The Kingdom of Swaziland has long held a dream of greater prosperity and the time for its realization is nigh.
Today, as the emerging market nations strive to make their business environments more attractive, Swaziland’s value system of tradition and culture, embracing a drive in its public and private sectors towards international modernity, has made it an increasingly attractive opportunity for foreign direct investment.
However, Swaziland is not yet Switzerland. Ours is a developing country, one endowed with natural resources, but in the early stages of a transformative development project entitled the “First World Vision,” designed to capitalize on those resources to an unprecedented degree. Our 2013-18 Programme of Action holds the key to unlocking Swaziland’s potential and implementation of that Programme is underway.
On the other hand, as much as good intention and political will were evident at the U.S-Africa Summit of 2014, held in Washington this August, the agenda and aftermath did raise some concerns.
What was clear was that certain stakeholders were unclear, giving rise, whether intentionally or otherwise, to a misrepresentation of the present position, and the opportunities available, within Swaziland.
Any notion that we are internally divided in our ambitions could not be further from the truth and suggests that certain western institutions may be referring to outdated, or even misguided, fact-books. Misinformation will serve only to hinder, as opposed to encourage, free enterprise in our country.
The global financial crisis of the late 2000s has dwindled in the eyes of many, yet residual damage to growth potential is still prevailing in many economies around the world. Swaziland’s export markets have themselves been dealt a blow, with lower rates of economic growth from the fallout, with the inevitable result of reduced purchasing power.
It is therefore important to recognize that present-day Swaziland is undergoing a sensitive and challenging process of economic revival. And we are doing so while bringing about a new culture of governance and accountability.
While enhancing our infrastructure we are, at the same time, rehabilitating our transportation sector, as well as consistently supporting the farming industry, improving the efficiency of cultivation operations and facilitating an increase in the number of farmers entering the global supply chain. An acceleration in the development of agri-business is one of the main strategies deployed to increase domestically generated revenue and ease the dependency on income from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU).
At the same time, our nation embraces technology and all that it can provide, accepting the importance of innovation as the means to being more competitive. We are emphasizing telecommunication in business-to- business engagement as world-wide-web penetration continues to increase in our country.
We recognize, furthermore, that people are still, and will always be, more important than machines and our newly created Human Rights Commission will soon be fully staffed and autonomously operational.
There are, nevertheless, certain hindrances to our “flight path.” The decision to suspend Swaziland from eligibility and participation within the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) puts into abeyance the preferential trading access for Swazi producers into the United States market. This has serious implications for the livelihoods of tens of thousands of workers in a country with an official unemployment rate of 28%. So, while Swaziland continues to operate within other international development partnerships, we do feel that it is time for certain western institutions to carry out a fresh analysis of reality on the ground in our country.
I take the opportunity to emphasize that the vast majority of people in our country – and I believe the word “majority” is significant – understand and are committed to what we call the new social contract in which we work and collaborate fully to achieve the targets laid out in our new Swaziland Development Index.
It is only through the united efforts of all of Swaziland’s citizens, together with the stewardship, guidance and grace of His Majesty King Mswati III, our Head of State, that we will make the nation’s strategy of “Development Unusual” a reality.
A revaluation by the international community, especially our former hosts in Washington, to revive to its fullest the robust, collaborative economic partnership of recent years, is strongly merited.