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THE TURNAROUND

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The country is currently battling with a number of economic ills and we have been stagnating on these high levels of negatives for more than a couple of decades.

I am referring to issues of stagnating growth (lack of economic growth), high poverty levels, food insecurity and high unemployment levels inter-alia. This protracted stagnation, without the right policy actions to solve the challenges the country is facing, is really worrying. It would seem that we have normalised these ills in Eswatini, they have become the very being and core of our fabric as the society and this is wrong! We have a myriad of success stories in the region showing that when there is political will to turn things around, it is an attainable fit, we need to re-invigorate our strategies and implement for success.

Poverty reduction

We cannot be comfortable with the obtaining poverty situation, as a country we ought to have invested and channelled our efforts in the right places to turn things around for our people. Instead of turning the tide, we have seen a worsening of the income and wealth gap, a situation where the wealthy become wealthier and the poor become even worse off. This is evident in that we have maintained our position on the list of the top 10 most unequal societies in the world. We need to invest in wealth redistribution programmes; we need to focus on shifting the wealth from those who have to those who have not. We cannot be comfortable with these levels of poverty; we need deliberate actions to reduce the levels of poverty, both short-term and long-term strategies. We need short-term and long-term employment programmes.

We need to have programmes that focus on the skilled employment and unskilled employment to ensure that we leave no one behind. We need to consider market based methodologies for poverty reduction, that is to reduce poverty through having people plough a trade and support those with income protection grants for a specified period of time. We need to improve household entrepreneurship, drive households to each have a product that they sell in order to survive; this will create supplementary incomes and reduce income exposure to poverty. This was once an initiative that government rolled, we need to learn why it failed and recalibrate the intervention, our people need it as of yesterday.

Employment creation

The Eswatini employment story has been a sad one for the longest time and we seem to have normalised that we can live with this situation, a highly unacceptable proposition. We need to support our people to create the jobs that they so desperately need, we need to ramp up financial inclusion efforts and extension of capital to our people. We cannot over emphasise the need for financial deepening and easy access to viable projects. We need to utilize structures such as the Eswatini Savings and Development Bank (EswatiniBank) and Eswatini Development Finance Corporation(FINCORP) inter-alia to finance the liSwati dream.

We need tailored solutions to finance an idea from inception to a point where it produces proof of concept and product development and market penetration. We are sadly faced with a scenario that if one does not come from money, it is next to impossible to get adequately financed by our banking and non-bank financial sectors. The honest truth is if 58 per cent of the population live in poverty, by extension, 58 per cent of the population will not have collateral nor meet the requirements for bank financing. In the process we are adversely selecting the business ideas of the 58 per cent and focusing the billions of capital flowing through our financial system to the 42 per cent and the wealth in equality grows bigger. We need to focus on invigorating the urgency of our people and nurture the ideas of our people so we can be the architects of our own growth story as emaSwati.

Food security

I understand how the issues I am discussing today are inter-related. There is the common thinking that once people have access to money they are likely to be food secure. Well that is one of the determinants of food security but not a sufficient condition in its own right. Eswatini is a small country but every family has a field, we all have soil to till. We need government to support our families sustain themselves. The one resource that every liSwati has access to is land. It is quite sad though that we do not have much efforts focused on improving food security through ensuring that the land is tilled and people have enough to eat.

We need to encourage communities to start farming on a commercial scale, this can be done through adopting communal crowd funding.  We need to encourage and support community based associations secure mechanised means of production and crowd bulk sourcing of commodities, this will allow them to have bargaining power and traverse some supply side constraints. This will need public institutions such as FINCORP and EswatiniBank to rethink rotational credit schemes and group lending schemes, it is possible. In conclusion we are our own liberators and we have the means.

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