by the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade
A pivotal development for the Kingdom of Swaziland during this review period was the signing on 15 July 2014 of a new Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and all six member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) EPA Group – Swaziland, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. Negotiations had been in process for over a decade, and while the Swaziland Government had during that time initialled an Interim EPA with the EU, the latter insisted upon a trade pact with the SADC EPA Group as a whole and eventually issued an end-September 2014 deadline.
Swaziland’s long-established agricultural exports to the EU would thereafter have lost their preferential status and attracted prohibitive, financially debilitating import duties. The EPA’s benefits were evinced soon after its ratification when the Swaziland Sugar Association (SSA) shipped to Spain, duty-free, the biggest single consignment in its 47-year history and signed an agreement that will see an even larger volume shipped to Finland over the next two years. SSA sales to the EU earned the Kingdom E2.2-billion in 2013/14. Not only has the EPA allayed the concerns of Swaziland’s traditional sugar-, beef- and citrus-buying clients in the EU, but it also provides much needed certainty going forward, whereby both the customer-base there and the spectrum of exported products can be broadened.
Notwithstanding this lucrative preferential market, regional markets such as SADC and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, the Swaziland Government continues to highlight the advantages of setting up shop in the country and to create an ever more conducive investment environment. The 2013 - 2018 Administration’s Programme of Action expresses the intention “to achieve a huge expansion of foreign and direct domestic large-scale investment”: accordingly, 2014 saw the creation of an Investor Road Map Unit to fast-track the implementation of the Investor Roadmap and to ensure that Government, the private sector and the Swazi Nation collaborate in order to realise the aspirations of the Investor Road Map. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade has also through setting up an online process made it simpler and more cost effective to register companies, further reduced the number of steps involved and is planning to introduce an e-filing as well as an electronic payment system in the medium term.
In line with Government’s recognition of the need for synergies between trade- investment promotion and trade facilitation, the Trade Promotion Department has been transferred from the International Trade Department to the Swaziland Investment Promotion Authority (SIPA). Consequently, the annual Swaziland International Trade Fair now falls under SIPA. This review period’s event recorded a 22 percent year-on-year increase to 187 in the number of exhibitors. Themed ‘Development Unusual: Integrating Businesses into Vision 2022’ and setting out to strengthen the local export base through the creation of additional marketing opportunities and capacity building programmes, many Government Ministries and Public Enterprises were on show, while private sector exhibitors ranged from construction, agro-processing and science/technology to business, training/careers and fashion/beauty. For the first time, the Kingdom’s handicraft producers were availed with their own marquee, free-of-charge: this crucial sector has contributed substantially to economic growth and brought into the mainstream of economic activity groups such as women in rural communities. The Ministry has also developed the Citizens Economic Empowerment Bill, whose key objective is the empowerment of marginalised groups in society. The Bill has been submitted to Cabinet.
King Mswati III International Airport began operating on 30 September 2014 after being commissioned by His Majesty on 7 March during a gala occasion attended by local dignitaries, foreign ambassadors, the International Civil Aviation Organization and many hundreds of Swazi citizens. The top-flight facility is operated by the Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority and has the potential to propel the Kingdom into a new era by seamlessly integrating the country into the global air-transportation network. The facility is the country’s new and direct gateway to and from the world and will benefit exporters and international visitors.
Annually, each chapter of The Swaziland Review charts the progress made in a specific sector of the Kingdom’s economy: in this issue, the 2013 - 2018 Administration’s Programme of Action is broken down to reflect the parts to be played in each sector during that timeframe by the corresponding Government Ministry and Public Enterprise/s. To these are added the milestones achieved during the year in review, such as the progress made towards the attainment of Millennium Development Goals. The Swaziland Review thereby maintains a long-founded tradition of conveying our country’s advantages to the regional/global business community and once again serves as an officially endorsed window into the ‘Kingdom of Swaziland: Africa’s New Promise’.