Fourteen (14) studies conducted by the Eswatini Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (ESEPARC) were presented at the recently held Eswatini Economic Conference (EEC) 2019.

One of these studies, An Insight into Community-Based Ecotourism in Eswatini: Theory versus Practice by Graduate Researcher Tamika Du-Pont received an award for best Conference paper. The study finds that efforts to augment the performance of community-based ecotourism in Eswatini should focus on investment in research, among other things.

Research Economist and Acting Senior Research Fellow Mangaliso Mohammed got an exclusive opportunity to present his study on the Implications of Migration to Cost-reflective Tariffs in Eswatini’s Electricity Sector to Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini, Minister of Finance Neal Rijkenberg, Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Pholile Shakantu, Minister of Sports, Culture & Youth Affairs Harries Bulunga, and other dignitaries.

The Eswatini Economic Conference 2019 was held at the Royal Swazi Convention Centre from last Wednesday when the PM officially opened it, and ended on Friday. Various speakers, both local and international, provided insight on a how the country could grow its economy. Academics also presented research papers across various thematic areas.

This study finds that the migration to cost reflective tariffs will increase domestic tariffs by 66% and domestic consumption of electricity could decrease residential electricity sales by as much 38.3%. It also finds that cost-reflective tariffs will most likely decrease intensive use of electricity in Eswatini, particularly for low income households, which will make supplying and extending the grid to low income households a much more expensive task for the utility.

Mohammed recommends that before implementing the cost-reflective tariffs, the energy regulator should ensure that the utility establishes efficiency improvements on supply and distribution of electricity. For the most part, the study finds that the utility’s capital projects focus on expanding capabilities on reliability in transmission and distribution, and does not address the inherent vulnerability/inefficiency of the system.

All of the studies presented by ESEPARC researchers were well received in the various sessions of the parallel thematic presentations. Delegates at the Conference expressed their appreciation at the insights they received from the various speakers and academic research presented over the three days.

“The Economic Conference is very insightful and I am happy to have been part of it. My highlight was the academic paper presentation on the Performance of Retail Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. I have learnt how MSMEs could contribute to economic growth. I also learnt how tapping into the manufacturing sector could improve businesses as proven by the study on the Small Scale Enterprise Guarantee Loan Guarantee Scheme. I also feel that government should extend access to the scheme from commercial banks to other financial services institutions,” said one delegate.

The study on the Performance of Retail Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, which compares the performance of native and non-native owned MSMEs in Eswatini, was conducted by Associate Researcher Thembumenzi Dlamini. The results show that non-native MSME owners receive incentives compared to native MSMEs. Native MSMEs face a plethora of challenges compared to their counterparts and the rise in global prices over time imply that non-native MSMEs will take over the retail sector.

The study on the Economic Impact Analysis of Credit Guarantee Schemes in Eswatini: A Case of the Small Scale Enterprise Loan Guarantee Scheme (SSELGS) was conducted by 2018 Graduate Researcher Maqhawe Zwane. It reveals that despite government introducing the Small Scale Loan Guarantee Scheme to assist small businesses in acquiring finance, SMEs in Eswatini still face some difficulties when it comes to accessing loans.

Other studies presented by ESEPARC researchers are as follows:

  • Innovation in Eswatini: Past, Present, and Future Prospects conducted by Research Fellow Tengetile Hlophe

This study finds that whereas emaSwati are innovative, innovation has been incremental and driven by global technological developments, government policy, new market opportunities, and changes in lifestyle and society. It confirms that the traditional sector is a viable source of new growth. However, to realise its true potential there is a need to combine modern technology with traditional knowledge and skills for value creation, product development or improvement, differentiation, and improving the competitiveness of Eswatini’s indigenous products in global markets.

  • Financial Inclusion in Eswatini: What is Driving the Adoption of Mobile Money? conducted by Associate Researcher Tanele Magongo

 This study investigates the driving factors of mobile money adoption in Eswatini. Findings reveal that the likelihood of using mobile money increases with increasing levels of financial literacy, education, sending and receiving remittances using mobile money, usage of informal financial products, living in an urban area, and adjusting income during times of shock.

  •  Eswatini Agriculture Sector Review: Assessing Performance in Light of the Country’s Commitments and Development Initiatives conducted by Acting Executive Director Dr Thabo Sacolo

The study assesses the performance of the agriculture sector in terms of investment (budget allocation to and within the agriculture sector), output growth, and changes in commodities (produced, exported, and imported). The need for review arises from the fact that Eswatini, similar to other African countries, needs to regularly assess progress made towards achieving developmental objectives; and provide such information to various stakeholders, including but not limited to policy makers, academia, and the private sector (particular investors in or targeting the agricultural sector).

  • Harnessing the Demographic Dividend to Fast-Track Industrialisation: A Case in the ICT Sector by Tengetile Hlophe and Thula Sizwe Dlamini

The key message in this paper is that building tacit knowledge and skills in the manufacturing of high technology products could reduce youth unemployment, attract foreign investments, and create opportunities for industrial development and industrialisation. The paper comes up with some considerations for industrial policy in Eswatini.

  • The Economic Benefits of Vocational Education and Training in Eswatini by Associate Researcher Gugulethu Mgabhi

This study assesses the economic benefits of government’s investment to technical and vocational education and training (TVET) from 2005 to 2017. The study finds that the economic return of government’s investment to TVET in 2017 is E1.51. The study also finds that 56.6% of graduates are absorbed in formal employment, while 13.7% are engaged in self-employment, meaning that 29.9% are part of the 23% unemployed persons in the country. However, the level of unemployment is still high at 43.3%.

  • Stokvels: An Instrument for Income Generation and Wealth Creation? conducted by Graduate Researcher Ntando Nkambule

This study investigates the contribution of stokvels to income generation and wealth creation in Eswatini focusing on the Lubombo region. Findings indicate that women dominate in stokvel participation in households.

  • Assessing the Economic Impact of Brain Drain in Eswatini by Graduate Researcher Zamokuhle Manana

This study quantifies and assesses the relationship between brain drain and economic growth in the short-run. The study found that all other things being equal, when brain drain increases by 1 percent at a given time period, gross domestic product increase by E171 million the following year in the short-run. Furthermore, it reveals a unidirectional relationship running from gross domestic product to brain drain at the 1% significance level.

  • The Implications of Teenage Pregnancies in the Kingdom of Eswatini by 2018 Graduate Researcher Nompulelo Dlamini

This study assesses the extent of teenage pregnancy in Eswatini at the regional and constituency level, using public schools as the unit of analysis. The results show that Hhohho and Manzini have the highest teenage pregnancies while teenage mothers in Lubombo and Shiselweni are more vulnerable to repeat births. The study shows that teenage pregnancies occur as early as eleven years old. The study finds that most of the pregnancies occur when pupils are idle during school holidays.

  • The Impact of Unemployment on the Youth: A Case of Mental Illness in Eswatini conducted by Graduate Researcher Zenanile Dlamini

This study finds that youth unemployment negatively affects mental health particularly through increased idleness and stress, which leads to high levels of substance abuse and a negative impact on mental health.

  • Inequality of Opportunities in Education in Eswatini by 2018 Graduate Researcher Nhlanhla Zulu

This study sought to quantify inequality of opportunity in education in Eswatini and to identify potential sources of inequality at all levels of the general education system in Eswatini and how these interplay with learner achievement.