In its Vision 2022 agenda, the Kingdom of Swaziland lays out its goal of being “in the top 10% of the human development group of countries founded on sustainable development, social justice and political stability” (Ministry of Economic Planning and Development, 2013, p. 10). As a lower-middle-income country with a per-capita gross domestic product of about $3,000 (World Bank, 2016), the country will have to confront a number of economic challenges, including its dependence on tariff payments from the Southern African Customs Union trade revenue pool, which cover 60% of the nation’s 2015/2016 budget (tralac, 2014), as well as on foreign aid, such as from the United States for its HIV/AIDS program (U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, 2015) and from Taiwan for rural electrification and information and communications technology (Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan), 2016). The country’s economy is closely linked to South Africa, which accounts for about 85% of imports and 60% of exports (World Bank, 2016).
The government’s Programme of Action (2013-2018) aims to fast-track progress toward Vision 2022, using the Swaziland Development Index (SDI) as a tool to monitor progress on economic prosperity and other key indicators (His Majesty’s Government, 2013).
Public perceptions highlight both challenges and optimism for Swaziland’s path forward. As recorded in the latest national Afrobarometer survey, assessments of the country’s economic situation and of personal living conditions are mixed, and only minorities approve of the government’s performance on some key economic indicators. Nonetheless, lived poverty has declined since 2011, and a majority of Swazis are optimistic about future improvement.