Swaziland - Overview of economy

Swaziland has one of the highest per capita income levels in Africa, although it is, after the Gambia, the smallest state on the mainland of the continent. According to the CIA World Factbook, Swaziland's gross domestic product ( GDP) per capita in 2000 was estimated at US$4,000 at purchasing power parity , high enough to rank Swaziland as a middle-income country.

Swaziland experienced slow growth in the 1980s and early 1990s, a period much influenced by world recession and then political changes in South Africa, but there were still increases in the gross national product (GNP) per head of 2.3 percent a year over the period 1980 to 1993. Swaziland has, over the longer period, had one of the most liberal policies towards foreign and private investment in all of Africa. Its vulnerability lies in heavy

export dependence on soft drink concentrate and sugar cane and on the strong economic links with South Africa which provides imports, an export market, investment, and employment.

Since the late 1980s the country's economic situation has improved noticeably. The economy has grown more rapidly and foreign investment expanded. A significant part of the food produced is now sold to the European Union (EU). This improvement—initially a direct consequence of trade sanctions against South Africa which forced the EU to turn to Swaziland as an alternative source of food supplies—has allowed the manufacturing sector to increase in importance, contributing 20 percent of the GDP by 1991 and helping the country raise its economic growth rate to 3.5 percent per year.

There is a dual administration of Swaziland's official resources. The communal land resources (known as Swazi National Land or SNL) and the minerals, are managed by Tibiyo Taka Ngwane, an independent institution created by Royal Charter in 1968 and not responsible to Parliament. The non-communal land and all the other resources are subject to the legislation of Parliament.

Swaziland is committed to a free market economy and private ownership: nationalization is illegal. The Swaziland Investment Promotion Authority was set up in 1997 to encourage the growth of private business. Investment accounted for 34 percent of the GDP in 1997, and foreign direct investment was 5.7 percent of the GDP, both very high figures. The government wants to encourage the expansion of industrial sites. The Swaziland stock exchange was established in 1990 and by the late 1990s had 6 companies listed and a market capitalization of US$129 million.

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