ATTACKS ON BUSINESS A GROWING CONCERN
As a Federation of Employers as well as a Chamber of Commerce our commitment is primarily to our members and the private sector at large. As a secretariat, we take this mandate seriously even though at times we may fall short of expectation.
Equally, we feel it is our duty to ensure that the environment in which we do business is conducive as well as safe for all investors, especially BE members. Through our extensive networks, BE has done a lot to encourage both foreign and local investors into the country and our record in this regard is unimpeachable. However, attracting investors without a retention strategy is foolhardy at best. To this end, BE has done a considerable amount of work to ensure that the businesses we already have in the country are retained despite the advent of what seems to be a less-than-friendly environment in which to do business.
We devote resources into retaining investment projects so that they continue to create the jobs desperately needed in the country, especially by our youth whose unemployment currently stands at a staggering 58%. This figure even in the best of times is completely untenable.
The national unemployment rate also sits, alarmingly, at no less than 34% which is something that bears testimony to the pressing need to expedite job-creation in the country, through foreign and local direct investment projects. And jobs can only be created when investors, both foreign and local, choose to invest in this country as their preferred investment destination. There is no other way to create jobs than for people to found businesses and hire Emaswati; which means the artificial hurdles and barriers we have erected in the marketplace have to be addressed as they are frustrating investors unnecessarily.
It is for this reason that Business Eswatini would always be the first to complain bitterly when policies or initiatives which are investor-unfriendly are being promoted in the country. As an organization we are obsessed about job creation but we are also not unmindful of the inescapable fact that jobs can only come from entrepreneurs and risk-takers who decide to take a chance and invest in the country.
To demonstrate Business Eswatini’s sincerity to promote investment and create new jobs in the country, we decided, as everyone is aware, to convene a landmark dialogue between workers and employers. And, thankfully, it was a resounding success in terms of meeting its stated objectives. The aim of this bipartite dialogue was, amongst others, to explore opportunities which could be leveraged in order to fast-track the country’s job-creation agenda. Whilst employers and workers may have had their differences during dialogue, they were, however, one-minded on the issue of retaining investors who create the jobs desperately needed by the masses. One is therefore thankful to have learnt an important lesson that despite our differences, there is always a way in which people can find each other if the determination to do so exists.
It is on the basis of the foregoing that the spate of destruction and attacks being suffered by both foreign and local investors in the country is now of grave concern to us.
Through natural business linkages and empowerment programs, most investors coopt smaller companies to participate in some major national project. Unfortunately, it is these very same local companies end up bearing brunt of these attacks. Jobs are being lost as we speak which is akin to one cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.
As Business Eswatini we call for restraint all round, for the sake of protecting existing jobs. For the sake of the unemployed. Increasingly, and sadly, our country’s standing as a viable foreign direct investment destination is being steadily compromised. Critical sectors that employs thousands of Emaswati such as textile, major construction companies, retailers, and so forth, have suffered irreparable damage in a space of only a few months. That is disheartening.