Swaziland is a small mountainous kingdom nestled between South Africa, to the south and west and Mozambique to the east. The 1.2 million people who live here are ruled by King Mswati III, Africa’s last absolute monarch. Between 1902 and 1968, Swaziland was a British colony and then Protectorate, but since independence, the country has practised a unique political system called ‘Monarchical Democracy’.
For the last twenty years, HIV/AIDS has ravaged the country, leaving thousands dead and hundreds of thousands orphaned. Whilst access to treatment is improving, 31% of the total adult population are HIV positive and 11000 new cases are reported each year. This figure is considerably higher (upwards of 40%) in some areas and in some demographics, such as young women and older men (MICS 2014). The average life expectancy of a Swazi male is 47 years of age (WHO, 2015).
About half of Swazis live in moderate to extreme poverty. Unemployment is very high, at over 40% (56% among the youth) and 70 % of the remaining workforce is employed in sustenance farming. Industries such as sugar farming, forestry and pulp production and livestock farming have been in gradual decline over the last few years, especially since the withdrawal of beneficial trade agreements such as the US’ Africa Growth and Opportunities Act. These economic challenges have been exacerbated by the worst drought in living memory, which has led to food and income scarcity, poor health and a widespread destabilization of the economy.