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The Kingdom of Eswatini is a small, landlocked country covering a total area of 17,364 km² with a population of 1.2 million and is located in the southern part of Africa bordered by the Republic of Mozambique to the east and the rest by the Republic of South Africa. Within this small area each feature of Africa’s terrain is found, apart from desert. The Kingdom has four topographical and climatic areas ranging from 400 to 1800 m above sea level, each with its own unique characteristics.

Most households derive their income from agriculture activities, either as small-scale subsistence farmers or as employees of the medium and large-scale farms and estates. They derive their livelihoods from engaging in the production of subsistence crops and rearing livestock. Maize is the dominant food crop in Swaziland and is primarily grown for subsistence purposes. Other subsistence crops grown include legumes, tubers, sorghum, horticultural crops, mushrooms and tobacco on a very small scale. Cash crops produced include sugarcane, cotton, citrus and woodpulp. There is also an observed increase in beekeeping. Livestock rearing plays an important role in the lives of the country’s populace. Livestock production includes beef cattle, dairy cows, goats, sheep, poultry and pigs, producing products such as meat, milk, eggs, draft power, manure, hides and skins.

Due to persistent drought, erratic weather conditions and other factors like plummeting international prices, agricultural productivity on Swazi Nation Land is quite low. Food insecurity is a major concern in Eswatini, owing to low agricultural productivity, but also the increase of commodity prices and fuel crisis across the globe particularly in recent months. In reality hunger and food insecurity are some of the major challenges facing the nation, owing to persistent droughts and erratic weather patterns experienced in the country in recent years.

Economic Outlook

Eswatini has close economic linkages to South Africa, which it depends on for about 85% of its imports and about 60% of exports. Eswatini is a member of the Common Monetary Area (CMA), with Lesotho, Namibia, and South Africa. Under the CMA, the Eswatini lilangeni (the domestic currency) is pegged at par to the South African rand, which is also legal tender in the country.

Real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in 2018 is estimated at 2.4% from 2% in 2017, partly driven by a stronger-than-projected recovery in the primary and service sectors. However, due to escalating fiscal challenges (reflected through accumulation of domestic arrears) that are expected to continue slowing recovery in construction and public administration sectors, real GDP for 2019 is projected to decline to 1.3%.

Wage costs have remained elevated as the fiscal situation continues to deteriorate. As a result, the fiscal deficit increased from about 5% of GDP in 2017 to 7% in 2018. It is projected to remain negative in the medium-term. Consequently, public debt has rapidly increased, rising from 10% of GDP in 2009 to hit around 30% of GDP in July 2019.

The government also continues accumulating domestic arrears that increased from 3% of GDP in 2016 to 10.3% of GDP by July 2019. As a result, gross official reserves have been consistently below the three-month international benchmark, reaching a low of two months of imports of goods and services in March 2019.

For the first time, inflation remained below the 3% lower-band threshold from April to August 2019 as the government has kept the price of housing and utilities constant for more than 12 months. During the first eight months of 2019, inflation averaged 3% compared to 4.6% recorded during the same period last year. Due to decreasing inflation the Central Bank of Eswatini maintained an accommodative monetary policy for the same period and further cuts interest by 25 basis points to 6.5% in July 2019.

Development challenges

Poverty has persisted despite the country’s lower-middle-income status. Nationally, 58.9% of Swazis lived below the national poverty line in 2017. This follows a decline from 63% in 2009, and 69.0% in 2001. By international poverty standards, 38.6% of Swazis lived below the 2011 purchasing power parity (PPP) of $1.90 per person per day, and this rises to 60.4% when the 2011 PPP $3.20 per person per day poverty line for lower middle-income countries is used.

Challenges to poverty reduction include slowing economic growth, adverse weather patterns, high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, high unemployment, and high inequality; the per adult equivalent consumption Gini index stagnated around 49.0 between 2010 and 2017.

National elections were held in September 2018, which the Southern African Development Community and African Union Observer missions declared peaceful. A new cabinet was announced in November and the Strategic Roadmap serves as the guiding document to turn around the economy, improve services delivery and improve fiscal position. 

Unemployment in Eswatini (2015-2019)

Unemployment refers to the share of the labour force that is without work but available for and seeking employment.

  • Eswatini unemployment rate for 2019 was 22.08%, a 0.28% decline from 2018.
  • Eswatini unemployment rate for 2018 was 22.36%, a 0.18% decline from 2017.
  • Eswatini unemployment rate for 2017 was 22.54%, a 0.18% decline from 2016.
  • Eswatini unemployment rate for 2016 was 22.72%, a 0.74% decline from 2015.

Youth unemployment refers to the share of the labour force ages 15-24 without work but available for and seeking employment.

  • Eswatini youth unemployment rate for 2019 was 46.55%, a 0.31% increase from 2018.
  • Eswatini youth unemployment rate for 2018 was 46.24%, a 0.12% increase from 2017.
  • Eswatini youth unemployment rate for 2017 was 46.12%, a 0.09% increase from 2016.
  • Eswatini youth unemployment rate for 2016 was 46.02%, a 1.36% decline from 2015.


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