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View the documentSwaziland and the European Community partners in cooperation

Swaziland and the European Community partners in cooperation

by Kieran O’CUNEEN

Like many of the former British colonies in Africa, cooperation between Swaziland and the Community began in 1975, when an international cooperation agreement - the Lomonvention - was signed in the Togolese capital, LomThis, first, Lomonvention linked 46 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific with the then nine EEC Member States and was designed to last five years, until February 1980. At the time, the EEC Delegation dealing with projects and programmes in Swaziland was located in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, with a suboffice in the Swazi capital, Mbabane. A fully-fledged Delegation was opened in Mbabane in 1982.

Trade and aid were at the heart of the first Lomonvention, and of the three subsequent Conventions (Lom V was signed in December 1989) and considerable assistance to the social and economic development of the Kingdom of Swaziland has beer’ given in the years since 1975. To date, the total value of that assistance amounts to over 640 million Emalangeni at current exchange rates.


The Convention provides that the ACP countries, including Swaziland, have duty-free access to the 325-million EEC consumer market for virtually all their exports. This means, for example, that Swaziland pays no duty at all on its exports of tinned pineapples or pinewood furniture to the EEC, whereas neighbouring South Africa would have to pay a 20 % duty on the same products.

Sugar and beef

Levies are still payable, however, on a limited number of agricultural products exported by ACP countries to the EEC, particularly, of course, those which compete with Europe’s own produce. However, under the terms of protocols to the Convention, agreed quotas of sugar and beef, for example, can enter the Community duty-free (or near duty-free) and at guaranteed prices. Thus 116 000 tonnes of Swazi sugar enters the Community each year free of duty and at a price which for many years has been well above the world market price. Similarly, a quota of 3 363 tonnes of Swazi beef may enter the Community market almost levy-free (with a 90% rebate) at prices which, again, are generally well above those obtainable elsewhere. However, whereas the sugar quota is met, Swaziland’s beef quota (which calls for stringent slaughter, chilling and deboning regulations to be observed) is not yet filled, though the recent rehabilitation of the Swazi Meat Industries’ abattoir should make this possible in future. As a rough indication, the special arrangements for Swazi sugar and beef could yield up to E 50m each year more than the Kingdom would get by selling the same products at other markets.


Incorporated in the Convention is the Stabilisation of Export Earnings (Stabex) scheme, designed to assist countries when export revenues fall due to a drop in price, or production, or both.

Swaziland has benefited considerably from the Stabex system: under Lom, the country received three grants amounting to ECU 13 m (E 40 m) to help offset the effects of diminishing export revenues from iron ore mining. During the course of LomI (1980-85) the system operated again in Swaziland’s favour, this time for cotton production, badly hit by drought. Two grants, totalling ECU 8 m (E 24 m), were given to compensate for loss of earnings. Swaziland’s timber exports are also covered by the scheme.

Rise in exports

More generally, Swazi exports to the Community have grown remarkably in recent years: in 1981, for example, they stood at ECU 64.8 m; by 1985 they had reached a value of ECU 105 m and, in 1986, rose to ECU 123.8 m. The Community now accounts for almost half of Swaziland’s exports, compared with only 20% at the beginning of the 1980s. The country’s overall trade surplus with the Community rose from ECU 50.3 m in 1981 to ECU 112 m in 1986, representing an increase of 122 % over a period of five years.

Swaziland’s indicative programmes under Lom, II and III


On the aid side, Swaziland has received, from national and regional programmes, a total of ECU 73.5 m, or the equivalent at current exchange rates of E220m. Half this amount went to human resource development and training, which has a vital role to play in Swaziland’s progress towards self-reliance. The biggest beneficiary of aid in this field has been the University of Swaziland, with E 37 m provided in grants for the building of hostels, an assembly hall, the building and equipping of science laboratories, agricultural education units and for technical assistance, and it is expected that the University will benefit further under the programme for LomV which is shortly to be agreed with Government.

Other major training projects include the Ngwane Teachers Training College and the Vocational and Commercial Training College (VOCTIM) at Matsapha. The Teachers Training College has so far received assistance to the tune of some E 15 m, both in the form of buildings (classrooms and student and teacher accommodation) and in the form of scholarships for staff to upgrade their qualifications. The College, which has been in existence since 1982, has received funding under all three Conventions, and Government has expressed interest in further assistance from the EEC for, inter alia, the stocking and extension of the library. Some 120 students qualify each year from Ngwane, and, given the College’s high reputation, and the current shortage of primary teachers, all who graduate are sure to find jobs.

VOCTIM, located near the country’s manufacturing heartland at Matsapha, at present trains some 140 students in a variety of vocational skills, including building and construction, business administration, automotive and electrical engineering and woodwork. The Institute, which has just emerged from an independent assessment with flying colours, has an excellent reputation and, here again, graduates are in heavy demand in Swaziland’s expanding and modernising economy. To date, the Community has contributed some E 13 m to establishing and running the Institute.

Further contributions in the field of human resource development and training, at regional level, have been in the form of specialised training for Swaziland Railways, Customs, Posts and Telecommunications and the Institute for Development Management.

Rural development

The second priority area for EEC assistance in Swaziland has been rural development, for which a total of E 60m has been allocated over the years. Projects have included a Smallholder Support Programme (E 18 m), the Simunye Irrigation Project (E 10m). Rural Water Supply and Rural Dams projects (E 12 m each), and a foot-and-mouth disease barrier fence (E 3 m).

In addition, help has been given to stimulate trade and manufacture in the form of training and technical assistance to S.I.D.C. (the Swaziland Industrial Development Company), to an integrated Trade, Tourism and Handicrafts project, and funding for participation in international trade fairs.

One important aspect of Swaziland’s human resource constraints is the shortage of skilled professional manpower in the public service. To address this problem, the Community has provided substantial amounts of Technical Assistance to the Swaziland Government. Thus, experts have been provided for the Ministries of Agriculture, Commerce and Industry, Economic Planning, Education, and Finance as well as to support the Swaziland Government’s SADCC operations.

A major engineering project, and one which is likely to continue to receive funding under LomV, is the national airport at Matsapha. To date some E 6 m has gone to building and equipping a new control tower and for the additional training of air traffic controllers. Continued funding would contribute to enlarging the apron and upgrading the terminal building, so as to relieve present congestion.

Microprojects: low cost, high benefit

An important characteristic of Swaziland’s cooperation with the EEC lies in the high proportion - over 15% - of the total allocation spent on microprojects, a percentage shared by only three other ACP States. An E 14 m Microprojects Programme, run by an EEC-funded Technical Assistant and his staff, helps local communities to develop piggeries, dairies, markets, vegetable gardens and poultry farms, as well as build schools, clinics, Bailey bridges, rural dams and footbridges.

Community development, such as organising women’s knitting or sewing workshops or youth groups is another activity. In the early phase of the programme the vast majority of the projects were educational: 39 schools were built, and only 10 of the projects related to agricultural development. Today, this ratio has been reversed. Communities contribute a minimum of 25% of the cost of the project (which should not exceed ECU 300 000 in value), and, though some cash might be provided, this contribution is often in the form of materials or labour. The greater flexibility in the implementation of the microproject programme is a welcome aspect of this form of assistance, and the benefits to the people of Swaziland, particularly rural populations, is of course very direct. At present the Microprojects Unit is implementing 75 projects, throughout the country.


Swaziland is, of course, a member of the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC) and is responsible for the region’s Programme of Action in the area of Manpower Development. The Swaziland Government thus hosts the Regional Training Council, which is the coordinating body, and provides the RTC with a secretariat.

Under LomI and LomII the Community has supported the work of the RTC secretariat by means of technical assistance and has sponsored the development of a wide range of regional manpower and training projects. Under LomII, 17 projects have been approved with a total budget of ECU 10.3 million. These include projects such as the training of SADCC agricultural managers at the Mananga Agricultural Management Centre in Swaziland as well as major projects throughout the nine SADCC countries. At present a further 14 projects are under development with earmarked funding of approximately ECU 12 m.

Finally, Swaziland has benefited from a number of minimal interest rate loans from the European Investment Bank and from aid for refugees, partly in the form of food aid. The loans (totalling ECU 23 m) went to the National Industrial Development Corporation, Simunye Royal Swazi Sugar Corporation, the Luphohlo Hydroelectric Scheme, S.I.D.C. industrial building and to the Swazi Meat Industries slaughterhouse at Matsapha. Aid to refugees included E 23 m, spent partly on the building of the secondary school at Ndzevane, and the equivalent of E 4.5 m in food aid.

The projects and programmes to be supported from Swaziland’s national indicative programme for the fourth Lomonvention (ECU 30 m) will be agreed on with Government later this year, and, together with allocations under the Regional Programme, it is clear that the Community will be able to support the Kingdom’s development plans well into the 1990s.