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As a small nation of just over one million, Eswatini is working to position itself as an exporter that is open for business. Landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique, Eswatini is a member of two of the largest free trade regions on the continent: the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Eswatini has historically had a service-based economy with companies from South Africa among the major employers, however due to developments in the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), strategic manufacturing for export will create new enthusiasm towards foreign market opportunities.

Eswatini is an AGOA eligible country; in 2021, the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini (GKoE) issued a comprehensive three-year strategy to maximize the opportunities presented under the program. In 2022, government issued the National Development Plan, outlining challenges and opportunities aimed to bring Eswatini to first-world status nations by 2028. The Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) advocates for foreign investors and facilitates regulatory approval. Recent positive developments include the start-up of a 15,000 sqm factory that began production this year of food products for the local and export markets. Although the official government policy is to encourage foreign investment to drive economic growth, the pace of reforming investment policies is slow. The policies and reforms the country’s energy (ESERA) and telecommunications (ESCCOM) regulators are pursuing to promote innovation and competition in their industries will be important barometers on the extent to which those markets will prove friendly for international investors.

Policies are conducive to U.S. investment. The Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) advocates for foreign investors and facilitates regulatory approval but generally lacks the political clout to achieve its core functions. Positive investment climate factors include the eligibility of Eswatini to the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), the enactment of the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act, updated intellectual property legislation passed in 2022, and favorable World Bank rankings on the Ease of Doing Business.

The civil unrest experienced in 2021 and the unsettled socio-political environment are current significant negative factors dampening the investment climate as the country awaits a national dialogue and national parliamentary elections in the fall of 2023. After the murder of public security officers, a traditional chief, and prominent human rights activist Thulani Maseko in January 2023, the human rights environment is under scrutiny by international observers, including the International Parliamentary Union (IPU), who have expressed concerns about the incarceration and trial of two elected members of parliament who, the IPU states, were exercising their freedom of speech. With overall unemployment at 33%, the labor environment is largely untapped, and generally considered stable. Russia’s war against Ukraine has resulted in increased costs of production due to the high cost of intermediate inputs, particularly fuel, farming inputs such as fertilizer, medical services, and food, and non-alcoholic beverages. Inflation is estimated at 12% in 2022-2023 for food basket, with a disproportionate impact on poor households and unemployed youth, estimated at 58%.
Eswatini is seeking to redefine itself through the economic recovery strategy as an export-oriented, private sector led economy. Over the last year, overall investment trends in Eswatini include an emphasis on attracting and expanding international companies investing in Eswatini. King Mswati III has traveled in the last 16 months to New York City, Singapore, Taiwan, Tunisia, Rwanda (for Commonwealth Nations), Indonesia, Bangladesh, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates as part of a government foreign direct investment campaign.

The Swati government has prioritized the energy sector, particularly renewable energy, and developed a Grid Code and Renewable Energy and Independent Power Producer (RE&IPP) Policy to create a transparent regulatory regime and attract investment backed by a sovereign guarantee. Eswatini generally imports 80 percent of its power from South Africa and Mozambique. With both South Africa and Mozambique experiencing electricity shortages, Eswatini aspires to become energy independent by increasing its own energy generation using renewable sources. Policies are in place for renewable energy to reach 50% by 2030, however there are no incentives yet announced. With the emergence of COVID-19, the need for ICT business and infrastructure opportunities have found their way to the top of the priority list. ICT is still an emerging sector, which Eswatini has supported through digital initiatives such as cross-functional e-governance, the Royal Science and Technology Park, and cloud-based systems. The digital migration program of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) presents ICT opportunities in the country. The country is poised for Open Radio Access Network (ORAN) 5G development and space-based low earth orbit satellite technology applications as alternatives to terrestrial internet services.

Incentives to invest in Eswatini include repatriation of profits, fully serviced industrial sites, purpose-built factory shells at competitive rates, and duty exemptions on raw materials for manufacture of goods to be exported outside the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Financial incentives for all investors include tax allowances and deductions for new enterprises, including a 10-year exemption from withholding tax on dividends and a low corporate tax rate of 10 percent for approved investment projects. New investors also enjoy duty-free import of machinery and equipment. SEZ investors may benefit from a 20-year exemption from all corporate taxation (followed by taxation at 5 percent); full refunds of customs duties, value-added tax, and other taxes payable on goods purchased for use as raw material, equipment, machinery, and manufacturing; unrestricted repatriation of profits; and full exemption from foreign exchange controls for all operations conducted within the SEZ.

Royal family involvement in the mining sector has discouraged potential investors in that sector. Eswatini’s land tenure system, where most rural land is “held in trust for the Swati nation,” discourages long-term investment in commercial real estate and agriculture.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2022 130 of 180
Global Innovation Index 2022 N/A
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions) 2021 USD 14 Million
World Bank GNI per capita 2022 USD 3605

Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment

The GKoE is generally open to foreign investment to drive economic growth, improve international competitiveness, and access foreign markets. Foreign direct investment (FDI) is one of the five stated pillars of its Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth (SDIG) Program and is the intended means to drive the country’s economic growth, obtain access to foreign markets for its exports, and improve international competitiveness. While the government has strongly encouraged foreign investment over the past 15 years, it only adopted a formal strategy at cabinet-level in 2018 for achieving measurable progress. Eswatini does not have a unified policy on investment. Instead, individual ministries have their own investment facilitation policies, which include policies on Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), agriculture, energy, transportation, mining, education, and telecommunications. Calls for more concerted action on these policies have intensified in the last few years as Eswatini has suffered from drought, fiscal challenges, and general economic recession.

There are no laws which differ significantly between U.S. investors and domestic investors. The Swati constitution states generally non-citizen companies and/or companies with a simple majority of non-citizen shareholders may not own land unless they were vested in their ownership rights before the constitution entered into force in 2005. On the other hand, the constitution’s general prohibition “may not be used to undermine or frustrate an existing or new legitimate business undertaking of which land is a significant factor or base.” Furthermore, non-citizens and non-citizen majority-owned companies may hold long-term (up to 99 years) leases on title deed land and Swati Nation land. In 2019, the government listed some of its title deed land to make it available for long-term leasing for commercial purposes.

The Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority (EIPA) is the state-owned enterprise (SOE) charged with designing and implementing strategies for attracting desired foreign investors.

Eswatini’s investment policy which supports the business environment is online at . EIPA is functional and helpful, but it is not yet a one-stop-shop for foreign investors. EIPA services include:

  Attract and promote local and foreign direct investments

  Identify and disseminate trade and investment opportunities

  Provide investor facilitation and aftercare services

  Promote internal and external trade

  Undertake research and policy analysis

  Facilitate company registration and business licenses/permits

  Facilitate work permits and visas for investors

  Provide a one stop shop information and support facility for businesses

  Export product development

  Facilitation of participation in external trade fairs

  Buyer-Seller Missions

The GKoE continues its attempts to improve the ease of doing business in the country through the Investor Roadmap Unit (IRU). The IRU engages with businesses and government to review and report on the progress and implementation of the investor reforms through annual and biannual consultations.

In September 2022, the World Bank Group published a country private sector diagnostics report highlighting opportunities to strengthen the private sector to grow export markets and create jobs. The “creating markets” report highlights Eswatini’s comparative advantage in sugar, beef, forestry value chains, textiles and apparel. See link: 

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

Both foreign and domestic private entities have a right to establish, own, acquire, and dispose of interest in business enterprises. Foreign and U.S. investors own several of Eswatini’s largest private businesses, either fully or with minority participation by Swati institutions.

There are no limits on foreign ownership and control of companies which can be 100 percent foreign owned and controlled. The only exceptions to foreign ownership and control laws are in the mining sector and in relation to land ownership.

There are no sector-specific restrictions (except mining and land ownership). Eswatini does not prescribe investment levels, equity caps, governance or board representation requirements, mandatory domestic joint venture partner rules, licensing restrictions, mandatory Intellectual Property (IP)/technology transfer requirements, local presence, or workforce requirements.

The Mines and Minerals Act of 2011 requires that the king (in trust for the Swati Nation) be granted a 25-percent equity stake in all mining ventures, with another 25 percent equity stake granted to the GKoE. There are also sector-specific trade exclusions that prohibit foreign control, which include business dealings in firearms, radioactive material, explosives, hazardous waste, and security printing.

Foreign investments are screened only through standard background and credit checks, for which significant processing times must be allowed. Under the Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism (Prevention) Act of 2011, investors must submit certain documents including proof of residence and source of income for deposits. EIPA also conducts general screening of FDI monies through credit bureau checks and Interpol. This screening is not a barrier to investing in Eswatini. There are no discriminatory mechanisms applied against U.S. foreign direct investors.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

There have been no investment policy reviews for Eswatini in the last 3 years. Through its membership in the Southern African Customs Union, its ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement in 2019, and its participation in the work of the WTO, Eswatini continues to pursue the importance of trade in development. , . . 

In the past five years, Eswatini has not received any third-party investment policy reviews through organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), World Trade Organization (WTO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), or UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

Business Facilitation

In 2020 the Government launched The Eswatini Trade Information Portal (ETIP) as a one-stop shop trade and investment portal in line with Article 10 of the WTO agreement to publish related procedures for trade. The portal Eswatini Trade Information Portal – Display Site (  publishes procedures for importation, exportation, transit required forms and documents, and other necessary information. The ETIP is aimed at facilitating trade and reducing the cost of trade. The portal will provide traders will all information relating to trade, including regulatory requirements, forms, procedures, and fees that traders will be required to pay. This information should enable traders to swiftly carry out cross border transactions.

Online registration for companies is done via the link . The registration process is not entirely online as the final steps (payment of statutory fees and registration fee) are offline (payable at local offices). According to the Doing Business Report, the process of registering a company in Eswatini takes approximately 3-10 days. In practice, the process can take much longer for foreign investors. The process of registration is very simple and is managed by the Registrar of Companies within the ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Trade. The company registration is the first and most crucial step that enables further registration. Additional registration requirements are found at Eswatini Trade Information Portal – Display Site ( .

Further business licensing is required after registration. The licensing process is overseen by the Ministry of Commerce in the adjacent licensing department under separate oversight.

Outward Investment

The government does not specifically promote or incentivize outward investment.

The GKoE does not generally restrict domestic investors from investing abroad. The only two restrictions which apply as exceptions relate to the Public Service Pension Fund and the Eswatini National Provident Fund which are state-owned enterprises (SOEs). They are required by law to invest a minimum of 50 percent of their balance sheets in the domestic economy.

Eswatini has bilateral investment agreements in force with the United Kingdom, Taiwan, and Germany. After Brexit in 2021, the government signed African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) – EU Partnership Agreement. Eswatini signed bilateral investment agreements with Egypt, Kuwait, and Mauritius, but these have not entered into force. In August 2022 Indonesian President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and King Mswati III witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

In February 2023, Bangladesh and Eswatini signed a MoU on Establishment of Comprehensive Consultation Mechanism and a Memorandum of Agreement on Contract Farming and Agricultural Cooperation.

In January 2023 Eswatini signed a visa waiver agreement with the Russian Federation.

Eswatini does not have a bilateral investment treaty with the United States.

In 2019, Eswatini amended its tax treaty with Mauritius on the assumption that once the treaty is ratified the amendments will come into effect in January 2022; this has not yet occurred.

Transparency of the Regulatory System

In general, the laws of the country are transparent, including laws to foster competition. The Swaziland Competition Act came into force in 2007 and the Competition Commission Regulations came into effect in 2011. The Eswatini Competition Commission (SCC) is a statutory body charged with the administration and enforcement of the Competition Act of 2007. The legal and regulatory environment is underdeveloped but currently growing as the GKoE has recently established additional regulatory bodies in the financial, energy, communications, and construction procurement sectors. These bodies generally attempt to emulate the regulatory practices of South Africa or Britain.

Eswatini’s rule-making and regulatory authority lies with the central government and may be delegated by the relevant line ministry to a department, parastatal, or board. The primary custodian of policy and regulation is the minister responsible for the relevant law. All laws, regulations, and policies are applied at a national level.

There are no regulatory processes managed by nongovernmental organizations or private sector associations. Regulatory enforcement actions can be reviewed through the court system and court rulings are publicly available.

Transparency is provided through adherence to the International Financial Reporting Standard (IFRS) as required for listed companies, financial institutions, and government-owned companies. It remains optional for small and medium enterprises.

Legal and expert drafters within federal ministries develop regulations. No regulations or laws are promulgated at regional administration or local (tinkhundla) levels. Ministries sometimes consult by invitation with selected members of the public and private sectors through publicly announced stakeholder meetings. Most draft regulations are not made available online but can be acquired in hard copy through the government printing office for a fee. Regulations are generally developed and reviewed through various stakeholder consultations. The use of science and data to inform regulatory reform is not widespread. Proposed laws and regulations are published in the government Gazette and have a public comment period of thirty days prior to a bill’s presentation to parliament.

Foreign investors coming into the country can join the recognized federation of businesses, Business Eswatini, on equal footing with Eswatini nationals. Business Eswatini often serves as the link between the private sector and the government. There are no informal regulatory processes that apply to foreign investors.

Eswatini public finance and debt obligations are published online through the Budget Estimates Book as well as the Central Bank of Eswatini’s annual report, 

International Regulatory Considerations

Eswatini is member to four distinct economic blocks: the Common Monetary Area (CMA), the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The standards of membership in these blocks are primarily based on British law and have been domesticated accordingly into each context.

Eswatini is a member of the WTO and notifies all draft technical regulations to the WTO Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade. Eswatini signed and ratified the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in 2016 and has begun implementing its requisites. The TFA entered into force in February 2017 and requires prompt and transparent publication of trade-related information. Eswatini developed a trade portal in partnership with the World Bank to make reliable trade-related information accessible to the private sector.

Legal System and Judicial Independence

Eswatini has a dual legal system consisting of a set of courts that follow Roman-Dutch law and a set of national courts that follow Swati law and custom. The former consists of a Court of Appeals (Supreme Court) and a High Court, in addition to magistrate’s courts in each of the four districts. The traditional courts deal with minor offenses and violations of traditional Swati law and custom. Sentences in traditional courts are subject to appeal and review at the Court of Appeals and High Court. The western-style court system enforces contracts and property rights.

The country has various written commercial and contractual laws. Commercial and contractual disputes are handled in the magistrate court or High Court depending on the amount in dispute. Specialized commercial and small claims courts have been introduced in the 2022. Specialized Industrial Courts hear labor relations matters.

The constitution and law provide for an independent judiciary and the courts are generally independent of executive control or influence in nonpolitical criminal and civil cases not involving the royal family or government officials. The current judicial process is procedurally competent, fair, and reliable, although the capacity of the judiciary to handle cases in a timely manner is extremely limited, creating significant case backlogs. Enforcement of laws and regulations can be appealed up to the Supreme Court.

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

The Swaziland Investment Promotion Act of 1998 established EIPA and provides for the freedom of investment, protection of investment, and non-discrimination on the part of the government with respect to investors. The Competition Act of 2007 proscribes anti-competitive trade practices and specifies requirements for mergers and acquisitions, and protection of consumer welfare. The new economic recovery strategy (Revised National Development Strategy) for 2023-2028 emphasizes the need to promote further reforms to facilitate investment.

In February 2018, the GKoE enacted the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act in an effort to attract foreign direct investment, to be reviewed every five years. The implementing regulations for the year 2023-2024 are under review. The benefits for an SEZ investor include: a 20-year exemption from all corporate taxation, followed by taxation at the rate of 5 percent; full refunds of customs duties, value-added tax, and all other taxes payable in respect of goods purchased for use as raw material, equipment, machinery, and manufacturing; unrestricted repatriation of profits; and full exemption from foreign exchange controls for all operations conducted within the SEZ. The Citizen Economic Empowerment Bill under review pursues an agenda of giving local entities a 15 percent competitive advantage in if desiring to sell to local markets. For foreign businesses that are export-oriented, competition is on an even basis. Government published SEZ advantages and procedures, including these published suggestions: Special Economic Zones: What Should Eswatini Consider? – Separc 

The primary website for investment that provides relevant laws is Eswatini Trade Information Portal – Display Site ( 

Competition and Antitrust Laws

The Eswatini Competition Commission (SCC) adheres to fair and transparent norms and procedures. In 2022, there were no significant competition cases which influenced foreign companies or investment. The Competition Commission was established in 2007 to review transactions and encourage competition in Eswatini’s economy by controlling anti-competitive trade practices, mergers, and acquisitions; protecting consumer welfare; and providing an institutional mechanism for implementing these objectives. Government updates competition topics online at News and Notices – Eswatini Competition Commission ( 

The Swaziland Competition Act ( ) and Competition Commission Regulations ( ) are available online.

All entities must submit their merger and acquisition plans to the SCC for prior approval. The SCC has the power to not only investigate and regulate, but also to issue administrative decisions relating to mergers, competition, and anti-trust. There have been no rulings against foreign investors since the establishment of the Eswatini Competition Commission. Competition Commission decisions can be appealed at the High Court and further at the Supreme Court which has previously occurred.

Expropriation and Compensation

The law prohibits expropriation and nationalization. The Eswatini Constitution narrowly limits the GKoE’s powers to deprive a landowner of “property or any interest in or right over property,” except under circumstances where “necessary,” conducted pursuant to a court order, and compensated by the “prompt payment of fair and adequate compensation.” There is no history of alleged expropriations, without compensation. In the interest of national development, anyone whose property interests are threatened by expropriation is also expressly granted due process rights under the Constitution. There have been no recent cases of foreign-owned businesses being expropriated in any circumstance, and when disputes have arisen in the past, there has been due process through Swati institutions and/or international tribunals.

Dispute Settlement

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Eswatini is a member state of the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID Convention). It is not a signatory to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. There is no specific legislation providing for enforcement of awards under international conventions, but the Swati legal system has effectively enforced court decisions and international arbitration awards in the past.

Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Eswatini is a member state of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID Convention) and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). Eswatini, as a member of SACU, signed a Trade, Investment and Development Cooperative Agreement in 2008 with the United States. There have been no claims under this agreement. There have been at least two major investment disputes involving foreign investors in the past ten years, one in the mining industry, and the other in telecommunications, but none involving U.S. companies or citizens.

The Eswatini government accepts binding international arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors and the state. All government agreements with international investors/parties include venue and choice of law provisions. Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government, but do not have jurisdiction against the king, who is constitutionally protected. Eswatini has not had any reported incidents of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.

International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts

The National alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanism available to settle disputes between two private parties is the Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration Commission (CMAC), which is governed by the Industrial Relations Act of 2000. Eswatini does not have a domestic arbitration body to deal with investment or commercial disputes. A Commercial Court division of the High Court was established in March 2022 to facilitate resolution of business disputes which have traditionally lasted up to two years.

Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards and judgments of foreign courts.

SOEs are rarely involved in investment disputes. In the last 10 years, there has been no dispute involving a SOE. There have not been any complaints about the court processes. Court records are available online for public scrutiny at: .

Bankruptcy Regulations

The Insolvency Act of 1955 is the law that governs bankruptcy in Eswatini. The insolvent debtor or his/her agent petitions the court for the acceptance of the surrender of the debtor’s estate for the benefit of his/her creditors. Creditors need to petition with the court and provide documents supporting their claim. Bankruptcy is only criminalized if the debtor, trustee, or sole owner does not comply with the requirements of the creditor.

Investment Incentives

SEZ investors have access to numerous investment incentives more fully described above in “Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment” and below in “Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation.” For non-SEZ investors, the Minister of Finance has the discretion to apply a reduced tax rate of 10 percent for the first ten-year period of operation, which is available for businesses that qualify under the Development Approval Order. Capital goods imported into the country for productive investments are exempt from import duties. Raw materials imported into the country to manufacture products to be exported outside the SACU area are also exempt from import duties. These incentives apply equally to women as they do to men. U.S. companies have successfully taken advantage of this exemption.

The GKoE issues through the central bank guarantees for key sectors like transportation and energy. There have been no reports of government jointly financing FDI projects. Government does not offer incentives for net-zero or clean energy investments.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

In 2018, the GKoE enacted the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act to attract foreign direct investment. The Act establishes two designated SEZs: the Royal Science and Technology Park and King Mswati III International Airport. According to the Act, investors may establish additional SEZs outside of these designated areas by satisfying the minimum requirements and applying to the Minister of Commerce.  Under the Act, foreign-owned firms within SEZs have the same investment opportunities as Swati entities.

To operate within an SEZ, a beneficiary company must meet the following minimum requirements (among others): at least 90 percent of its employees must be paid at or above the threshold for income taxation (approximately USD 330/month); at least two thirds of its employees must be Swati citizens; and the minimum capital investment must be E30 million (USD 2.1 million) for sole companies and E70 million (USD 5 million) for joint ventures. The benefits for an SEZ investor include: a 20-year exemption from all corporate taxation, followed by taxation at the rate of 5 percent; full refunds of customs duties, value-added tax, and all other taxes payable in respect of goods purchased for use as raw material, equipment, machinery, and manufacturing; unrestricted repatriation of profits; and full exemption from foreign exchange controls for all operations conducted within the SEZ. These requirements and incentives are reviewed every five years and are set to be reviewed in 2023.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

Government does not follow forced localization of content in goods or technology. There are no requirements for foreign IT providers to turn over source code or provide access to encryption. The technology industry in Eswatini is still in its infancy.

There are no government-imposed conditions on permission to invest. The government does not follow a “forced localization” policy. However, in the manufacturing sector if a company plans to label a product for export as “Made in Eswatini,” the government requires that the local content of such export be at least 25 percent.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security’s Training and Localization Unit requires the hiring of qualified Swati workers where possible, even at executive positions. The mandate of the unit is to ensure the maximum utilization of local manpower resources and to formulate training plans in conjunction with industries so as to maximize employment. It also facilitates and provides information on the process of obtaining work permits. Foreign investors are required to apply for residence and work permits. Although they are generally awarded, businesspeople complain that the process is cumbersome.

This is true despite a current emphasis on localization of labor and skills, despite the skill gaps published in the Eswatini National Skills Audit Report of 2022 by the Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC) .

Real Property

The Constitution protects and enforces the right to own property, but most rural land is Swazi Nation Land (SNL) and is not covered by this constitutional protection. Most urban property, on the other hand, is Title Deed Land (TDL). The law allows for eminent domain in limited circumstances but requires prompt payment of adequate compensation. There are mortgages and liens on TDL and on farms. There are gender limitations on owning and transferring real property, particularly under the country’s traditional structures.

There are two major categories of land tenure: Swati Nation Land (SNL) and Title Deed Land (TDL), each subject to different rules and procedures. More than 60 percent of Eswatini’s territory is SNL, governed by the country’s traditional structures. SNL is “held in trust for the Swati people” by the King, who appoints chiefs to oversee its use. The chiefs keep records of who “owns” or resides on land in their chiefdoms. For TDL, the Eswatini government recognizes and enforces secured interest in property and there is a reliable system of recording security interests.

Though foreign or non-resident individuals generally may not own land (with some exceptions), foreign-owned businesses are able to own or lease land. Legally purchased property cannot revert to other owners (must be “willing buyer, willing seller”).

The GKoE is currently reviewing the 1982 Farm Dwellers Act to mitigate the negative impact on squatters’ rights on the transfer of property to new owners, incorporating a legal process to ensure the protection of rights of all concerned.

Intellectual Property Rights

Eswatini is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 report. Eswatini is not listed in the notorious market report.

Protection for patents, trademarks, and copyrights is currently inadequate under Swati law. Patents are currently protected under the 1997 Patents, Utility Models, and Industrial Designs Act.  The 2018 Patents Act has been passed, however, the regulations are still outstanding and the law is therefore not operative. Trademark protection is addressed in the Trade Marks Act of 1981. Copyright protections are addressed under the Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act, 2018. The most recent country intellectual country profile, from 2021, is provided at .

The Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act of 2018 (replacing the Copyright Act of 1912) protects literary, musical, artistic, audio-visual, sound recordings, broadcasts, and published editions. It also criminalizes illicit recording and false representation of someone else’s work. The Act also gives the duration of copyright among other things. The Swaziland Intellectual Property Tribunal Act of 2018 established an Intellectual Property Tribunal that is responsible for hearing all matters and disputes involving intellectual property in Eswatini.  However, the tribunal is not yet operational.

Eswatini is not listed on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List. For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at .

In June 2022, Eswatini hosted the Africa Regional Intellectual Property Organization (ARIPO) Head of Intellectual Property Office’s conference HIPOC for 22 member states. The country does not track and report on seizures of counterfeit goods as it relates to intellectual property.

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

GKoE’s general attitude toward foreign portfolio investment is open, but consistent with that of the common monetary area led by South Africa. Eswatini’s capital markets are closely tied to those of South Africa and operate under conditions generally like the conditions in that market. In 2010, the GKoE passed the Securities Act to strengthen the regulation of portfolio investments. The Act was primarily intended to facilitate and develop an orderly, fair, and efficient capital market in the country.

Eswatini has a small stock exchange with only a handful of companies currently trading. In 2010, the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA) was established. This institution governs non-bank financial institutions including capital markets, insurance firms, retirement funds, building societies, micro-finance institutions, and savings and credit cooperatives. The royal wealth fund and national pension fund invest in the private equity market, but otherwise there are few professional investors.

Existing policies neither inhibit nor facilitate the free flow of financial resources; the demand is simply not present. The Central Bank respects the terms of International Monetary Fund (IMF) Article VIII, and credit is allocated on market terms. Foreign investors can get credit and equity from the local market. A variety of credit instruments are available to the private sector including Central Bank of Eswatini loan guarantees for the export markets and for small businesses.

Money and Banking System

Banking services penetration equates to 54 percent of the Swati adult population. According to the Central Bank of Eswatini’s Financial Stability Report, the Swati banking sector is stable, well positioned to withstand shocks, and financially sound. If one could say there was a weakness, it would be the lack of diversity of product offerings. Because four of the six operating banks are owned by South African parent companies which only offer retail and corporate banking services, there is a scarcity of banking services supporting citizens financial development needs. It is a weakness because many citizens report lack of access to credit and prioritizing profit over development.

The Non-Performing Loan (NPL) ratio increased from 5.6 percent in June 2021 to 6.5 percent in June 2022, remaining above the acceptable 5.0 percent Competition and Market Authority (CMA) threshold. The increase in NPLs is attributable to the expiration of COVID-19 Relief Measures in December 2021. As at end June 2022, the aggregate liquidity ratio for banks stood at 37.7 percent, well above the minimum requirement of 20 percent for commercial banks and 18.0 percent for development banks. The average returns on assets (ROA) and returns on equity (ROE) ratios increased to 13.0 percent and 24.3 percent in June 2022 from 8.6 percent and 17.4 percent in June 2021, respectively.

Eswatini’s banking sector is relatively small with assets of about 30% of GDP. The financial sector is dominated by non-bank financial institutions (“NBFs”) i.e., the pensions sector, insurance sector and collective investment schemes, with gross assets accounting for about 110% of GDP, including a large government retirement fund (with assets of about 35% of GDP). The financial institutions are closely interconnected and have large foreign exposures, with NBFIs providing a sizable share of banks’ deposits while holding about half of their assets abroad (about 40% of GDP), exposing the system to external shocks. Households are highly leveraged compared to neighboring and other middle-income countries; and the sovereign-financial sector linkages have been strengthening, exposing the sector to the government’s weak fiscal position. Eswatini has a central bank system. Eswatini’s banks are primarily subsidiaries of South African banks. Standard Bank is the largest bank by capital assets and employs about 400 workers.

Eswatini’s financial sector is liberalized and allows foreign banks or branches to operate under the supervision of the Central Bank’s laws and regulations ( Foreigners may establish a bank account in Eswatini if they have established official residency in one of the CMA countries (Eswatini, South Africa, Lesotho, Namibia).

There have been no bank closures or banks in jeopardy in the last three years. Hostile takeovers are uncommon, last occurring in 1996. (Note: Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) was taken over by FNB. End Note).

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

There are no limitations placed on foreign investors in converting, transferring, or repatriating funds associated with an investment, or on the inflow or outflow of funds for remittances. Dividends derived from current trading profits are freely transferable on submission of appropriate documentation to the Central Bank, subject to provision for the non-resident shareholder tax of 15 percent. Local credit facilities may not be utilized for paying dividends. Eswatini is part of the Common Monetary Area (CMA), which also includes South Africa, Namibia, and Lesotho. All capital transfers into Eswatini from outside the CMA require prior approval of the Central Bank to avoid problems in the subsequent repatriation of interest, dividends, profits, and other income accrued. Otherwise, there are no restrictions placed on the transfers.

Eswatini mainly deals with three international currencies: the U.S. Dollar, the Euro, and the British Pound. The Swati Lilangeni is pegged 1:1 to the South African Rand, which is accepted as legal tender throughout Eswatini. To obtain foreign currency other than Rand, one must apply through an authorized dealer, and a resident who acquires foreign currency must sell it to an authorized dealer for the local currency within ninety days. No person is permitted to hold or deal in foreign currency other than authorized dealers, namely, First National Bank (FNB), Nedbank, Standard Bank, or Swazi Bank.

Because the Lilangeni is pegged to the Rand, its value is determined by the monetary policy of the CMA, which is heavily influenced by the South African Reserve Bank.

Remittance Policies

There have been no recent changes to investment remittance policies. There are no specified time limitations on remittances. Once documentation is complete (e.g., latest company financial statements) and relevant taxes paid, SWIFT transfers require an average of one week, and other electronic transfers can take less than a week.

The Swaziland Investment and Payment and Settlement System (SWIPSS) offers real-time transactions. SWIPSS, Eswatini’s Real Time Gross Settlement System, is an advanced interbank electronic payment system that facilitates the efficient, safe, secure, and real-time transmission of high-value funds in the banking sector. Direct access to SWIPSS is limited to only the four commercial banks, and these banks act as intermediaries for other financial institutions.

As part of the government policy to attract foreign investment, dividends derived from current trading profits are freely transferable on submission of documentation (including latest annual financial statements of the company concerned) subject to provision for non-resident shareholders’ tax. Government does not issue dollar-denominated bonds. Otherwise, there are no limitations on the inflow and outflow of funds for remittances of profits or revenue.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

Eswatini does not have a sovereign wealth fund as defined by international norms. Instead, its origins were to recapitalize colonial-era land to nationalize existing property for resettlement of local populations in the country and provide for a sovereign wealth fund equivalent function.

In 1968, the late King Sobhuza II created a Royal Charter that governs the nominal “Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF)” in Eswatini known as Tibiyo TakaNgwane primarily to protect land, ideology, culture and Swati tradition. This fund is not subject to government or parliamentary oversight. The fund does not provide information to the public on value of its assets, which sectors are invested, or details of financial performance. Its subsidiaries, however, are well known. Tibiyo TakaNgwane produces an internal annual report with financials, but it is not required by law to do so as it is not registered under the Companies Act of 1912. Tibiyo annual reports are not made public or submitted to any other state organ for debate or review. The SWF obtains independent audits at the discretion of its Board of Directors.

Tibiyo TakaNgwane states in its objectives that it supports the government in fostering economic independence and self-sufficiency. It widely invests in the economy and holds shares in most major industries, e.g., sugar, real estate, beverages, dairy, hotels, and transportation. For its social responsibility practices, it provides scholarships to students. The SWF and the government co-invest to exercise majority control in many instances. Tibiyo TakaNgwane invests exclusively in the Eswatini economy and local subsidiaries of foreign companies. It has shares in several private companies. Foreign companies, including American companies, can and do form partnerships with Tibiyo, especially if the foreign company wants to raise capital and can manage the project on its own.

Eswatini has 49 SOEs, which are active in agribusiness, information and communication, energy, automotive and ground transportation, health, housing, travel and tourism, building education, business development, finance, environment, and publishing, media, and entertainment . There is no online website of SOEs.

The Eswatini government defines SOEs as private enterprises and separates them into two categories. Category A represents SOEs that are wholly owned by government. Category B represents SOEs in which government has a minority interest or which monitor other financial institutions or a local government authority. These categories are further broken down into profit-making SOEs with a focus on social responsibility, those that are profit-making and developmental, those that are regulatory, and those that are regulatory but developmental. SOEs purchase and supply goods and services to and from the private sector including to and from foreign firms. Those in which government is a minority shareholder are subject to the same tax burden and tax rebate policies as the private sector. The 1989 Public Enterprise Unit Act governs SOEs. The Boards of the respective SOEs review their budgets before tabling them to the relevant line ministry which in turn tables them to Parliament for scrutiny by the Public Accounts Committee. The Ministry of Finance’s Public Enterprise Unit (PEU) maintains a published list of SOEs, available on request from the PEU. SOEs do not receive non-market-based advantages from government.

Eswatini SOEs generally conform to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs. Senior managers of SOEs report to the board and, in turn, the board reports to a line minister. The minister then works with the Standing Committee on Public Enterprise (SCOPE) which is composed of cabinet ministers. SOEs are governed by the Public Enterprises Unit Act which requires audits of the SOEs and public annual reports. Government is not involved in the day-to-day management of SOEs. Established boards of directors of SOEs exercise independence and responsibility. The Public Enterprise Unit provides regular monitoring of SOEs. The line minister of the SOE appoints the board. In some cases, the appointments are politically motivated. In some cases, the king appoints his own representative as well. Generally, court processes are nondiscriminatory in relation to SOEs.

In 2022, as a cost-saving measure to save approximately US$110 million annually, the GKoE announced intentions to reform and merge the existing 49 SOEs to about 31 SOE entities organized roughly by sector. The process begins in 2023 with merging SOEs in the Ministry of Finance, combining the Central Bank and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority into a single regulatory body. This exercise is necessary to resuscitate the economy and improve the fiscal posture for funding social and economic development. It will also mitigate monetized mandates of SOEs but focus on government’s core business – its development mandate.

Privatization Program

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has long advised the Eswatini government to privatize SOEs, particularly in the telecommunications sector and the electricity sector. In response, the government has passed several laws and privatization efforts are advancing. For example, since Eswatini Post and Telecommunications Corporation was unbundled and Eswatini Mobile (formerly Swazi Mobile) was launched in 2016, prices for cellular services have come down and mobile and data offerings have improved in the country facilitated by government oversight through Eswatini Communications Commission (ESCCOM) regulation. Following the unbundling, additional companies have entered the market and increased competition has brought down prices further.

The policies and reforms that Eswatini energy (ESERA) and telecommunications (ESCCOM) regulators are pursuing to promote innovation and competition in their respective industries will be important barometers on the extent to which those markets will prove to be friendly for international investors. Sectors and timelines for additional future privatization exist but have not been published. The National Development Plan 2023-2028 lays out guidelines and parameters for government to pursue a consolidated development framework, including plans for privatization.

The government is working to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign electricity by promoting renewable energy production through privatization of generation, distribution, and retail electricity functions. Eswatini imports the bulk of its electricity from South Africa and Mozambique, reaching 100 percent importation during a recent drought as domestic production comes predominantly from hydropower. With assistance from USAID’s Southern Africa Energy Program (SAEP), the government has developed a National Grid Code and a Renewable Energy and Independent Power Producer (RE&IPP) Policy to provide a framework for the sector and incentivize investors.

The Swati government encourages foreign and local enterprises to follow generally accepted responsible business conduct (RBC) principles. Multinational enterprises in the country have robust standards for RBC, and consumers often recognize their efforts; however, smaller domestic companies are less likely to have RBC programs. The Development Approval Order, which is part of the income tax law, allows a company to receive a tax rate discounted by up to 10 percent if it makes significant RBC investments. Government enforcement is sporadic, but generally does not vary based on whether a company is domestic or foreign. Requirements are not waived to attract foreign investment. The government does not have corporate governance, accounting, and executive compensation standards to protect shareholders. There are no independent NGOs monitoring RBC.

The local courts are responsible for ensuring human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, environmental protections, and other laws/regulations intended to protect individuals from adverse business impacts. The courts have not demonstrated a bias against foreign-owned corporations.

The mining sector of Eswatini does not have enough economic significance to warrant special consideration by the government. It is treated consistently with other sectors of similar size.

The Prevention of Corruption Act and the Swaziland Public Procurement Act are the two laws that combat corruption by all persons, including public officials. The Public Procurement Act prohibits public sector workers and politicians from supplying the government with goods or services; however, this prohibition does not extend to family members of officials. The government was inconsistent in its investigation, prosecution, and punishment of officials who allegedly engaged in government corruption. Allegations of corruption most of ten involved abuse of personal relationships and bribes to secure government contracts on large capital projects. There were reports that a person’s relationship with government officials influenced the awarding of government contracts, the appointment and promotion of officials, recruitment into the security services, and school admissions. The government’s National Development Plan cited corruption as a primary factor impeding the rule of law and development.

According to Section 27 of the Public Procurement Regulations, suppliers are prohibited from offering gifts or hospitality, directly or indirectly, to staff of a procuring entity, members of the tender board, and members of the Eswatini Public Procurement Regulatory Agency (ESPPRA). While avoiding conflict of interest and establishing codes of conduct are policies that are encouraged, they are not effectively enforced. Some companies use internal controls and audit compliance programs to try to track and prevent bribery. Internal codes of conduct are not a statutory requirement.

Eswatini is a signatory to the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption and Related Offenses and the SADC Protocol against Corruption. Eswatini has signed and ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention, but it is not party to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is legally allowed to investigate corruption and does so. The ACC does not provide protection to NGOs involved in investigating corruption. Given the commission’s current capacity, “government procurement” is the most likely area to find corruption in Eswatini. The global competitiveness report ranks Swaziland 79 of 140 countries on incidence of corruption. Transparency International reports Eswatini as the 14th least corrupt country in Africa.

No U.S. firms have reported or identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI.

Resources to Report Corruption

Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:

Dan Dlamini
Eswatini Anti-Corruption Commission
3rd Floor, Mbandzeni House, Mbabane

The Commission of Human Rights and Public Accountability (CHRPA) issued a report in 2021 regarding civil unrest. The report documented 46 confirmed deaths and 245 confirmed injured during the unrest. The commission stated it found human rights abuses were perpetrated during the unrest and concluded, in responding to unrest, security forces used lethal force indiscriminately on protesters and members of the public who were not part of the protests. The unrest significantly impacted economic, social, and environmental development in the country, adding to the challenges of recovering simultaneously from the combined effects of HIV and COVID-19.

During and since the unrest in 2021, targeted attacks by unknown persons against property and infrastructure projects have had a dampening impact on some segments of the investment climate, according to the IMF  and the July 2022 Technical Assistance Report on Government Finance Statistics Mission.

National elections will occur in 2023 and political and social unrest remains a possibility. Crime is common in Eswatini and sporadic armed robberies and carjackings do occur. Local police may lack the resources to deal effectively with criminal incidents. Eswatini experienced multiple disruptive protests and demonstrations in July 2021. While the situation has mostly remained calm since that time, travelers are reminded to avoid all protests, even peaceful ones, as they could have the potential to turn violent with little or no notice.

There are 138,000 employees in the private sector. The civil service currently has about 40,000 permanent employees, of which about 5,000 are part-time personnel in various sectors.

The unemployment rate of Eswatini is 33.3%, according to the National Development Plan in 2022, increased from 23% in 2016, and youth unemployment is at a staggering 58.2% (Integrated Labor Force Survey, 2021, NDP 2022).

In March 2022, the government published a first-ever National Skills Audit Report, referred to as skills gaps and referenced frequently, . The report concludes that the sectors most affected by skills mismatch are agriculture and agro-processing, manufacturing, ICT, education, and tourism.

The size of Eswatini’s informal economy is estimated to be 40.9% which represents approximately $4 billion at GDP purchase power parity levels.

The health sector imports the most skills (34%) in the country, the majority of at the master’s or PhD level. The wholesale and retail sector is also a large importer of skills (12%), followed by the manufacturing sector (11%), and the agriculture, forestry, and fishing (8%).

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security’s Training and Localization Unit requires the hiring of qualified Swati workers where possible, even at executive positions. The mandate of the unit is to ensure the maximum utilization of local labor force resources and to formulate training plans in conjunction with industries to maximize employment. It also facilitates and provides information on the process of obtaining work permits. Foreign investors are required to apply for residence and work permits.

The Eswatini Employment Act allows for various adjustments due to market conditions. These conditions vary by industry and are specific on circumstances layoff, severance, and termination. Recently Eswatini has prioritized the establishment of an Unemployment Benefit Fund, as a step towards comprehensive social protection for all. This intervention seeks to establish a gender-inclusive unemployment protection system as part of Eswatini comprehensive national social security and social protection policy.

Eswatini labor law does not have provisions for the waiving of labor law to attract or retain investment. For special economic zones the provisions are of a higher magnitude as all employees are expected to be within the income tax bracket of minimum income (US$ 2,800 annually).

Collective bargaining is a cornerstone of the current labor relations framework.

The labor dispute resolution mechanism consists of two layers with CMAC being the lower mechanism and the industrial court being the alternative. These mechanisms have a statute of limitation of 18 months. More information can be found on .

On several occasions in November and December 2022, the Swaziland Transport Communication and Allied Workers Union (SWATCAWU) and the Eswatini Kombi and Buses Allied Workers Union (EKABAWU) conducted a nationwide shutdown of public transport to protest the continued detention and prosecution of two reformist members of parliament, as well as a variety of legitimate labor concerns. The government declared these strikes illegal and have established warrants for the arrest of union leaders.

Although there is significant improvement necessary on government-labor relations and legitimate concerns with labor bashing, there are no serious questions of compliance with international labor standards that pose a reputational risk to investors. The International Labor Organization collaborated with the Ministry of Labor and the Trade Union Congress of Eswatini (TUCOSWA) on a Decent Work Country Program 2022-2025 assisting citizens in recovering from the combined effects of HIV and COVID-19 and accommodating changes in work patterns such as increased virtual work. The DWCP contains four pillars of focus: employment creation, social protection, rights at work, and social dialogue.–en/index.htm 

In 2022, the government published legal notice 312-2022 establishing a task team to combat the worst forms of child labor. An Employment Bill is pending in parliament.

There is strong potential for a DFC program in Eswatini, particularly in the renewable energy industry; however, there has been not yet been a DFC (or OPIC) project in Eswatini. The GKoE has demonstrated a commitment towards encouraging private sector investment.

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2020$3.97 Billion 2020 $3.97 billion 

*Host Country Statistical Source: Central Bank of Eswatini

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data

Inward Direct Investment

Outward Direct Investment

Total Inward



Total Outward




$14 million



-$.4 million


Mr. John P Jenks
Political / Economic Chief
US Embassy Mbabane
+268 2417 9663 

On This Page

  2. 1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
    1. Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
    2. Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
    3. Other Investment Policy Reviews
    4. Business Facilitation
    5. Outward Investment
  3. 2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
  4. 3. Legal Regime
    1. Transparency of the Regulatory System
    2. International Regulatory Considerations
    3. Legal System and Judicial Independence
    4. Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
    5. Competition and Antitrust Laws
    6. Expropriation and Compensation
    7. Dispute Settlement
      1. ICSID Convention and New York Convention
      2. Investor-State Dispute Settlement
      3. International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
    8. Bankruptcy Regulations
  5. 4. Industrial Policies
    1. Investment Incentives
    2. Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
    3. Performance and Data Localization Requirements
  6. 5. Protection of Property Rights
    1. Real Property
    2. Intellectual Property Rights
  7. 6. Financial Sector
    1. Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
    2. Money and Banking System
    3. Foreign Exchange and Remittances
      1. Foreign Exchange
      2. Remittance Policies
    4. Sovereign Wealth Funds
  8. 7. State-Owned Enterprises
    1. Privatization Program
  9. 8. Responsible Business Conduct
  10. 9. Corruption
    1. Resources to Report Corruption
  11. 10. Political and Security Environment
  12. 11. Labor Policies and Practices
  13. 12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and Other Investment Insurance or Development Finance Programs
  14. 13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
  15. 14. Contact for More Information
2023 Investment Climate Statements: Eswatini
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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future