Observer on Saturday - - Front Page -

In ush­er­ing the new year I want us to con­front these cold facts. We are a sov­er­eign State hav­ing re­ceived our in­de­pen­dence in Septem­ber 6, 1968, right!

We also ac­cept that the bor­ders that were de­clared to make the in­de­pen­dent Eswa­tini were not re­flec­tive of the orig­i­nal bound­aries of the coun­try. Sure! In fact, about three quar­ters of our land is what to­day con­sti­tute the Mpuman­gala Prov­ince and part of KwaZulu Na­tal. It is equally true that the pop­u­la­tion of Swazis in the Repub­lic of South Africa is al­most four times big­ger than what we have here. But to­day I want us to fo­cus on the eco­nomic ques­tion. The ques­tion we need to an­swer is can we have an econ­omy that is in­de­pen­dent of Pre­to­ria?

The an­swer starts with a NO and ends with a YES! This is why?

It starts from the peg­ging of the Li­lan­geni to the Rand at the ra­tio of 1:1. That alone is an ad­mis­sion that our econ­omy is an ex­ten­sion of Pre­to­ria.

The only dif­fer­ence be­tween the goods in our shelves and theirs is the board­ing pass or stamp on your pass­port in­di­cat­ing that you are now in an­other coun­try. From the goods we eat to the com­pa­nies that pro­vide ser­vices like banks and re­tail stores, we are one, be­cause we im­port from RSA. This there­fore, sug­gests one thing and one thing only, our Com­merce In­dus­try and Trade Min­is­ter Man­qoba Khu­malo will spend five fruit­less years if he con­tin­ues to ig­nore Pre­to­ria as a se­ri­ous part­ner we need in or­der to turn our for­tunes around. The de­ci­sion to ex­pand op­er­a­tions in the King­dom don’t rest with the var­i­ous man­ag­ing di­rec­tors sta­tioned here but the big bosses in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pre­to­ria and some in Dur­ban. These big bosses in these cities I have men­tioned above need us to call for their at­ten­tion. In fact, the rea­son the Eswa­tini In­vest­ment Pro­mo­tion Au­thor­ity (SIPA) has been in­ef­fec­tive since in­cep­tion has been its dis­ori­ented strat­egy to con­sider in­vestors as those com­ing from over­seas or the Repub­lic of China on Tai­wan..

We may be a sov­er­eign coun­try, but that does not mean we need to ig­nore the strength of our neigh­bour. The South African econ­omy de­spite the chal­lenges it has faced in re­cent times, re­mains the num­ber one econ­omy in Africa bat­ing that of Nige­ria and Egypt. We need to col­lab­o­rate with South Africa be­yond the South Africa Cus­toms Union (SACU) ar­range­ment. In fact, since it re­gained its free­dom in 1994, the South African gov­ern­ment has made it its duty to ex­port its in­flu­ence eco­nom­i­cally through pro­mot­ing its com­pa­nies in the con­ti­nent. One coun­try they have not ag­gres­sively paid at­ten­tion to has been us. We are alive to the fact that in terms of pop­u­la­tion size, we don’t make eco­nomic sense com­pared to what they al­ready have, but we have other com­par­a­tive ad­van­tages which in­vestors may be at­tracted too, for in­stance, peace, sta­bil­ity, a com­pet­i­tive labour mar­ket and ac­cess to big­ger mar­kets like COMESA, USA and Euro­pean mar­ket.

But who do we speak to in South Africa?

There are two par­ties that we need to tar­get. One of them is the gov­ern­ment. We still need to ne­go­ti­ate and fi­nalise the bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tive agree­ment which was left hang­ing dur­ing the era of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Ma­bili Dlamini as for­eign min­is­ters in 2004. If we are go­ing to be suc­cess­ful in at­tract­ing ma­jor in­vest­ment into the King­dom, we do need our neigh­bour to view us pos­i­tively and with­out jeal­ousy. Jeal­ously amongst neigh­bour­ing States is not good as it tends to lead into funny re­stric­tive im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms poli­cies. Big brother tendencies tend to dom­i­nate the eco­nomic space if re­la­tions with the neigh­bour are not good enough. Sec­ondly, South Africa is a home to multi-bil­lion­naires, whose net worth in­di­vid­u­ally is al­most the coun­try’s Growth Do­mes­tic Prod­uct (GDP). Here I am talk­ing about the likes of Shoprite owner, Pep­kor Group Christo Wiese, whose net worth was about E100 bil­lion at some point be­fore Stein­hoff shares col­lapse wiped out about E72 bil­lion. Oth­ers are Jo­hann Peter Ru­pert of Rem­gro and Swiss-based lux­ury goods com­pany Richemont whose net worth is about E73 bil­lion and Nicky Op­pen­heimer, the for­mer De Beers Chair­man and Deputy Chair­man of Aglo Amer­i­can whose net worth is about E106 bil­lion. Other South African bil­lion­aires are Koos Bekker of Naspers, a me­dia mogul with net worth of E40 bil­lion and Ex­ec­u­tive Chair­man of African Rain­bow Min­er­als (ARM) Pa­trice Mot­sepe whose net worth is about E30 bil­lion. Mot­sepe is fa­mil­iar with the King­dom hav­ing stud­ied law in the coun­try in the 80s. He re­cently do­nated E10 mil­lion to­wards the UNESWA Foun­da­tion. Why are these bil­lion­aires in­ter­est­ing to Eswa­tini? South Africa is headed to its fifth gen­eral elec­tions in May this year and al­ready there is plenty of po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty on the ground brought about the new African Na­tional Congress (ANC) pol­icy of ex­pro­pri­at­ing land with­out com­pen­sa­tion. It ap­pears the ex­pro­pri­a­tion of land with­out com­pen­sa­tion is tar­geted to­wards the whites. The ANC has been en­cour­aged by its sup­port­ers in ex­change for votes to pur­sue what it calls a rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion agenda. This pol­icy is aimed at what it la­bels white mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal, mainly the bil­lion­aires I have men­tioned above. These are the peo­ple in the busi­ness com­mu­nity who hold lots of in­flu­ence on in­vest­ments and dis­in­vest­ment. Just imag­ine what we stand to gain if we were to make them to think of Eswa­tini in the pe­riod South Africa re­gress­ing to­wards the fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory be­fore the 1994 Man­dela eu­pho­ria. For Eswa­tini, this should not be a dif­fi­cult ex­pe­ri­ence, we have been in this sit­u­a­tion be­fore dur­ing the apartheid pe­riod. This time around, we must be smart and en­sure that we use our prox­im­ity, pegged cur­rency and cul­ture to our ad­van­tage. We se­ri­ously need to con­sider the Switzer­land poli­cies for the King­dom, of­fer our big neigh­bours some­thing they don’t have.

Now ad­dress­ing the yes part

We can if it means turn­ing the King­dom into some fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal through open­ing an off­shore hub. Our small num­bers mean we can­not com­pete in terms of mar­ket size, but we can turn our­selves into a highly so­phis­ti­cated econ­omy which may at­tract the big busi­ness that is al­ready wor­ried about its fu­ture. The vir­tual econ­omy in terms of in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies is some­thing we need to push. That’s why the un­bundling of Eswa­tini Post and Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion Cor­po­ra­tion (EPTC) needs to hap­pen quickly. But in or­der to sell our­selves bet­ter and eas­ier, we need our wor­thy neigh­bours to be part of our story. Eswa­tini may hold it­self as a unique coun­try with a rolls royce of a po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, but un­til and un­less our neigh­bours con­fers to that, we will al­ways miss our best suitors be­cause we are too good to be true. Lastly, we will turn this econ­omy around if lo­cal busi­ness starts to speak in one voice. The sooner we re­alise that the suc­cess of one is to the ben­e­fit of all, the bet­ter for us all.

We must re­frain from the cheap pol­i­tics of mo­nop­o­liz­ing the at­ten­tion of the King. His Majesty the King’s strength rests in the col­lec­tive suc­cess of us all, not in an in­di­vid­ual com­pany or group of peo­ple. The sooner we re­alise that the bet­ter for all of us. To the prime min­is­ter, let’s start the con­ver­sa­tion with Pre­to­ria, Johannesburg or Cape Town as soon as pos­si­ble.

As some­one from the cor­po­rate sec­tor, you know bet­ter what I am talk­ing about. You are in fact the most likely per­son to pull this one and be lis­tened too than any other per­son. Happy New Year!

There are two par­ties that we need to tar­get. One of them is the gov­ern­ment.We still need to ne­go­ti­ate and fi­nalise the bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tive agree­ment which was left hang­ing dur­ing the era of Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Ma­bili Dlamini as for­eign min­is­ters in 2004.

Com­merce In­dus­try and Trade Min­is­ter Man­qoba Khu­malo.

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