Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Eswatini since 19 April 2018, is a small landlocked country in Southern Africa bordering South Africa and Mozambique. It has a population of 1.2 million people and a land area of just 17 364km2.
With a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of about $3 000, Swaziland is classified as a lower middle-income country. Eswatini is closely linked to South Africa on which it depends for about 85 percent of its imports and about 60 percent of exports.
The country’s economy has slowed in recent years, reporting GDP growth of just 1.9 percent in 2017, due to continued drought and decreased revenue from the South African Customs Union because of strained relations with South Africa. Public spending, meanwhile, has increased, contributing to higher fiscal deficits, and mounting public debt. According to the World Bank, the current policy could result in an increase in the public debt-to-GDP ratio from 17.4 percent in 2015 to 24 percent in 2018. Higher competition in external sugar markets will also hit the agriculture sector, further testing the macroeconomic environment.
The extravagant lifestyle of the royals and political elite, abysmal labour standards, and resistance to demands for democratic reform, have fueled ongoing social unrest in Swaziland. This is expected to continue unabated in the short term.
Swaziland’s primary development issues include high levels of poverty and inequality. An estimated 63 percent of the population live below the poverty line and 29 percent live below the extreme poverty line. The country’s Human Development Index (HDI) ranked 148 out of 188 countries in 2015, and its GINI coefficient is a high 49.5. In addition, the country’s HIV/AIDS prevalence of 31 percent of the population is among the highest in the world and life expectancy has fallen to approximately 49 years.
The country lacks sufficient or decent housing, and the housing finance market remains undeveloped. The housing deficit is estimated at 200 000 units. The country does not have a strategy specifically for housing or urban development, and investment in new housing lags behind demand by approximately nine years.