President Cyril Ramaphosa with Eswatini Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini at the presidential guest house in Pretoria. Picture: GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa with Eswatini Prime Minister Ambrose Dlamini at the presidential guest house in Pretoria. Picture: GCIS

In the midst of the Covid-19 outbreak that’s rapidly changing the global landscape, the Kingdom of Eswatini is transforming its corporate environment to make it easier for businesses to operate. We are gunning for the lead position on ease of doing business in Africa.

Though we are currently in a coronavirus-induced lockdown, Eswatini is confident that, when the dust settles, we will use every opportunity to bring business into the country.

We are ready to increase our competitive advantage in Africa and improve the conditions conducive to doing business. Trading across Eswatini’s borders will become easier for investors as we work to fulfil the goals of our Strategic Roadmap 2019-2022.

The roadmap was initially crafted to push the kingdom into double-digit growth and attract further foreign direct investment. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic significantly affecting the global economy, we are now bracing for lower-than-anticipated growth and preparing for recovery.

As it stands, we have acknowledged the complaints of potential investors — including procedures that affect and prolong the launch of businesses, delays in securing permits and trading licences, and the high corporate tax rate.

We have also noted that investors sometimes don’t recognise the vast value that each country on the continent can offer — Africa is treated as a single entity, leading to major setbacks in investment by multinationals.

To remedy this, we are re-educating the world on what Eswatini can offer. We want to use this as an opportunity to show the world that the kingdom is open for business.

We plan to reduce corporate tax from 27.5% to 12.5%, making ours the lowest corporate tax-rated nation in Africa

Eswatini will now have reduced registration times for businesses, as well as quick turnaround times for trading licences, among many other interventions. We also plan to reduce corporate tax from 27.5% to 12.5%, making ours the lowest corporate tax-rated nation in Africa.

We recognise that the corporate tax rate has a significant influence on investors, both local and foreign, as it affects the cost of their projects.

Investors are already reacting positively to the upcoming reduction in corporate tax. We’re receiving a slew of inquiries, and investment leads are coming to consider Eswatini an ideal location.

Furthermore, existing companies may now consider retaining their investments and expanding their operations locally instead of repatriating profits to their home countries or to lower-tax jurisdictions.

The government is committed to paving the way for businesses to come into the country and we will implement this in phases.

Eswatini has the potential to attract a diverse range of investments, from large multinationals to regional franchise brands. We also see potential in domestic investors, who may be encouraged to expand their businesses or venture into new start-ups.

Benefiting the community

Eswatini has already established foreign direct investment leads worth E1.39bn (R1.4bn) with conditions as they stand. We expect this value to increase to E2bn when business conditions are loosened. This bodes well for the emaSwati communities who will benefit the most from these measures.

Currently we have an unemployment rate of 23%, with young people most affected. The government is committed to reducing high youth unemployment and creating an environment that will retain the technical talent we have.

While we recognise that the ease-of-doing-business measures will not be the silver bullet to address all our challenges, we are encouraged by the progress we are making in becoming a top business destination. We remain committed to the advancement of our kingdom through efforts that will drive growth and jobs for all emaSwati.

*Dlamini is the prime minister of Eswatini