On the 26 of February 2024, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MoLSS) together with ESEPARC undertook a learning mission to South Africa to take lessons on the development of the National Human Resource Development (HRD) Policy. Developing an HRD Policy serves as a cornerstone for fostering comprehensive growth and progress within a nation. In the ever-evolving landscape of technology and globalisation, an HRD policy acts as a linchpin for ensuring the workforce remains adept at navigating rapid changes. By emphasising lifelong learning and adaptability, it cultivates a culture of continuous skill development among individuals, empowering them to thrive amidst shifting job requirements and emerging technological paradigms.

Human Resource Development (HRD) is essential for driving sustainable economic and social progress in Eswatini while ensuring the country achieves its overarching development goals and aspirations. At the heart of this is the recognition that the country’s human capital – its people and their knowledge, skills, and capabilities – are the primary drivers of economic development. The Eswatini National Development Strategy (NDS) and National Development Plan (NDP) 2023/24 – 2027/28 both place a strong emphasis on developing and leveraging human capital to support the country’s development priorities. This is reflected in the alignment between Eswatini’s HRD policy and these broader national frameworks. Even though it has not been evaluated for Eswatini, an effective NHRD system can directly support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by creating efficient labour markets and improving livelihoods.

Drawing lessons from South Africa, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) playing a central role in implementing human resource development in the country. The DHET oversees the country’s higher education system, including universities and technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges. It is also responsible for developing and implementing national policies, strategies, and programs related to post-school education and training.

At the highest level of authority, HRD is coordinated by the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa (HRDC), which is chaired by the Deputy President and includes 12 ministers, premiers, senior leaders from organised business, organised labour, community, research institutions, academia, and co-opted members. While the HRDC advises the government on the development and implementation of the National HRD Strategy, its secretariat ensures the management of a multi-sectoral response to human resource development matters and the allocation of funds to the council.

South Africa has several institutions responsible for different elements of HRD. These include but are not limited to Sector Education and Training Authorities, the National Skills Fund, Training providers, and professional bodies. The complex institutional framework aims to coordinate and align the various elements of HRD in South Africa, from strategic planning and policy formulation to the implementation and monitoring of skills development programs. One key element of the HRD framework is the deliberate investment in research through the Labour Market Intelligence Research Programme which integrates skills planning within government strategies and plans to produce a capable workforce to achieve an inclusive growth path. Producing periodic labour information research output the Programme ensures that skills are not a constraint on economic growth and promotes the use of labour market intelligence for skills provisioning. While the National Skills Authority (NSA) executes an oversight and advisory role over the National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS) policy and its implementation, it also concentrates specifically on monitoring and evaluating the country’s Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs).

While concerted efforts have been made to expand access to education and training, there are several challenges which include the lack of resources alongside high youth unemployment of 44.3% as of December 2023. As well, the complex nature of the South African HRD system could allow duplication of efforts especially between the DHET, LMI programme, and SETAs as they all conduct human capital research. At the moment, despite having a national skills fund, resources are not sufficient to meet the needs of the country’s HRD system.

However, several best practices from the South African HRD system were identified to inform Eswatini’s approach. Establishing comprehensive legislation, particularly an Act, would provide a clear legal foundation and structure to govern the overall HRD framework. This should also stipulate a clear delineation of roles and responsibilities among different actors in the system, to avoid a duplication of efforts. Additionally, creating a national advisory board could facilitate multi-stakeholder engagement and coordination, allowing for input and alignment across different groups and sectors. Taking a proactive approach to addressing skills gaps in specific economic sectors through sector skills development presents another valuable practice. South Africa has 21 SETAs that are responsible for addressing sectoral economic skills needs and supporting education and training initiatives and programmes aimed at responding to different industry needs. This targeted approach helps to ensure the workforce is equipped to meet industry needs. Furthermore, developing a diversity of educational and training institutions that provide various educational pathways for individuals increases access and flexibility for learners.

The lessons from this benchmarking exercise will be instrumental in shaping the development and implementation of Eswatini’s National Human Resource Development Policy. By examining the successes and challenges of the South African model, Eswatini can identify best practices and innovative approaches that could be adapted to its own context. This could include strategies for coordinating the efforts of key stakeholders, such as government agencies, industry bodies, and education/training providers, to ensure a cohesive and responsive HRD ecosystem.

Stakeholders were engaged during the initial phase of developing the National Human Resource Development Policy, to solicit their input and contributions. Continued stakeholder engagement was sought post validation of the policy to ensure stakeholder perspectives and feedback shape the policy’s effectiveness, ownership and ensures collaboration in policy implementation.

The success of Eswatini’s National Human Resource Development Policy is of utmost importance, as it forms a critical foundation for the country’s broader social and economic development goals. By developing a skilled, capable, and adaptable workforce, the policy directly supports Eswatini’s efforts to drive industrialisation, economic diversification, poverty reduction, environmental sustainability, and overall improvements in the quality of life for its citizens.