Mbabane: The European Union (EU) has signed the Financing Agreement of E108 million (€6m) support programme for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) implementation Eswatini.
The EPA is a trading arrangement between Eswatini and the EU, which provides duty and quota free market access of Eswatini products. The EU support to the EPA implementation process will include promoting value addition for MSMEs, inclusively addressing major hindrances faced by the MSME sector, promoting a conducive investment climate and supporting export and investment promotion.
The agreement was signed by EU Ambassador to Eswatini, Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones, Eswatini Minister of Economic Planning and Development Dr. Tambo Gina and the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Manqoba Khumalo. The event was held at the City Court Guest House in Mbabane on Thursday.
EU Ambassador said signature of this Financing Agreement formalises EU project support for the implementation of the SADC-EU EPA in Eswatini, representing, yet another milestone in EU’s long standing association with Eswatini.
Successful implementation of the EPA is important to reinforce transformation of the private sector into a vibrant lever to create decent job, entrepreneurship, trade and inclusive growth in Eswatini.
“This will enable Eswatini to contribute to regional integration in the SADC and COMESA blocks as well as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),” said Aragones.
She said the programme will further support solutions to address the major hindrances of the MSME sector in an inclusive manner, in order to also benefit people living in vulnerable situations or under-represented groups such as youth, women entrepreneurs and people with disabilities.
The action will also support Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) that leads to trusted State Business Relations (SBR) and a conducive investment climate. Activities are designed to promote PPD and strengthen Private Sector Organisations (PSOs) in order to contribute meaningfully to the dialogue.
Minister of Economic Planning and Development Dr. Tambo Gina appreciated the country’s long-term partner, the EU, for supporting Eswatini’s development goals. Gina said for the past 40 years in partnership with the EU, sectors of the economy like agriculture, education, governance, infrastructure and social protection have benefitted significantly.
Gina said the programme will make further contributions in the standard of living of EmaSwati and it will facilitate sustainable and inclusive economic growth while at the same time creating decent jobs for many.
Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade Senator Manqoba Khumalo said despite the preferential treatment granted by the EU for Eswatini exports, access to this market continues to be an enormous challenge to the country’s SMEs. This is due to a number of factors including lack of capacity to produce and competitiveness. He said trade and investment promotion agencies are highly constrained and yet they play a vital facilitate role in the EPA and overall trade implementation process.
Khumalo assured the EU and the private and public sectors that the resources will be put into effective use as stipulated in the action document, and will be by no means.