SWAZILAND ECONOMIC CONFERENCE 2017 - INTRODUCTION

Concept Note And Call for Papers

SWAZILAND ECONOMIC CONFERENCE 2017

Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth in Swaziland

Mbabane, Swaziland, October 25 – 27, 2017


Introduction

The theme for the 2017 Swaziland Economic Conference (SEC) is “Turning the Key: Path to Economic Recovery and Sustainable Growth in Swaziland”. It derives from the undisputable fact that economic recovery and sustainable growth are key to the country’s ability to eradicate poverty, overcome hunger and chronic food insecurity, create decent jobs, and attain the ‘First World Status’ alluded to in the Kingdom’s “Development Unusual” policy document.

Despite large scale investments into pro-poor infrastructural projects and numerous economic strategies geared towards reducing poverty including the poverty reduction strategy and action plan, poverty levels remain very high in Swaziland. Out of about 1.1 million1 people, 63% were poor in 2010 while approximately 89% of all rural households were living in abject poverty during the same period. The Swaziland Household Income and Expenditure Survey of 2010 indicates that one in two people in rural areas were also food poor. Studies have also shown that few rural households produce food production2, although rural areas are home to about 75% of the population of Swaziland.

Unemployment in Swaziland is high, estimated at 28.1% using the official definition, but is about 41.7% when another common definition is used3. Unemployment affected 51.6% of all young people aged between 15 – 34 years in 20144. Economic growth is proving very elusive. The Government of Swaziland reports that growth decreased from an average of about 3.1% between 1990 and 2000 to about 2.1% between 2001 and 2010. In 2016, the economy is expected to contract by 0.6%. This is far lower than the 5%5 required to jump-start economic recovery, create jobs, and eradicate poverty.

A question of general policy interest for the Conference is: How can Swaziland eradicate poverty and hunger, and jump-start its economic recovery? A credible answer could be through the improvement of the country’s agricultural productivity, improved market access for smallholder farmers; creation of off-farm employment opportunities in the rural areas, expansion of local production of goods and services, increasing exports; strengthening service delivery, and providing an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and create jobs. Swaziland has a number of potential opportunities in all the above areas and it is difficult to explain why its recovery has remained elusive. As a precondition to jump-starting economic recovery, Swaziland needs to better manage the economy to increase investor confidence, improve ease of doing business, and attract foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country.