The European Union has allocated EUR 130 million for development projects over the next eight years. These monies come as part of the new 10th European Development Fund (EDF) and National Indicative Programme (NIP) for the year 2008-2013.
Swaziland, a small landlocked kingdom in Southern Africa, has recently come under focus as part of the EU’s Development Fund. Statistically Europe is the biggest provider of development aid in the world, and in the case of Swaziland, the EU is by far the largest funder of the private sector in Swaziland.
In a recent agreement signed between the countries, Swaziland will benefit from EUR 63 million which will be spent on projects focusing on human development, which will receive EUR 21 million, and water supply, sanitation and irrigation which will receive EUR 29 million.
The EU is quick to note that the funds mentioned would not aid the Micro Projects scheduled for the current year. However projects would be eligible for funding by 2009. The EU is currently funding Micro-projects to the tune of EUR 4.7 million.
It is envisioned that the funding will be channelled to the completion of the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project (LUSIP), education and technical cooperation and HIV and AIDS. All projects funded will be carried out in close collaboration between civil society and the government of Swaziland.
Swaziland will also be eligible to participate in numerous calls for proposals sponsored by the EU, in various areas which are open to all developing countries. Numerous applicants have been successful so far. These have fallen under the calls for Water Facility and under the NGO and poverty related diseases.
Recent droughts and fires have devastated the rural areas. Experts have estimated that last year’s drought was responsible for wiping out 80% of the country’s maize production. As a result of these conditions, two thirds of the population lives on less than one dollar a day, and the unemployment rate has increased to an almost unimaginable 40%. To top it off 4 in 10 people depend on some sort of food assistance to stay alive.
Swaziland is at a critical stage in its development and has not received much in terms of development aid thanks to a skewed income rating. A very rich minority comprised of Colonial-era landholders and a small clique of businesspeople have managed to amass so much wealth that statistically speaking the country appears to be comprised of a middle class, an image which is far from the truth.
In part, this has been recognised by the World Bank which has called for a more pro-poor development policy framework to be implemented.
EU aid is also contingent upon the implementation of a governance reform programme which will limit waste and mismanagement.
The EU has also embarked on a capacity building in development planning. This part of the project aims at supporting the ministry of economic planning and development with capacity building of civil servants key to the development of the priority areas. The EU contribution in this sector is EUR 2.7 million.
With regard to Gender in Development, the EU is allocating approximately EUR 1.4 million.
Swaziland is also one of the 18 African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) countries. This means that they will also benefit from the special accompanying measures of the recent sugar market reform which will reduce EU sugar prices.