Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Oxfam names Swaziland most unequal country in Africa on personal income

Oxfam, the international anti-poverty charity, has named Swaziland / eSwatini as the country with most income inequality in Africa.

In a report called A Tale of Two Continents: Fighting Inequality in Africa it measured people with top incomes and compared them with those with the least.

Oxfam reported, ‘The most unequal country in the region, Swaziland, is home to one billionaire, Nathan Kirsh, who is estimated to have US$4.9bn.  If he worked in one of the restaurants that his wholesale company supplies on a worker’s minimum wage, it would take him 5.7 million years to earn his current level of wealth.’ The annual minimum wage in Swaziland is US$848 (or about E12,000 in the local Swazi currency), Oxfam reported.

The new report is one of many about poverty in Swaziland in recent years. In August 2018 a report published by the World Bank stated, ‘Poverty, inequality and unemployment are the primary development challenges which have remained stubborn and difficult to address.’

It said, ‘Based on the international poverty lines of US$1.9 and US$3.2 a day, it is estimated that 38 percent of the Swazi population [estimated at 1.2 million] lives in extreme poverty and a total of 60.3 percent is poor overall. These estimates represent a relatively small improvement from the 2009 finding that 42.0 percent were subsisting below the US$1.9 a day line and 64.4 percent were below the US$3.2 a day line. 

‘In general, children, the elderly, the unemployed as well as female-headed and single-headed households are disproportionately represented among the poor.’

In December 2018 a report published by Afrobarometer suggested poverty in Swaziland got worse over the previous three years.

More than half the people interviewed reported going without enough food and without the medical care they needed.

The numbers going without food was 56 percent (up from 51 percent from a similar survey taken in 2015). Those going without medical care was 53 percent (up from 33 percent).

In 2017, Oxfam itself published a report called Starting With People, a human economy approach to inclusive growth in Africa which also detailed the differences in countries between the top most earners and those at the bottom. It stated the Swazi government, which is handpicked by King Mswati, who rules as an absolute monarch, ‘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’.

King Mswati III has a reputation for lavish spending. He has at least 13 palaces, two private jets and fleets of top-of-the-range cars. At his 50th birthday in 2018 he wore a watch worth US$1.6 million and a suit beaded with diamonds that weighed 6 kg. 

In 2017 the international website Business Insider reported he had a net worth of US$200 million (about E2.8 billion).

See also

No let up on poverty in Swaziland as absolute King makes public display of his vast wealth

Lavish spending leads to food aid cut

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