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Quick Facts
CapitalMbabane; note - Lobamba is the royal and legislative capital
Governmentmonarchy; independent member of Commonwealth
CurrencyLilangeni (SZL), plural Emalangeni
Areatotal: 17,363 sq km
water: 160 sq km
land: 17,203 sq km
note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2002 est.)
LanguageEnglish (official, government business conducted in English), siSwati (official)
ReligionZionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) 40%, Roman Catholic 20%, Muslim 10%, Anglican, Bahai, Methodist, Mormon, Jewish and other 30%
Map of Swaziland

Swaziland's monarchy, one of the oldest in Africa, is gradually allowing more democratic reforms. The scourge of the AIDS virus is particularly prevalent in this country.




Swaziland, the smallest country in Africa, has a reputation for friendliness in Southern Africa. It also contains several large game parks and reserves, which are sponsored by the government and are popular tourist destinations.

Compared to other countries in the region, Swaziland is known for its civility and peacefulness, despite similar problems with poverty and one of the world's worst AIDS crises.

Rumors abound that much of Swaziland's economy is based on the farming of marijuana, or dagga, as it is locally known.

Get in

By bus

Most bus services arrive in Mbabane or Mlilwane. Larger buses generally provide service to Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town in South Africa as well as Maputo in Mozambique.

Smaller bus lines, or minibuses usually stop at border crossings, where passengers must connect with an onward journey.

The South African Baz Bus, an independent line somewhat popular among backpackers, also makes regular stops via South Africa to various hostels and hotels in Swaziland.

By plane

The only International airport of Swaziland is Matsapha Airport, 1km outside of Manzini. Only two airlines fly there. Airlink Swaziland provides flights from Johannesburg and Durban (both South Africa), while Swazi Express Airways has scheduled flights to and from Durban (South Africa), Maputo and Vilanculos (both Mozambique). There is also a small car rental station at the airport and a snack shop.

Get Around

Most travel in Swaziland is by either car or minibus.

Minibuses are prevalent, but can be confusing. Like similar modes of travel around the world such as the jitney, matatu or dolmus, these are small vans that accumulate as many travellers as possible while making their way along a general direction. In Swaziland, these vans are often driven by very young men, and most have assistants who estimate and collect fares, ask your destination, and make change.

Be prepared for crowded seats, loud radios, and sometimes reckless driving.

Minibuses can usually be flagged down along main roads. Larger towns usually serve as minibus hubs or connections. Finding the correct bus can be tricky, so discreetly ask if you can't figure it out. You will be advised to watch your belongings, as such places, like all bus terminals worldwide, have disproportionally higher crime rates.


English is the official language of business, however the local language SiSwati (also known as Swazi) will be useful talking to some locals.


The currency of Swaziland, the lilangeni, is tied to the South African rand. Shops in Swaziland often accept and make change for both currencies indiscriminately. This is not always the case in South Africa, however, so if you are planning to visit South Africa also, you may prefer to request rand in exchange for lilangeni.


Many foods are available in Swazi grocery stores, but traditional foods are still common, as are modern convenient food based on traditional ingredients.

Maize-based dishes are popular, and mealie-meal or mealie-pap (similar to porridge) is a staple. Beans, nuts, and sour milk are also common ingredients. Dried and cooked local meats, such as antelope, are widely available.

Sweet breads, vegetables and fruits are often available from roadside merchants.



A wonderful place to stay one or more nights is Phophonyane Falls. It is situated in the north-east, next to the Phophonyane waterfalls and offers great hiking trails. Best is to sleep in comfortable tends, next to the river.



Stay safe

Swaziland has a much lower crime rate than other countries in the region.

In this region of Africa, various wild animals can be a risk.

Hippopotamus are somewhat common here, and are one of the most dangerous animals in all of Africa. They are actually quite fast animals, as well as beig extremely strong and with large, powerful jaws. They often stay submerged in shallow water during the day, but come out at night to graze. They can be unpredictable, territorial and very protective of their young.

Stay healthy

Swaziland has one of the highest rates, if not currently the world's highest rate, of HIV prevalence in the world. Do not have unprotected sex in Swaziland. AIDS in Africa is beyond epidemic proportions.

There are risks for bilharzia as well as seasonal risks for malaria in some parts of Swaziland.



External links - Official Swazi internet portal

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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.


Southern Africa, between Mozambique and South Africa
total: 17,363 sq km
water: 160 sq km
land: 17,203 sq km
Area - comparative 
slightly smaller than New Jersey
Land boundaries 
total: 535 km
border countries: Mozambique 105 km, South Africa 430 km
varies from tropical to near temperate
mostly mountains and hills; some moderately sloping plains
Elevation extremes 
lowest point: Great Usutu River 21 m
highest point: Emlembe 1,862 m
Natural resources 
asbestos, coal, clay, cassiterite, hydropower, forests, small gold and diamond deposits, quarry stone, and talc
Land use 
arable land: 9.77%
permanent crops: 0.7%
other: 89.53% (1998 est.)
Natural hazards 
Environment - current issues 
limited supplies of potable water; wildlife populations being depleted because of excessive hunting; overgrazing; soil degradation; soil erosion
Environment - international agreements 
party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Endangered Species, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection
signed, but not ratified: Desertification, Law of the Sea
Geography - note 
landlocked; almost completely surrounded by South Africa


note: estimates for this country explicitly take into account the effects of excess mortality due to AIDS; this can result in lower life expectancy, higher infant mortality and death rates, lower population and growth rates, and changes in the distribution of population by age and sex than would otherwise be expected (July 2002 est.)
Age structure 
0-14 years: 45.5% (male 254,573; female 256,677)
15-64 years: 51.9% (male 281,645; female 301,071)
65 years and over: 2.6% (male 12,027; female 17,612) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate 
1.63% (2002 est.)
Birth rate 
39.59 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate 
23.26 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio 
at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 0.99 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.94 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.68 male(s)/female
total population: 0.95 male(s)/female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate 
109.43 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.)
Life expectancy at birth 
total population: 37 years
female: 37.66 years (2002 est.)
male: 36.35 years
Total fertility rate 
5.77 children born/woman (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate 
35.6% (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS 
212,000 (2002 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths 
7,100 (1999 est.)
noun: Swazi(s)
adjective: Swazi
Ethnic groups 
African 97%, European 3%
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 78.3%
male: 78%
female: 78.4% (1999 est.)


Country name 
conventional long form: Kingdom of Swaziland
conventional short form: Swaziland
Government type 
monarchy; independent member of Commonwealth
Mbabane; note - Lobamba is the royal and legislative capital
Administrative divisions 
4 districts; Hhohho, Lubombo, Manzini, Shiselweni
6 September 1968 (from UK)
National holiday 
Independence Day, 6 September (1968)
none; constitution of 6 September 1968 was suspended 12 April 1973; a new constitution was promulgated 13 October 1978, but was not formally presented to the people; since then a few more outlines for a constitution have been compiled under the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), but so far none have been accepted
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
18 years of age
Executive branch 
chief of state: King MSWATI III (since 25 April 1986)
head of government: Prime Minister Sibusiso Barnabas DLAMINI (since 9 August 1996)
cabinet: Cabinet recommended by the prime minister and confirmed by the monarch
elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; prime minister appointed by the monarch
Legislative branch 
bicameral Parliament or Libandla, an advisory body, consists of the Senate (30 seats - 10 appointed by the House of Assembly and 20 appointed by the monarch; members serve five-year terms) and the House of Assembly (65 seats - 10 appointed by the monarch and 55 elected by popular vote; members serve five-year terms)
elections: House of Assembly - last held 16 and 24 October 1998 (next to be held NA 2003)
election results: House of Assembly - balloting is done on a nonparty basis; candidates for election are nominated by the local council of each constituency and for each constituency the three candidates with the most votes in the first round of voting are narrowed to a single winner by a second round
Judicial branch 
High Court; Court of Appeal; judges for both courts are appointed by the monarch
Political parties and leaders 
political parties are banned by the constitution - the following are considered political associations - Imbokodvo National Movement or INM [leader NA]; Ngwane National Libertatory Congress or NNLC [Obed DLAMINI, president]; People's United Democratic Movement or PUDEMO [Mario MASUKU, president]; Swaziland National Front or SWANAFRO [Elmond SHONGWE, president]


Economy - overview 
In this small landlocked economy, subsistence agriculture occupies more than 80% of the population. Manufacturing features a number of agroprocessing 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.
purchasing power parity - $4.6 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate 
2.5% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita 
purchasing power parity - $4,200 (2001 est.)
GDP - composition by sector 
agriculture: 10%
industry: 43%
services: 47% (1999 est.)
Unemployment rate 
34% (2000 est.)
revenues: $448 million
expenditures: $506.9 million, including capital expenditures of $147 million (FY01/02 )
mining (coal), wood pulp, sugar, soft drink concentrates, textile and apparel
Industrial production growth rate 
3.7% (FY95/96)
Agriculture - products 
sugarcane, cotton, corn, tobacco, rice, citrus, pineapples, sorghum, peanuts; cattle, goats, sheep
$702 million f.o.b. (2001)
Exports - commodities 
soft drink concentrates, sugar, wood pulp, cotton yarn, refrigerators, citrus and canned fruit
Exports - partners 
South Africa 72%, EU 12%, UK 6%, Mozambique 4%, US 4% (1999)
Debt - external 
$336 million (2001 est.)
Economic aid - recipient 
$104 million (2001)
lilangeni (SZL)
Currency code 
Exchange rates 
emalangeni per US dollar - 11.5808 (January 2002), 8.4933 (2001), 6.9056 (2000), 6.1087 (1999), 5.4807 (1998), 4.6032 (1997); note - the Swazi lilangeni is at par with the South African rand; emalangeni is the plural form of lilangeni
Fiscal year 
1 April - 31 March


Telephones - main lines in use 
38,500 (2001)
Telephones - mobile cellular 
45,000 (2001)
Telephone system 
general assessment: a somewhat modern but not an advanced system
domestic: system consists of carrier-equipped, open-wire lines and low-capacity, microwave radio relay
international: satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations 
AM 3, FM 2 plus 4 repeaters, shortwave 3 (2001)
170,000 (1999)
Television broadcast stations 
5 plus 7 relay stations (2001)
23,000 (2000)
Internet country code 
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) 
6 (2001)
Internet users 
14,000 (2002)


total: 297 km
narrow gauge: 297 km 1.067-m gauge
note: includes 71 km which are not in use (2001)
total: 3,800 km
paved: 1,064 km
unpaved: 2,736 km (2002)
Ports and harbors 
18 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways 
total: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1 (2002)

See also: Matsapha Airport near Manzini

Airports - with unpaved runways 
total: 17
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 10 (2002)


Military branches 
Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force (Army), Royal Swaziland Police Force
Military manpower - availability 
males age 15-49: 253,510 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - fit for military service 
males age 15-49: 146,805 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure 
$20 million (FY01/02)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP 
4.75% (FY00/01)

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international 
Swaziland continues to press South Africa into ceding ethnic Swazi lands in Kangwane region of KwaZulu-Natal province that were long ago part of the Swazi Kingdom