AD261: In eSwatini, citizens see reasons for hope despite increase in lived poverty

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Sipho Kunene

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.