Prime Minister speaks about progress on economic recovery strategy in an exclusive interview
BY ZWELI MARTIN DLAMINI
MBABANE: Prime Minister Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini said over 5000 jobs have already been created as part of government economic recovery plan known as the Strategic RoadMap.
Responding to questions from this Swaziland News, the Prime Minister said government through the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Trade was vigorously working with the Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) in bringing investors into the country.
“In the meantime, we have been working hand-in-hand with the Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) with the view of bringing investors into the Kingdom. To date, we have succeeded in creating over 5 000 direct jobs from major multinational investors such as Kellogg’s, Johnsons Workwear, Air Liquide and others. Company registration has also been digitalized and there will soon be the launch of an online payment system” said the Head of Government.
The PM said EIPA and the entire Commerce Ministry were doing a great job in terms of improving the Ease of Doing Business. When asked to describe some of the key areas of the Strategic Roadmap, the Prime Minister identified the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade as one of the key drivers of this economic recovery plan.
“The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade was mandated in terms of the Strategic Roadmap 2019-2022 to improve the Ease of Doing Business. To this end, the Kingdom continues to implement reforms pointed out by the World Bank in their Ease of Doing Business Index. Our target is to take Eswatini to number 10 in Africa and number three in the SADC. And in our quest to achieve this goal, the Ministry, through its Investor Roadmap Unit, has been engaging various stakeholders who are all contributors of the World Bank Ease of Doing Business; to ensure that the Kingdom is fairly assessed in the next ranking” he said.
The PM then invited investors who are interested in setting up business in the Kingdom of Eswatini to consider investing in the country. He said the country was committed in creating a conducive business environment which will enable the private sector to thrive.
“Government has a simple message for investors interested in setting up in the Kingdom; “Eswatini is Open for Business”. His Majesty’s Government understands that vibrant business and industry is the foundation for sustainable economic growth and welfare. We therefore welcome both local and foreign investments in Eswatini. We are committed to creating a conducive business environment which will enable the private sector to thrive. Government is also keen on bringing new policies and incentives to encourage investors. These include the reduction of the corporate tax, ratification of the Africa Continent Free Trade Area just to mention a few. The main emphasis is on export sector growth, innovation and utilization of opportunities for future growth. The government has initiated a review of business regulations with the aim of simplifying it and increasing efficiency” he said.
On another note, ManqobaKhumalo, the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade said the country has made a number of reforms in the ease of doing business. Responding to questions from this Swaziland News, the Minister said as government, they expect the country to improve when the new ease of doing business rankings are issued at the end of May 2020.
“We have made a number of reforms that we expect will make a difference when the new rankings are issued at the end of May. These include among others reducing the time to register a business to one day, being able to do it online and also streamlining the training license requirements. We have also made available online general information required to start a business” he said.
The Commerce Minister said government plans to create about 10,000 jobs a year and this would be across all the sectors that include Agriculture, Manufacturing, Tourism, Energy and Mining as well as ICT.
“We strongly believe this is achievable based on our Strategic Road Map” he said.
Khumalo said the role of the Ministry of Commerce in the Strategic Roadmap was to drive local and Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) across all sectors of the economy.
“We do this through investment promotion, SME development, improving the ease of doing business overall and through creating and enabling environment in general. We are aggressively courting foreign and local investors whilst also aggressively promoting local SMEs. We measure our effectiveness through the creation of jobs” the Minister said.
Sibangani Mngometulu, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Eswatini Investment and Promotion Authority (EIPA) said they have received positive feedback from investors particularly on government agencies willingness to process applications timeously adding that queries were resolved speedily.
“Online name search and reservations which have been implemented in the past, the company registration processes has further improved to include provisional company registration. The time it takes to do company registration is now up to 3 days but not 10 days as reflected in the Doing Business Report. The World Bank has been assisting the Government of Eswatini with setting of the reforms in trade facilitation which include: Coordinated Boarder Management, information portal and single window” he said.
The EIPA boss said investors should consider investing in the country saying Eswatini has a long history of political stability which was one of the requirements by investors.
“Under our political environment, investors will generally be more inclined to invest compared to countries where there is less stability. Emaswati are known as peaceful people and our common culture and languages promote a high level of tolerance for each other and co-existence with people from various backgrounds,” said EIPA CEO.