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Key findings
  • About half (51%) of Swazi citizens say their country is going in the right direction, while almost as many (46%) say it is headed in the wrong direction.
  • Almost four in 10 Swazis (37%) describe their personal living conditions as “fairly good” or “very good,” while an equal proportion say they live in “fairly bad” or “very bad” conditions. One-fourth (26%) say their living conditions are “neither good nor bad.
  • Since the previous survey round (2011/2013), “lived poverty” has declined more sharply in Swaziland than in other countries in Southern Africa. Still, about half of Swazis went without enough food (51%) and without enough clean water (47%) at least once during the past year.
  • Almost half (48%) of Swazis describe the country’s economic condition as “fairly bad” or “very bad,” and another 17% say it is “neither good nor bad.” Only one-third (34%) say the economy is in “fairly” or “very” good shape.
  • Views are split on whether the country’s economic condition has improved compared to 12 months before the survey: 29% say it is “better” or “much better,” 33% say it is “worse” or “much worse,” and 36% say it has stayed the same.

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.

Nelson Isidoro

Nelson Isidoro is a statistician based at the Ministry of Health in Mbabane, Swaziland.

Tengetile Tsabedze

Tengetile Tsabedze is a monitoring and evaluation technical adviser based at the Institute for<br /> Health Measurement in Mbabane, Swaziland.

Sibusiso Nkomo

Sibusiso is the head of communications