|General background: Autonomy for the Swazis
of southern Africa was guaranteed by the British in
the late 19th century; independence was granted 1968.
Student and labor unrest during the 1990s have pressured
the monarchy (one of the oldest on the continent) to
grudgingly allow political reform and greater democracy.
Area comparative: Slightly smaller than
Climate: Varies from tropical
to near temperate.
Terrain: Mostly mountains
and hills; some moderately sloping plains.
Ethnic groups: African 97%, European 3%
Religions: Zionist (a blend of Christianity
and indigenous ancestral worship) 40%, Roman Catholic
20%, Muslim 10%, Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon,
Jewish and other 30%
Language: English (official, government business
conducted in English), siSwati (official)
Government type: Monarchy; independent member
Capital: Mbabane; note - Lobamba is
the royal and legislative capital.
Legal system: Based on South African Roman-Dutch
law in statutory courts and Swazi traditional law
and custom in traditional courts; has not accepted
compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
Economic overview: In this small landlocked
economy, subsistence agriculture occupies more than
80% of the population. Manufacturing features a number
of agro-processing factories. Mining has declined
in importance in recent years: diamond mines have
shut down because of the depletion of easily accessible
reserves; high-grade iron ore deposits were depleted
by 1978; and health concerns have cut world demand
for asbestos. Exports of soft drink concentrate, sugar,
and wood pulp are the main earners of hard currency.
Surrounded by South Africa, except for a short border
with Mozambique, Swaziland is heavily dependent on
South Africa from which it receives nine-tenths of
its imports and to which it sends more than two-thirds
of its exports. Remittances from the Southern African
Customs Union and Swazi workers in South African mines
substantially supplement domestically earned income.
The government is trying to improve the atmosphere
for foreign investment. Overgrazing, soil depletion,
drought, and sometimes floods persist as problems
for the future. Prospects for 2002 are strengthened
by the country's status as a beneficiary of the US
African Growth and Opportunity Act initiative.
Communication/Telephone system: A somewhat
modern but not an advanced system.
Places of interest: A progressive and hands-on
attitude towards wildlife preservation has endowed
Swaziland with a striking bunch of national parks
and game reserves, and black and white rhino, elephant,
and more recently, lion, have been reintroduced. You
can trek, horse ride, raft on wild rivers or cycle
through many of the parks and get surprisingly close
to a huge variety of wildlife. The system of reserves
also protects unique and rare plants and plant communities,
such as the fynbos ('fine bush' in Dutch), more common
in neighboring South Africa.