over 30 years.
According to Swazi law and custom, the monarch holds supreme executive, legislative, and judicial powers. In general practice, however, the monarch's power is delegated through a dualistic system: modern, statutory bodies, like the cabinet; and less formal traditional government structures. The king must approve legislation passed by parliament before it becomes law. The prime minister, who is head of government, and the cabinet, which is recommended by the prime minister and approved by the king, exercise executive authority. At present, parliament consists of a 65-seat House of Assembly (55 members are elected through popular vote; 10 are appointed by the king) and 30-seat Senate (10 members are appointed by the House of Assembly, and 20 are appointed by the king). House of Assembly elections were last held on September 19, 2008. King Mswati III appointed a new cabinet on October 24, 2008.
For local administration Swaziland is divided into four regions, each with an administrator appointed by the king. Parallel to the government structure is the traditional system consisting of the king and his advisers, traditional courts, 55 tinkhundla (sub-regional districts in which traditional chiefs are grouped), and approximately 360 chiefdoms.
Swaziland is a member of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), with which the U.S. began negotiating a free trade agreement in May 2003. The other members of SACU are Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, and South Africa.
Principal Government Officials
Head of State--King Mswati III
Head of Government--Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas Dlamini
Deputy Prime Minister--Themba Masuku
Minister of Economic Planning--Prince Hlangusempi
Minister of Public Service--Mtiti Fakudze
Minister of Natural Resources and Energy--Princess Tsandzile
Minister of Education and Training--Wilson Ntshangase
Minister of Health--Bennedict Xaba
Minister of Agriculture--Clement Dlamini
Minister of Information and Communication Technology--Nelisiwe Shogwe
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs--David Matse
Minister of Public Works and Transport--Ntuthuko Dlamini
Minister of Tourism and Environment--Macford Sibandze
Minister of Home Affairs--Mgwagwa Gamedze
Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Trade--Jabulile Mashwama
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation--Lutfo Dlamini
Minister of Local Government and Housing--Lindiwe Gwebu
Minister of Sports Culture and Youth Affairs--Hlobsile Ndlovu
Minister of Labour and Social Security--Patrick Magwebetane Mamba
Minister of Finance--Majozi V. Sithole
Minister of Tinkhundla--Chief Gcokoma Dlamini
Ambassador to the United States--Abednigo Mandla Ntshangase
Permanent Representative to the United Nations--Zwelethu Mnisi
Swaziland maintains an embassy in the United States at 1712 New Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel: 202-234-5002; fax: 202-234-8254). Swaziland's UN Mission is located at 408 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022 (tel: 212-371-8910; fax: 212-754-2755).
Independence: September 6, 1968.
Constitution: On July 26, 2005, King Mswati III ratified Swaziland's constitution. This is Swaziland's first constitution in over 30 years. It went into effect February 8, 2006.
Branches: Executive--monarch (head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet (appointed by the king at the recommendation of the prime minister). Legislative--Parliament consisting of the House of Assembly (65 members: 55 elected, 10 appointed by the king) and Senate (30 members: 10 appointed by the House of Assembly, 20 appointed by the king). Judicial--a dual court system of traditional courts under chiefs and a Roman-Dutch system comprising magistrates courts, High Court, Supreme Court (formerly Court of Appeals).
Administrative subdivisions: 4 regions, 9 municipal governments, and 55 tinkhundla centers (traditional administrative units).
Political parties: None registered, though the new constitution does not forbid parties.
Suffrage: Universal after 18.
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