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ESWATINI TO EXPLORE CASSAVA TO SUBSTITUTE WHEAT IMPORTS

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MBABANE – Imports are not beneficiary to Eswatini as they do not contribute to the economy and businesses locally.

Wheat is imported in large quantities in Eswatini, and researchers have advise the private sector and government to explore the use of cassava in order to substitute wheat imports. Minister of Economic Planning and Development Dr Tambo Gina said government needed to support entities such as the Eswatini Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (ESEPARC), for analytical evidence that would inform public policy. Speaking during a panel discussion at the IMF Regional Economic Outlook session held at the Royal Swazi Spa Convention Centre, the minister said there was a need for experts who would objectively analyse government policies and programmes so as to inform policymakers’ decisions.

Meanwhile, consensus among the new government and experts was that the onus was on the private sector to turn the country’s economic fortunes around. ESEPARC Executive Director Dr Thula Sizwe Dlamini said priority should be on higher education, particularly because the country’s future lied in the youth. He noted that the revised national development strategy (NDS) talked to the benefits of investments in education accruing to the individual, hence the need to revisit the NDS, as the benefits of Eswatini’s investments in education accrued to the country as a whole.

“If you look at issues of globalisation and how these have affected developing countries like ours, there certainly is a need for government to upskill and re-skill people,” he said. “We cannot discuss higher education without talking about the need to channel more resources into research and development, which is like the laboratory for future growth.

Infrastructure

If you look at Eswatini’s current spending on research and development, it amounts to 0.26 per cent of GDP and looking at the economic infrastructure for commercialising research and development outputs that we have as a country, certainly we need to increase our investment in research and development to one per cent of GDP.” Dlamini advised Eswatini to prioritise research and development in line with the country’s developmental aspirations, adding that prioritisation should be in line with latest global developments that had seen the legalisation and commercialisation of crops deemed illegal in yesteryears.

He also noted that there were opportunities to introduce cash crops that would help the country trap money in the economy, such as cassava to substitute wheat imports. He pointed out that the private sector could lead by introducing the necessary technologies needed to produce and mill cassava, thus creating more jobs and forcing money to circulate within the economy. “There is also an opportunity in the production of industrial hemp, which produces a lot of fibre using far less water than our current sources of fibre. There are also opportunities in the production of medicinal cannabis; it just requires channelling resources and finding a way of structuring the market such that it is not open to abuse,” he said.

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