There’ll be some changes made

Apart from be­ing land­locked, what do eSwa­tini and Switzer­land have in com­mon? Um... can I call a friend?

Destiny Man - - SPOTLIGHT AFRICA -

In De­cem­ber 1921, African-Amer­i­can com­poser Ben­ton Over­street and lyri­cist Billy Hig­gins gave the world the jazz stan­dard, There’ll be Some Changes Made. Ethel Wa­ters was the first to record it back then. It’s since been cov­ered nearly 400 times by lu­mi­nar­ies in­clud­ing

Benny Good­man, Bil­lie Hol­i­day, Duke Elling­ton and Mark Knopfler.

In Africa, Wa­ters’s record­ing co­in­cided with the coronation of King Sob­huza II, pre­de­ces­sor of King Mswati III, cur­rent ruler of Swazi­land (apolo­gies

– I mean eSwa­tini). On the 50th an­niver­sary of the coun­try’s in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain, King Mswati an­nounced that the coun­try would hence­forth be known as eSwa­tini. He de­scribed the move as “over­due, par­tic­u­larly if you con­sider how other coun­tries in the re­gion lo­calised their names af­ter in­de­pen­dence”.

The name change is noth­ing new: Botswana dropped its for­mer name of Bechua­na­land post-in­de­pen­dence, as did Rhode­sia in be­com­ing Zim­babwe and Nyasa­land in be­com­ing Malawi.

King Mswati re­port­edly added that the de­ci­sion to re­name Swazi­land was also an at­tempt to avoid peo­ple con­fus­ing it with Switzer­land. Er... run that by me again, Your Majesty?

eSwa­tini is a poor coun­try – es­pe­cially when you com­pare its gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP) of

$11,3 bil­lion and GDP per capita of $9 714 with Switzer­land’s re­spec­tive val­ues of $681 bil­lion and

$80 837. Then there’s its qual­ity of life, as mea­sured by the United Na­tions’ Hu­man De­vel­op­ment In­dex (HDI) ac­cord­ing to cri­te­ria such as life ex­pectancy at birth, ex­pected years of school­ing, mean years of school­ing and per capita gross na­tional in­come. In a rank­ing of 188 coun­tries, Switzer­land is joint sec­ond with Aus­tralia, beaten only by Nor­way. eSwa­tini is a lame 148th, bet­ter only than the likes of Ye­men, Haiti and Syria.

When the Swiss com­plain about high un­em­ploy­ment, they mean 5%. The coun­try’s home to multi­na­tional com­pa­nies, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, the Bank for In­ter­na­tional Set­tle­ments and Fifa, with a govern­ment which took bold de­ci­sions to dom­i­nate the world eco­nomic or­der – de­spite glitches such as cre­at­ing a tax haven and al­low­ing African dic­ta­tors to stash stolen bil­lions in its banks.

Even with­out the min­eral re­sources that eSwa­tini has, Switzer­land’s still a man­u­fac­tur­ing Mecca. Chem­i­cals, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal goods, watches and cho­co­late ac­count for at least 70% of its ex­ports, com­pared with 37% from man­u­fac­tur­ing and 50% from ser­vices – pri­mar­ily govern­ment ones – for eSwa­tini. With neigh­bours like SA, eSwa­tini could up its game on man­u­fac­tur­ing and source markets in the re­gion and abroad, as Le­sotho did with tex­tiles.

On the ba­sis of what econ­o­mists term “pur­chas­ing power par­ity”, the GDP of eSwa­tini is less than the 2017 net trad­ing profit of Nestlé, at $14,7 bil­lion. So just by sell­ing cof­fee and prod­ucts like Milo, Kit-Kat and Smar­ties, one Swiss com­pany de­liv­ered more money to its share­hold­ers than the value of Mswati’s en­tire king­dom.

Hav­ing said that, let me stress my re­spect for the pride of Swazi sub­jects in their her­itage and sov­er­eign. The coun­try, for in­stance, in­au­gu­rated the R2,5 bil­lion King Mswati III In­ter­na­tional Air­port, con­nected by a world-class road to Mba­bane. To date, there are about three flights daily be­tween Jo­han­nes­burg and this un­der-utilised air­port. eSwa­tini could gen­er­ate a lot more rev­enue by in­tro­duc­ing flights be­tween Swazi­land and Dur­ban and other cities in south­ern Africa.

In ad­di­tion to in­fra­struc­ture projects, like the

332 mil­lion-cu­bic me­tre Maguga Dam con­structed in col­lab­o­ra­tion with SA in 2001, and the un­der­ex­ploited tourism po­ten­tial of the coun­try, eSwa­tini has min­ing head­room to ex­ploit in min­er­als such as coal, di­a­monds, gold, kaolin and sil­ica, as well as cop­per, man­ganese and tin.

Let’s see if it can achieve far deeper transformation than its new ti­tle.

Opener Women in tra­di­tional cos­tumes march­ing at Umh­langa aka Reed Dance. 01 The Maguga Dam and reser­voir on the Ko­mati River, eSwa­tini.02 Zurich. Switzer­land.

Victor Kgo­moeswana is the au­thor of the book Africa is Open for Business(Pan Macmil­lan).

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