Saturday, October 23, 2010


King Mswati III of Swaziland has badly misjudged the needs of his kingdom with his latest deal with Kuwait.

The King, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch, has signed a ‘letter of intent’ with the Kuwaiti Government to build a seven star hotel in Swaziland.

Seven stars? That would make it one of the most luxurious hotels known to humankind. And the King reckons we need to build one in Swaziland, where seven in ten people are so poor they earn less than one US dollar a day and most of the rest don’t earn much more.

This hotel – if it ever gets built – is another vanity project for the King, like Sikhuphe International Airport.

If it is built, it will make the King feel like he is ruling a First World nation, which is one of his aspirations for Swaziland, but it will serve no useful purpose.

As with the airport, no independent analysis has been done to assess the need for a seven star hotel in Swaziland.

If media reports in Swaziland are to be believed (I’ll leave you to decide that one for yourself) what has happened is that King Mswati and a delegation of Swazi ministers and business people went to Kuwait to try to persuade them to invest in the kingdom. They didn’t have much luck, but they wanted to at least get some Kuwaitis to visit Swaziland.

Even that tiny aspiration fell at the first hurdle. The Swazis were told that Kuwaitis don’t want to visit Swaziland because they like to go to places that are ‘modern’ and they weren’t interested in Swazi culture.

Minister of Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Macford Sibandze, said, Even if we treat them to our traditional lifestyle, we should blend it with modernity to make them comfortable. If we accommodate them in a traditional hut, we should ensure that it has air-conditioning and high-technology equipment.’

So, a light bulb lit up above his head: what Swaziland must do is build a modern hotel and then the Kuwaitis will come.

Sibandze was told during his visit to Kuwait that people there prefer to go on their holidays to Europe and hardly anyone wanted to go to Africa, especially not southern Africa. So why does he think they will travel the length of the whole continent of Africa to hole up in a seven star hotel in Swaziland?

They won’t. But that inconvenient fact isn’t enough to stop King Mswati and his cronies from wasting millions of dollars that could be better spent creating proper jobs for ordinary Swazis.

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