2nd January 2022
Welcome to 2022 which is a brand new year, fresh from the box. It comes with no warrantees or guarantees because it is perfect the way it is; neither does it come with an owner’s manual because none is needed as we ought to know better already. What we need to accept is that it is a perfect year in every respect, only to be made more beautiful, or horrendous – God forbid – by the things we decide to do from here onwards. This means that how everything eventually pans out and whatever happens along the way will not be because of the year per se but the actors in it.
2021 has certainly been a tough year for all of us, due in part to what others decided to do to us and, perhaps to a large degree, to what we decided to do to ourselves. For starters, through no fault of our own we have been on the receiving end of many crises especially given the stubborn pandemic prowling in our midst. The social skirmishes that unraveled in the second half of the year drove the last nail even deeper into the proverbial coffin. The endless restrictions that ensued on both businesses and individuals only served to make life even more agonizing. It is with this in mind that we are happy to let 2021 disappear into oblivion as we eagerly await to start afresh in 2022.
Business Eswatini, as the apex advocacy body for the business community in Eswatini, is desirous to see our people make the choice to start the new year with renewed vigor and resolve in our collective endeavour to especially pivot the trajectory of our ailing economy and realign our political spectrum. What we decide to do as a country will and can determine whether we have a glowing report by the end of 2022, or we end up strutting off the stage in shame as a failed state. The choice is ours to make and it’s a no brainer. But knowing the ingenuity and fortitude of EmaSwati it wouldn’t be presumptuous of one to think that EmaSwati will choose victory over our circumstances. They will choose humility over our personal interests and the boundless egos that feed them, because the situation we are facing right now demands that sort of servant leadership. Ours is a watershed moment in which brinkmanship has no place anymore.
We remain hopeful nonetheless that our commitment will see us turn the tide as a nation, as many institutions are on knife’s edge as we speak. Investor confidence has been shattered to smithereens and it’s anybody’s wild guess when it will ever be restored. Meanwhile, joblessness is skyrocketing faster than new jobs can be created at a time when our unemployed youth are woefully disillusioned. We have an untenable situation in our hands which will demand uncommon wisdom and foresight. It is therefore unsurprising that Business Eswatini has now been given the mandate by the business community to be amenable to any proposed national meetings in which the future direction of our country’s economy will be discussed.
The business environment does not operate in a vacuum or outside the political environment which conceptualizes the policies and laws that determine the rhythm of the nation’s economy. This means the business community can ignore the obtaining political ramifications to its own peril as patently demonstrated by recent events. It is a function of politics, duly embodied in our government, to ensure that the country has a conducive environment in which to thrive and create the jobs demanded by the people. The global index on the ease of doing business in this country has been damning, and for successive years too, for reasons which are not too hard to find. Some of our economic policies seem to thrive on political expediency and short-termism as opposed to creating a stable and durable environment that will create confidence for both local and export-oriented foreign direct investors.
It cannot be left unsaid that the revenues to sustain the country are steadily dwindling while the needs of the citizenry are ever increasing. We therefore urgently need investors – big and genuine investors – in order for the country to create the national wealth desperately needed to fund our fiscus. EIPA has their work cut out for them and we can only commiserate with them because it is not too easy to sell a location that has too many question marks attached to it.
It bears repeating, however, that without an enabling policy framework and a predictable political environment, it will be nearly impossible to attract and retain foreign direct investment projects in the country.
Until we get that right, we need to spend the national purse wisely and cautiously in the meantime, by cutting our coat according to our cloth. Plausible attempts to do this are already underway but the country needs to do more, and do so expeditiously. Gone should be the days of unwarranted spending because the level of accountability demanded by every tax payer will intensify in 2022. The demand for service delivery on the one hand and accountability on the other means the country will have no choice but to run a tight ship going forward. And this will be doable with the cooperation of all people concerned. One can only pray that the need to go into hard and painful structural adjustments can be circumvented, at least for now.
We have on many occasions decried the habit of investing in national projects whose rate of return is vague and hope this will no longer be the case in 2022. We cannot afford to invest in more fancy hotels when there are no tourists in sight.
The issue of climate cannot be ignored any longer. It’s a pressing matter. We need to reduce our carbon footprint like yesterday.
Recently, we have made the call to the business sector to start looking at adapting their production facilities to be environmentally friendly. Climate change is real and if we continue to ignore its deleterious effects on our daily lives and livelihoods, we will pay dearly in future. Reducing our carbon emissions will help prevent climate disasters which would otherwise negatively affect businesses.
Being climate-conscious has become an integral part of doing business across the globe as consumers and clients begin to lean towards businesses that care about the environment. It should therefore not necessarily be perceived as restrictive agenda, but one that brings with it many business opportunities.
Renewable power generation will be an area we will have to pursue vigorously this year in our quest for green energy in the country. With the power deficit we have locally, there is a plethora of opportunities we can exploit in consultation and partnership with the local incumbents. Wholesale reliance on imports has its own strategic weaknesses especially in ever-changing geopolitical landscape in SADC.
As we turn the page to a new year, we are also inviting other stakeholders to put their best foot forward so we can collectively restore our economy and begin to grow it without leaving anyone behind.
2022. Here we come.