King Mswati III, the absolute monarch of Swaziland (eSwatini), has admitted his poverty-stricken kingdom will not attain ‘First World’ status by 2022. He had been claiming this was possible for many years.
The King in a speech opening the Swazi Parliament on Friday (19 February 2021) blamed the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic for the failure.
He said, ‘We are now in 2021 and there are no clear signs, as yet, that we are going to make much progress without eliminating COVID-19. There are, however, positive signs that it is being brought under control.
‘Since we earmarked the year 2022 as the year to attain first world status, it is clear that we are not going to reach this target. We hope it will not take us too long to get back on track and attain it.’
In fact, Swaziland was never “on track” to achieve First World status.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Swaziland issued a report in 2014 that received no publicity in the kingdom at the time, that said if Swaziland were to achieve First World status it would have to be ‘among high human development countries like Norway, Australia, United States, Netherlands and Germany to name a few’.
UNDP went on to give these statistics comparing Swaziland with Norway, the United States and Germany.
Life expectancy: Swaziland (48.9 years); Norway (81.3); United States (78.7); Germany (80.6).
Mean average years of schooling: Swaziland (7.1); Norway (12.6); United States (13.3); Germany (12.2).
Percentage of population with at least secondary school education: Swaziland (48); Norway (95.2); United States (94.5); Germany (96.6).
The UNDP was not alone in this. In 2012 a report published by 24/7 Wall St in the United States, and based on data from the World Bank, identified Swaziland as the fifth poorest country in the entire world.
It said 69 percent of King Mswati’s 1.3 million subjects lived in poverty.
Its report stated, ‘[T]he country’s workforce is largely concentrated in subsistence agriculture, even though the country faces serious concerns about overgrazing and soil depletion. While these factors harm the nation’s economy, health concerns are likely one of the major factors preventing Swaziland’s population from escaping poverty.’
In 2017, the global charity Oxfam named Swaziland as the most unequal country in the world in a report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa that detailed the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom. The Oxfam report stated the government, which is handpicked by King Mswati, ‘failed to put measures in place to tackle inequality, with poor scores for social spending and progressive taxation, and a poor record on labour rights’.
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