Moving to Swaziland

moving to swazilandExpats moving to Swaziland will experience some exceptionally beautiful scenery. Despite its size, the tiny kingdom of Swaziland manages an impressive array of landscapes, including mountains to the west, grassy savannah to the east and rainforest to the north. The administrative capital capital, Mbabane, has a temperate climate and is a small city of just less than 100,000 people.

It also rates as a relatively cheap city for expats to live in, although some costs – most notably petrol and telecommunications – are comparatively high.

Swaziland’s free-trade policies and good road and rail links to major centres in South Africa, its main trading partner, make it a highly investment-friendly economy. The language of business in Swaziland is English, and, similar to South Africa, cities retain a certain colonial character due to decades of British rule.

Three-quarters of the nation are subsistence farmers on Swazi National Land. Foreign investment in Swaziland is largely connected to high-value crops such as sugar, fruit and forestry. Most wealth in the country is in the hands of non-African expats involved in these industries. The textile industry is also growing, partly due to strong diplomatic ties with Asia, most notably Taiwan.

Swaziland is one of the world’s last absolute monarchies, a political system that critics say has hampered its growth economically. Opposition parties are banned, and although the occasional riot or protest does occur, life in Swaziland is for the most part a peaceful one for expats.

The country has beautiful scenery and excellent wildlife reserves, thanks to its progressive environmental laws. As British and American expats won’t need a visa for South Africa for short visits, weekend trips to the vibrant, urban jungle of Johannesburg are a five-hour drive or short flight away.

There are just a handful of international schools in Swaziland, but nearby Johannesburg has several excellent private and public boarding schools.

The country has some severe socio-economic problems. In addition to being a Malaria zone, its HIV rate is the highest in the world, and, as a result, the country has one of the lowest life expectancies. Many Swazis live in dire poverty and the healthcare system leaves much to be desired. Hospitals here face chronic shortages of basic medicines and supplies. There are a few good private clinics and hospitals in the capital, most notably Mbabane Clinic, but most expats choose to go over the border to South Africa for complex procedures and emergencies. It is essential that expats take out comprehensive private medical insurance.

Crime is a concern for expats. They should avoid dense urban areas at night as car hijackings, muggings and robberies are not uncommon. Swaziland’s roads, particularly outside the capital, also leave much to be desired. There is effectively no public transport for expats so an off-road car would be a good investment.

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