The tenure of the 2017/18 cohort of graduate interns attached to the Eswatini Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (ESEPARC) has almost come to an end as the researchers complete their internship programme this month.

Nompulelo Dlamini, Nhlanhla Zulu, and Maqhawe Zwane have spent the last 12 months conducting research on various issues of national interest, drawing valuable lessons and knowledge from the team of dedicated and experienced researchers at ESEPARC. The graduate research programme, which is a collaboration between ESEPARC and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), offers an opportunity to young researchers who have a strong dedication to producing quality work and want to make an impact on public policy in Eswatini.

This research programme is a powerful tool to harness human capital resources and promote career orientation, research skills, personal development, and leadership competencies. Since its inception in 2016, nine Masters and Bachelors graduates have been attached to ESEPARC. The graduates have conducted and completed studies in various policy areas including Science, Technology, and Innovation; Energy; Entrepreneurship; Disaster Risk Management; Agriculture; and Education.

This week, the 2017/18 graduate researchers presented their studies to representatives from UNDP, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office (Department of Gender and Family Issues). The studies completed by the researchers are titled:

  • The Implications of Teenage Pregnancies in Eswatini: A Trend and Spatial Analysis
  • Inequality of Opportunities in Education in Eswatini
  • Economic Impact Analysis of Credit Guarantee Schemes in Eswatini: A case of the Small Scale Enterprise Loan Guarantee Scheme (SSELGS)

UNDP Programme Specialist Sithembiso Gina said the development partner is grateful to ESEPARC for the partnership and mentorship of young researchers in Eswatini. She said the studies are important to the country as they contribute to a consensus building policy direction for the future. Adding, she said the studies are more so relevant because they address issues affecting the youth.

Sibusiso Mngadi, SDG Advocacy Associate at UNDP, also noted the importance of the studies and said the topics are quite relevant to the needs of the country and issues affecting Emaswati. He said the study on the loan guarantee scheme for small and a medium enterprise (SMEs), for instance, is long overdue, and many stakeholders will be interested in the results.

Director in the Department of Gender and Family Issues, Jane Mkhonta-Simelane, said all three studies are relevant to the national Gender Policy and offer valuable information for the policy, particularly now that it is being reviewed. She said the issues being addressed are very important as some of the recommendations speak to the Department’s thematic areas, such as women’s economic empowerment and inequalities in education that could hinder the development of the girl-child.

ESEPARC Executive Director Dr Thula Sizwe Dlamini noted that the studies conducted by the graduate researchers are all interrelated and address topical issues of concern to Emaswati and the economy of Eswatini. He noted that the graduate research programme continues to strive to achieve its objectives – that is, offering graduates the opportunity to acquire practical experience in policy analysis and research work, as well as undergoing intensive on-the-job training to build national capacities in research skills, personal development, and leadership.