Construction Industry a Foundation for Growth

The construction industry is a vital engine for social and economic development worldwide. It represents about 8% of global employment and contributes 13% to the world’s GDP, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO, 2021). In Eswatini, the construction sector’s impact is more modest but no less important, contributing 3.4% to the GDP and accounting for 6.5% of employment (Economic Outlook, 2024; ILF, 2023).

Despite its pivotal role, Eswatini’s construction sector confronts significant challenges that impede its advancement. Corruption, limited competitiveness, and substandard quality persist, posing threats to the industry’s integrity and efficacy. The Government of Eswatini has taken proactive steps to address these issues by developing the Draft National Construction Industry Policy 2024-2030 and establishing regulatory authorities such as the Construction Industry Council (CIC) and the Registration Council of Architects, Engineers, Surveyors, and Allied Professionals (AESAP)  in 2013. However, despite the establishment of these institutions, some challenges persist, highlighting the urgent need for ongoing and intensified efforts to re-evaluate our progress, draw lessons from what has failed and amplify what is successful.

Stakeholder Engagement and Policy Validation

In a collaborative effort, the Ministry of Public Works (MoPWT) and the Eswatini Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (ESEPARC) have successfully hosted a validation workshop for the National Construction Industry Policy 2024-2030. The event was marked by the insightful opening remarks of Mr. Nhlanhla Motsa, the Under Secretary of MoPWT, who represented the Principal Secretary. Mr. Motsa emphasised the comprehensive approach presented in the policy document, designed to benefit the entire built environment. He called upon stakeholders to thoughtfully engage with the policy, recognising its pivotal role in steering the industry’s development.

Mr. Nhlanhla Maphanga, chairperson of the Technical Working Group, and Dr. Thabo Sacolo, Executive Director of ESEPARC, further highlighted the policy’s significance as a foundational document that will shape the industry’s trajectory. They acknowledged the Technical Working Group’s invaluable support and guidance in participating in this legislative review, underpinning the policy.

Core Issues and Strategic Interventions

The policy document was presented by Thembumenzi Dlamini-Mnisi from ESEPARC who highlighted critical issues in five key areas: (1) Regulatory and Institutional Challenges, emphasizing the need for stronger enforcement and coordination among regulators, and resource allocation for AESAP;  (2) Economic and Employment Issues – urging the creation of opportunities for SMEs, stricter regulation of foreign entities, improved client protection, and enhanced female participation; (3) Skills Development and Professional Growth – addressing the decline in artisan skill quality, the disconnect between industry requirements and educational outputs, and the need for professional development support; (4)  Environmental Concerns – noting poor adherence to environmental standards and waste management practices; and  (5) Quality Infrastructure Delivery – pointing out the lack of coordinated infrastructure planning, substandard rural infrastructure, slow technology adoption, and compromised quality in infrastructure delivery.

She went on to outline some of the strategic policy interventions specified in the policy document which aim to revitalize Eswatini’s construction industry through a multifaceted approach. Key interventions include realigning training programs with industry needs, promoting professional development, and enforcing industry standards to enhance local productivity. The government plans to foster innovation and sustainable practices, empower local professionals and enterprises, and establish a supportive regulatory framework. These measures are designed to improve infrastructure delivery, encourage the use of modern technologies, and ensure the active participation of youth, women, and people with disabilities in the industry. Additionally, the policy emphasizes collaboration among stakeholders, investment in research and development, and the adoption of international best practices to drive socio-economic progress and position the construction industry as a catalyst for inclusive growth.

Envisioning the Future

The policy aims to foster a dynamic, efficient, resilient, and globally competitive local construction industry characterized by good governance, innovation, equity, sustainability, and quality by 2030.