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Key findings
  • More than half (53%) of citizens say eSwatini is going “in the right direction,” a 6-percentage-point increase from 2013.
  • But only one in five (21%) describe the country’s economic conditions as “fairly good” or “very good,” a decline of 13 points from three years ago.
  • A slim majority (52%) believe the economy will improve over the next 12 months.
  • Almost half (46%) of respondents see their personal living conditions as “fairly good” or “very good,” a gain of 21 percentage points since 2013.
  • But lived poverty has increased since the previous survey in 2015. More than half of respondents report going without enough food (56%, up from 51%) and without needed medical care (53%, up from 33%) at least once during the previous year.

Poverty and inequality, exacerbated by poor economic growth, continue to be challenges for the government of the Kingdom of eSwatini. The World Bank (2018) reports that economic growth in eSwatini declined to 1.9% in 2017, from 3.2% in 2016, reflecting a slow recovery in agriculture and mounting fiscal challenges. Six in 10 citizens (60.3%) live in poverty, including 38% in extreme poverty, which disproportionately affects children, the elderly, the unemployed, as well as female-headed and single-headed households (World Bank, 2018).

The government made economic prosperity one of its focal areas in His Majesty’s Government Programme of Action 2013-2018, which seeks to achieve accelerated economic growth that will create jobs, raise incomes, and reduce poverty by 2022 (His Majesty’s Government, 2013).

According to findings from the most recent Afrobarometer survey, ordinary citizens are keenly aware of eSwatini’s economic challenges: Only one in five describe the country’s economic condition as good, and lived poverty – a lack of basic life necessities – has increased since the previous survey in 2015. Fewer than half of citizens give the government a passing grade on economic management. Even so, a growing number of emaSwati say their personal living conditions are good, and a majority say the country is moving in the right direction.

Sipho Kunene

Sipho Kunene is the co-national investigator for Eswatini