Delegation of the European Union to Eswatini

Eswatini and the EU

17/05/2016 - 15:31
EU relations with Country

Relations between the European Union and the Kingdom of Eswatini are cordial, but the EU is critical of the democratisation process within the country. During the regular political dialogues and direct engagements with the King, the EU has called for democratisation and for the implementation of the Constitution, which provides for freedom of association, assembly and expression.

The Kingdom of Eswatini is located in the southern part of Africa and is surrounded by South Africa and Mozambique. The country is ruled by an absolute monarchy, where power is held almost exclusively by King Mswati III. His powers include the appointment of the prime minister, the cabinet, key advisory committees and some members of parliament in both the House of Assembly and Senate.

The country faces many challenges related to widespread poverty, inequality, unemployment and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, in spite of progress towards the achievement of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals).

Eswatini is a lower middle-income country that benefits from reasonable economic stability, in spite of its heavy dependence on South Africa and the customs duties which it receives from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU). Eswatini collects two thirds of its annual income through the SACU.

Eswatini's currency, the Lilangeni (plural - Emalangeni) is pegged to the South African Rand, subsuming Eswatini's monetary policy to South Africa.

Nevertheless, poverty is widespread in Eswatini. Some 63% of the population lives below the poverty threshold and it is estimated that 30% of the population suffers from food insecurity.

Relations between the European Union and the Kingdom of Eswatini are cordial, but the EU is critical of the democratisation process within the country. During the regular political dialogues and direct engagements with the King, the EU has called for democratisation and for the implementation of the Constitution, which provides for freedom of association, assembly and expression.

The political dialogue, held once a year, is provided for under Article 8 of the Cotonou Agreement and is held to review all specific political issues of mutual concern including developments concerning the respect for human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance.

Overall, the main task of the Delegation of the European Union to Eswatini is to implement the Cotonou Partnership Agreement linking the EU Member States to the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries including Eswatini. The central objective of this partnership is to help Eswatini reduce and ultimately eradicate poverty through sustainable development, the progressive integration into the world economy and the promotion of the rule of law, democracy, human rights and good governance.

Currently, EU development assistance to Eswatini is channelled through the 11th EDF (European Development Fund) which was firmly guided by aid effectiveness principles, Eswatini’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Plan (PRSAP) and the EU Agenda for Change. The 11th EDF, with an indicative allocation of €62m (approx. 1 billion SZL), began in 2015 and will be implemented until 2020. Its two focal sectors are agriculture and social protection. The PRSAP attributes high importance to agriculture and food security. The Government underscored its commitment to social protection through the 2005 Constitution and the Disability Policy, which it finalised in 2013.

Between 2009 and 2014, the EU contributed almost €120 million (approx. 1.2 billion SZL) through the 10th EDF to boost Eswatini's development initiatives including the support to the sugar sector. The 10th EDF supported multiple sectors including education, health, agriculture, infrastructure development, strengthening of governance, democracy and human rights, institutional capacity building, trade facilitation as well as support to help the country improve access to clean and potable water.

Of note is that the EU, through its support to education, helped Eswatini to achieve universal access to primary education through free primary education. Under this programme, the EU paid for all Grade One pupils in the country which saw the country achieving a 97 percent enrolment rate at primary school.

Over and above the active partnership with the Government of Eswatini, the EU Delegation to Eswatini also works hand in hand with civil society where the EU has contributed millions of Euros to help support and strengthen the work of civil society organizations particularly in the field of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

(1) Political and policy priorities for the EU in Eswatini:

  • foster political relations between Eswatini and the EU;
  • promote good governance, transparency, accountability, judicial independence, the rule of law and strengthening of security;
  • contribute to a sustained poverty alleviation effort and social stability through inclusive growth, income generation and redistribution, rural development and environmental sustainability;
  • support the integration in the multilateral trade system, including through an Economic Partnership Agreement with the EU following the signing on 10 June 2016 of the EPA between the EU and six SADC (Southern African Development Community) countries, including Eswatini. The EPA is now being ratified by the signatories and should enter into force on 1 October 2016.

(2) The agriculture sector has considerable potential in Eswatini due to a favourable climate and abundant soils. The EU will seek to address these challenges with the objective of promoting environmentally sound agricultural practices, eradicating food insecurity and contributing to sustainable economic growth.

(3) Social protection programmes have already been supported by the EU, in particular those addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, there is lack of coordination between different stakeholder and limited implementation capacity. The various social protection schemes would gain in efficiency with more transparent targeting, rationalised delivery mechanisms, robust management information systems, comprehensive grievance procedures and coherent monitoring and evaluation frameworks. Programmes on social protection will seek to address these challenges with the objective of providing a higher level of social security and access to essential services.

(4) EU-Eswatini cooperation aims at poverty reduction and is focused on human development (health and education), water and sanitation. The EU-Eswatini Country Strategy Paper for 2008-2013, funded under the 10th European Development Fund, had a total budget of €63m.

Since Eswatini does not qualify for general budget support, the EU strategy focused on improving delivery of basic social services. Such interventions were especially crucial in times of fiscal crisis and austerity to mitigate the impact on the most vulnerable segments of society.

Eswatini was also a major beneficiary of Commission funding in support of the adaptation of its sugar industry in line with the phasing out of the favourable Sugar Protocol and received a total allocation of €129m for the period 2006-2013

Global economic integration creates opportunities for growth and for development. But it also brings pressure on global resources and on traditional industries and livelihoods. The European Union is committed to ensuring that the European economy is open to the world and competitive on the world stage. It supports a strong multilateral trading system as the most effective means of managing trade for the benefit of all.

The EU's strategy for sustainable development aims at reconciling economic growth, social cohesion and environmental protection.

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The EU's development assistance Eswatini is currently channelled through two main channels, namely the European Development Fund (EDF), as provided for in the Cotonou Agreement (2000) and the EU General Budget.

Under the 10th EDF, the following programmes were being implemented in 2014/15: (1) the Capacity Building Programme (CBP II); (2) Micro Projects Programme (MPP), (3) Support to Education and Training Programme (SET II), (4) Support to Water and Sanitation in Eswatini Programme (SWASS); (5) Eswatini Health, (6) HIV/AIDS and TB Project; and (7) Technical Cooperation Facility Programme (TCF III), whilst under the 9th EDF, the Swaziland Agricultural Development Programme (SADP) was being implemented.

Under the EU Budget, the EU supports implementation of the country’s National Adaptation Strategy (NAS), which aims to ensure the continued economic viability of the sugar sector in the country. The EU promotes civil society in the country through its European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) and supports Non-State Actors (NSAs) with grants through a separate programme. Agriculture (with emphasis on food security) and social protection are the main areas of focus for the EU in Eswatini under the 11th EDF covering the years 2014-2020.

FOCAL SECTORS, 2014/15: Infrastructure; Capacity Building; Education and Training, Agriculture; Governance; Health; Social Protection and Water and Sanitation

Table 1: EU funding to Eswatini by sector in 2014/15 (Euros and SZL)


EU Financial Contribution (€)

EU Financial Contribution (E)


10 042 512.65

140 556 712

Capacity Building

2 675 884.45

37 452 130


2 396 319.95

33 539 298

Education and Training

2 194 204.87

30 710 464


2 060 385.71

28 837 504


731 009.33

10 231 332


427 013.12

5 976 551

Water and Sanitation

436 616.35

6 110 957

Social protection

101 317.58

1 418 057


20 536 933.31

294 833 005


Capacity Building Programme (CBP II): This project seeks to enhance the capacity of the Aid Coordination and Management Section (ACMS) of the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development (MEPD), in terms of the number of staff and their expertise on project cycle management and EU procedures. It also seeks to increase the capacity of Government line ministries and parastatals involved in the implementation of EU programmes in the country as well as strengthen the capacity of NSAs to ensure they are better coordinated among themselves and able to access EU and other funding.

Micro Projects Programme (MPP): Focuses on rural and peri-urban areas and aims to: Improve social infrastructure for enhanced access to health and education services; Improve water and sanitation facilities; Strengthen agricultural outputs for improved food security; Increase income generation activities among local communities; and enhance the capacity of local and regional authorities.

National Adaptation Strategy (NAS): - This project seeks to enhance the institutional capacity of MEPD and others for strengthened implementation of the NAS; Increase the productivity and efficiency of small and medium scale sugarcane growers; Improve transport infrastructure (Siphofaneni-St. Phillips, Mananga-Sihhoye and Dvokolwako-Manzana road works projects) to reduce the costs of transporting sugarcane to the mills; Preserve and enhance market access for sugar; and Improve the living standards of rural communities dependent on sugar production. Included under activities is the rehabilitation and upgrading of the Malkerns Canal.

Support to Education and Training (SET): Aims to: Increase access to primary education – in particular, the payment of school fees for Grade 1 primary school pupils under the Government’s Free Primary Education (FPE) initiative; Improve the relevance of primary schooling – including the review and updating of the primary education curriculum; and Finalise and implement the National Education and Training Improvement Programme (NETIP).

Support to Water and Sanitation in Eswatini (SWASS): Has the objectives to: Increase access to safe drinking water through the expansion of an existing water supply network; Improve sanitation through the construction of VIP pit latrines and sensitisation of communities on basic hygiene and sanitation; and enhance the capacity of the Department of Water Affairs (DWA) within the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy to ensure it effectively delivers on its mandate.

Technical Cooperation Facility (TCF III): Looks to meet national needs for technical assistance, studies, audits and attendance at workshops. The programme has two main components, namely: Provision of technical assistance in relation to the programming, identification, formulation, implementation and evaluation of EU programmes; and Support for Government and NSAs to attend conferences, training courses and seminars.

Eswatini Agricultural Development Programme (SADP): Seeks to improve smallholder production and marketing systems to achieve sustainable food security and an improved quality of life for rural households. The programme has three components, Improved and sustainable agricultural production; Strengthened agricultural research and service delivery; and Marketing and agribusiness development. Both FAO (€341,000) and the EU (€14,320,000) are co-financing this programme. It is being implemented by FAO.

Eswatini Health, HIV/AIDS and TB Project: The project has three core components: Enhancing the capacity of the health sector, which covers the strengthening of the oversight functions of regulatory bodies and improving the accreditation system in the health sector; Improving access to high-quality health care services, including the rehabilitation and equipping of health care facilities and support to nursing training institutions; and Strengthening the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVC) safety net, where an OVC cash transfer scheme is implemented. Both the EU (€14.5 million) and the World Bank who is implementing the project (US$20 million) are co-financing it. 

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