The Kingdom of Swaziland is relatively small in area, similar in size to Kuwait. Swaziland is a landlocked country, bordered by South Africa on three sides except to the east, where it borders Mozambique.

Background History

Autonomy for the Swazis of southern Africa was guaranteed by the British in the late 19th century; independence was granted in 1968. Student and labor unrest during the 1990s pressured King Mswati III, Africa's last absolute monarch, to grudgingly allow political reform and greater democracy, although he has backslid on these promises in recent years. A constitution came into effect in 2006, but the legal status of political parties remains unclear. The African United Democratic Party tried unsuccessfully to register as an official political party in mid 2006. Talks over the constitution broke down between the government and progressive groups in 2007. Swaziland recently surpassed Botswana as the country with the world's highest known HIV/AIDS prevalence rate.


Country Name:

  • conventional long form: Kingdom of Swaziland
  • conventional short form: Swaziland
  • local long form: Umbuso weSwatini
  • local short form: eSwatini


  • name: Mbabane
  • population: 74,000
  • geographic coordinates: 26 18 S, 31 06 E
  • time difference: UTC+2 (7 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)


  • 21 March 1990 (from South African mandate)

Government Type:

  • monarchy

Executive Branch:

  • chief of state: King Mswati III (since 25 April 1986)
  • head of government: Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini (since 16 October 2008)
  • elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; prime minister appointed by the monarch from among the elected members of the House of Assembly

Legislative Branch:

  • structure: bicameral Parliament or Libandla consists of the Senate and the House of Assembly

Judicial Branch:

  • structure: High Court; Supreme Court; judges for both courts are appointed by the monarch

People & Society


  • 2,165,828 (global rank: 143)
  • growth rate: 0.817% (global rank: 133)


  • noun: Swazi(s)
  • adjective: Swazi

Major Cities:

  • Mbabane(capital): 74,000

Ethnic Groups:

  • African 97%, European 3%


  • Zionist 40% (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship), Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 10%, other (includes Anglican, Baha'i, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish) 30%


  • English (official, used for government business), siSwati (official)

Life Expectancy at Birth:

  • total population: 49.42 years (global rank: 218)
  • male: 49.77 years
  • female: 49.06 years

Infant Mortality:

  • total population: 59.57 deaths/1,000 live births (global rank: 31)
  • male: 63.59 deaths/1,000 live births
  • female: 55.44 deaths/1,000 live births

HIV/AIDS (2009 est.):

  • adult prevalence rate: 25.9% (global rank: 1)
  • people living with AIDS: 180,000 (global rank: 30)


  • definition: age 15 and over can read and write
  • total population: 81.6%
  • male: 82.6%
  • female: 80.8%


Surrounded by South Africa, except for a short border with Mozambique, Swaziland depends heavily on South Africa from which it receives more than 90% of its imports and to which it sends 60% of its exports. Swaziland's currency is pegged to the South African rand, effectively subsuming Swaziland's monetary policy to South Africa. The government is heavily dependent on customs duties from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), and worker remittances from South Africa supplement domestically earned income. Subsistence agriculture employs approximately 70% of the population. The manufacturing sector has diversified since the mid-1980s. Sugar and wood pulp were major foreign exchange earners; however, the wood pulp producer closed in January 2010, and sugar is now the main export earner. In 2007, the sugar industry increased efficiency and diversification efforts, in response to a 17% decline in EU sugar prices. Mining has declined in importance in recent years with only coal and quarry stone mines remaining active. Customs revenues plummeted due to the global economic crisis and a drop in South African imports. The resulting decline in revenue has pushed the country into a fiscal crisis. The government has requested assistance from the IMF and from the African Development Bank, but in 2011 was not able to meet the targets-including cutting the wage bill and improving spending controls-necessary to receive aid. Swaziland is looking to other countries, including South Africa, for assistance, but continues to struggle to meet its monthly payroll and fund government programs. With an estimated 40% unemployment rate, Swaziland's need to increase the number and size of small and medium enterprises and attract foreign direct investment is acute. Overgrazing, soil depletion, drought, and floods persist as problems for the future. More than one-fourth of the population needed emergency food aid in 2006-07 because of drought, and more than one-quarter of the adult population has been infected by HIV/AIDS.
Gross Domestic Product:
  • GDP (PPP): $6.12 billion (global rank: 156)
  • GDP per capita (PPP): $5,200 (global rank: 145)
  • real growth rate: -2.1% (global rank: 208)
  • composition by sector: agriculture: 7.8%, industry: 50.8%, services: 41.4%


  • currency: Swazi Emalangeni
  • exchange rate (per US Dollar): 7.3


  • unemployment rate: 40%
  • population below poverty line: 69%

Agricultural Products:

  • sugarcane, cotton, corn, tobacco, rice, citrus, pineapples, sorghum, peanuts; cattle, goats, sheep


  • coal, wood pulp, sugar, soft drink concentrates, textiles and apparel

Export Commodities:

  • soft drink concentrates, sugar, wood pulp, cotton yarn, refrigerators, citrus and canned fruit

Import Commodities:

  • motor vehicles, machinery, transport equipment, foodstuffs, petroleum products, chemicals



  • Southern Africa, between Mozambique and South Africa


  • total: 17,364 sq km (global rank: 159)
  • land: 17,204 sq km
  • water: 160 sq km
  • comparative: slightly smaller than New Jersey


  • varies from tropical to near temperate

Land Use:

  • arable land: 10.25%
  • permanent crops: 0.81%
  • other: 88.94%

Natural Resources:

  • asbestos, coal, clay, cassiterite, hydropower, forests, small gold and diamond deposits, quarry stone, and talc

Current Environmental Issues:

  • limited supplies of potable water; wildlife populations being depleted because of excessive hunting; overgrazing; soil degradation; soil erosion

Transnational Issues

  • international disputes: in 2006, Swazi king advocates resort to ICJ to claim parts of Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal from South Africa

Published: Monday, September 08, 2008