Doha, Qatar: Eswatini is among several middle-income countries that have experienced a massive reduction in development aid assistance.
This was noted by His Majesty the King, who yesterday urged the world donor community not to downscale this support.
He said this was because recent health and socio-economic challenges experienced across the globe have seen middle-income countries facing similar challenges as the least developed countries (LDCs).
The King was addressing the 5th United Nations Conference for Least Developed Countries (LDCS), held here yesterday afternoon.
He noted that the meeting was taking place amidst a plethora of challenges, namely; natural disasters, conflicts, and the COVID-19 pandemic, and he extended the country’s sympathy to all those who have been affected.
He said the meeting also provided the UN member states with an opportunity to prepare progress reports on the status of the attainment of the SDGs for the UN General Assembly.
“However, we note that we still have many challenges in several of these goals, such as; poverty alleviation, quality education, health, energy, job creation, industry, innovation and infrastructure, just to mention a few,” he said.
His Majesty said it was concerning that some of the countries that had previously graduated from the LDC category are not supported to enable them to remain in their elevated status and cushioned against external shocks.
“We now find ourselves facing daunting challenges in creating an enabled environment for our people to live in, as Eswatini has experienced a massive reduction in development aid assistance.”
“We therefore, appeal to the international community to give us more financial and technical support in order for us to achieve these (SDGs) targets.
In terms of progress on development, the King said the kingdom of Eswatini has devised a post-COVID-19 economic recovery plan with the support of the UN.
Part of this plan, he shared, has been to strengthen the health sector systems through the hiring of medical personnel so that every citizen has access to quality health services. He further invited investment in the pharmaceutical sector to set up plants in the kingdom.
“We are also establishing the national agriculture development fund, which will support smallholder farmers, including women and young and aspiring emaSwati, with skills and capital for green technologies and farming starter packs.
“The kingdom has also made significant efforts to develop knowledge-based systems for addressing poverty-related challenges,” he said.
On matters of climate change and the environment, the conference was informed that Eswatini was climatically vulnerable and had experienced significant variations in rainfall patterns, higher temperatures and increases in the frequency and intensity of severe weather events such as droughts, floods and cyclones.
“Although Eswatini only emits 0.007% of global carbon emissions, we have committed to climate change mitigation and adaptation through an ambitious nationally determined contribution (NDC),” said His Majesty.
The country also presented an investment opportunity in the energy sector as the country seeks to attain energy security.
Highlighted was the development of a strategic oil reserve facility to secure our fuel sufficiency and the fact that the country was looking for partners to supply the product.
“These projects are aimed at creating decent jobs for our people, which is one of the key targets for the SDGs,” said the king.
He further emphasised that digital transformation was a driving force for the innovative, inclusive, and sustainable growth that has reshaped the global economy and that there is an urgent need to achieve inclusive and universal broadband access, particularly in LDCs.
Said His Majesty: “The ICT sector, therefore, plays an important role in creating future jobs, namely cloud computing, digital marketing, machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, and software development, among others.”
Integral to this, he added, is the development of research institutions that can help mainstream technology and harness innovation to uplift emaSwati as the country has invested considerably in this regard.
Speaking on youth development, the king informed the gathering that last year, through a partnership with the UNDP, the country launched a youth empowerment programme that will focus on economic empowerment, entrepreneurship, education, skills development, health and the well-being of young people.
“We believe this programme, which has the support of the private sector, will make a significant impact on job creation in the country,” he enthused.
He concluded his address with a promise that Eswatini would continue to work on its ambitious objectives of transforming the economy towards self-sustained development and the attainment of the SDGs.