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MBABANE – The poverty concerns among emaSwati could soon be addressed with the proposed revival of the Poverty Alleviation Fund by government through the Ministry of Tinkhundla and Development.

Tinkhundla Minister Sikhumbuzo Dlamini said they have requested the Ministry of Finance for a review on the regulations guiding this fund so that next year, they are able to capitalise on it. He said this fund would allow individuals to borrow the money with low interest rates and be able to work and repay it.  “This is the fund that we are working on reviving so that it would assist the RDF (Regional Development Fund),” he said.

The Nkwene legislator also revealed a meeting with Prime Minister (PM) Russell Dlamini where they discussed approaching businessperson Natie Kirsh on the Inhlanyelo Fund.  The Inhlanyelo Fund began as a pilot project in 1999, when Kirsh underwrote an initial E5.5 million (US$834 357). The fund proved an important source of gender empowerment, since women constituted the majority of the 3 500 small business entrepreneurs who made use of the facility.


Repayment rates were high, allowing more people to borrow to establish microenterprises, ranging from making curios for the tourism market to agricultural and clothing projects.  About 50 000 emaSwati were employed by these businesses - a significant number, given that unemployment stands at 40 per cent and two-thirds of emaSwati live in chronic poverty.

“We are aware that Inhlanyelo Fund assisted  emaSwati a lot and needs to be modelled such that citizens can be greatly assisted. For now, it is helping people a lot but there are contributions that can be made by government to make it more efficient,” Dlamini said.

The minister emphasised that government can also learn a lot from this Fund especially with the plans to revive the Poverty Alleviation Fund. “That is why we are planning to have discussions with Natie Kirsh so that they can share how they have made the Inhlanyelo Fund to perform. This will help us infuse those ideals into ours. The good thing about Inhlanyelo Fund is that it helps people at grass-root level like for instance a person who wants to start a baking business. Such a person would maybe receive E3 000 from Inhlanyelo Fund to start this small scale business.”

Adding, the minister said: “The truth is that this fund only helps people put food on the table on a daily basis, it does not really end poverty because for you to be rich, you must have serious money. We want our fund to be able to borrow a person even a million emalangeni.” According to a United nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2023 report, over the past three years, poverty rates in poor countries have surged, with the number of additional individuals living on less than US$3.65 ( E68.84) a day reaching 165 million by 2023. 

This is according to a new policy brief from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), titled ‘The Human Cost of Inaction: Poverty, Social Protection and Debt Servicing, 2020-2023’. The report states that the entirety of these additional poor live in low-and-lower-middle-income economies, with the poorest 20 per cent in low-income countries suffering the most with their incomes still below the pre-pandemic levels in 2023. In response to these crises, the UNDP is calling for adaptive social protection and a “debt-poverty pause” to redirect debt repayments toward critical social expenditures.

Worth noting is that a number of emaSwati who made submissions during the recent Sibaya called upon government to address the issue of poverty in the country.

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