Despite its status as a middle-income country, Eswatini has suffered stagnating economic growth characterized by high unemployment, unequal distribution of wealth, and persistent poverty (World Bank, 2021). The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these challenges as restrictions on business operations and border closures constrained export-oriented industries, weakened demand, and reduced incomes. The African Development Bank Group (2021) projects modest economic growth of 1.4% in 2021.
Recognizing the negative impact of economic contraction on citizens’ livelihoods, the government’s post-COVID-19 recovery plan aims to stimulate economic growth through high-impact projects led by the private sector (Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini, 2020).
The latest Afrobarometer survey in Eswatini suggests that government action is badly needed. After recording significant gains between 2013 and 2018, most economic indicators have taken a nosedive. Large majorities of citizens say the country is headed in the wrong direction and describe both the national economy and their personal living conditions as bad. Increasing numbers are going without basic life necessities, and only two in 10 citizens are optimistic that things will get better during the coming year.
While a majority of Emaswati who accessed key public services last year encountered few difficulties, most say the government is performing poorly on key economic issues.