flag Eswatini Eswatini: Economic Outline

Economic Indicators

In April 2018, 50 years after independence from British rule, King Mswati III changed the country’s name from Swaziland to the Kingdom of Eswatini, its pre-colonial original name. As a landlocked territory surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique, Eswatini’s economy relies largely on South Africa and on the volatile and declining Southern Africa Customs Union (SACU) revenue. Over the last two decades, Eswatini's GDP per capita growth has averaged only 1.8%. The country's economic growth was already slowing when it entered recession in 2020 due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Real GDP rebounded to 4.8% in 2023, driven by services and exports, with increased SACU receipts aiding in reducing the fiscal deficit while boosting government-linked services. Agriculture contracted by 2.5% due to weather-related challenges. The medium-term outlook is moderately favorable, with GDP growth stabilizing at around 3% from 2024 to 2026, supported by higher investments and improvements in industry and services. However, climate change poses a risk to the agricultural sector and the vulnerable population (data World Bank).

The fiscal deficit improved from 5% of GDP in 2022 to 2.1% in 2023, yet expenditure arrears rose again. SACU receipts more than doubled in 2023, boosting revenue, but spending increased due to a higher public sector wage bill, interest payments, and election-related expenses. Despite a decline in public debt between 2022 and 2023, arrears increased due to weak commitment controls, reaching an estimated 2.0% of GDP in February 2024. Although a SACU Revenue Stabilization Fund was established in 2023, it remains undercapitalized as expenditure pressures continued. Looking ahead, SACU revenues are projected to rise by 11.5% in 2024, aiding in reducing the fiscal deficit and clearing accumulated expenditure arrears. Annual average inflation rose from 4.8% in 2022 to 5.0% in 2023 despite global inflationary pressures easing. This increase was driven partly by higher transport and food prices. Early 2024 saw continued pressure, with inflation climbing from 4.3% in December 2023 to 4.5% in January 2024 (year-on-year). However, inflation remained within the 3-6% band, with the central bank keeping the repo rate at 7.5% since July 2023. Inflation is expected to ease slightly to 4.9% in 2024, aligning with global trends, but elevated crude oil prices, a weaker exchange rate, and higher food prices could pose challenges to this projection. The country's sluggish growth rate can be partly attributed to deteriorating public finances, marked by increasing public debt, the accumulation of domestic expenditure arrears, and inefficiencies in public spending. Additionally, structural weaknesses have impeded the growth of the private sector. These include a challenging investment climate due to burdensome regulations, distortions caused by inefficient state-owned enterprises, and limited access to regional and international markets. Eswatini is seeking a comprehensive industrial policy to support diversification, develop local entrepreneurs (the government has implemented initiatives to develop and promote indigenous entrepreneurship, particularly in small and medium enterprises), and promote industrialization across the country. Nevertheless, the presence of potential risks remains, including unpredictable shifts in international commodity prices, more stringent global financial conditions, climate vulnerability (drought), lack of technological readiness, and a deceleration in South African economic expansion.

The percentage of the population living below the USD 3.65/day (2017 PPP) poverty line decreased from 76.4% to 58.1% between 2000 and 2016. However, as of 2024, poverty remains high at 52%. Income inequality is high and unemployment concerned 22.2% of the population in 2023 (World Bank modelled ILO estimate). The country’s GDP per capita (PPP) stood at USD 10,699 in 2022 (World Bank). Poverty, measured by the lower-middle-income country poverty line, is forecasted to decrease from 52% in 2024 to 51.3% in 2025. Despite anticipated economic recovery benefiting households, challenges such as reduced agricultural output and structural issues, including limited job opportunities and access to services, will hinder significant improvement for the poor.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 4.794.875.095.315.53
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 0.55.13.73.33.2
GDP per Capita (USD) 4,1624,1844,3244,4644,601
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 41.037.837.238.038.8
Inflation Rate (%) 4.84.93.93.13.0
Current Account (billions USD) -0.130.110.110.060.04
Current Account (in % of GDP) -2.72.22.11.10.7

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database - October 2021.

Note: (e) Estimated Data


 
Monetary Indicators 20162017201820192020
Swaziland Lilangeni (SZL) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 GBP 19.8617.1617.6718.3821.13

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

Main Sectors of Industry

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 12.4 24.5 63.1
Value Added (in % of GDP) 8.1 32.3 53.9
Value Added (Annual % Change) 2.5 15.4 4.1

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

The Active Population in Figures

201820192020
Labour Force 367,358374,305369,124

Source: International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database

 
201720182019
Total activity rate 54.20%54.50%54.71%
Men activity rate 57.97%58.14%58.22%
Women activity rate 50.66%51.03%51.34%

Source: International Labour Organization, ILOSTAT database

 

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Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
55,1/100
World Rank:
137
Regional Rank:
27

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 
 

Country Risk

See the country risk analysis provided by Coface.

 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
7/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
141/180

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Sources of General Economic Information

Main Online Newspapers and Portals
Allafrica, Eswatini News
Eswatini Newspapers online
Eswatini Observer
Swaziland News
BBC profile
Useful Resources
Government of Eswatini
Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Trade
Ministry of Agriculture
Ministry of Economic Planning and Development
Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy
Central Bank
 
 

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Latest Update: May 2024

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