Allow me to begin by recognizing:
● Minister of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Mr. Manqoba Khumalo;
● Chief Executive Officer of Business Eswatini, Mr. Nathi Dlamini;
● Chief Executive Officer, Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority, Mr. Sibani Mngomezulu;
● Government officials;
● Representatives of the Eswatini private sector;
● Members of the media;
● Distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen;
● All protocol observed.
It is my sincere pleasure to join the Minister of Commerce, Industry, and Trade, the Honorable Manqoba Khumalo today, for the 2022 Eswatini Annual Exporter Awards. Nearly a year ago, in June 2021, we came together to launch the first annual Exporter Awards. And so, I’m particularly delighted to return for the 2022 edition, to again recognize the excellence and innovation of Eswatini export firms have demonstrated in reaching the South African and U.S. markets.
Eswatini’s National Strategic Development Plan remains the driving force of collaboration between the U.S. Government and the Kingdom of Eswatini, which is boosting exports of proudly Eswatini-made products. Today, we also celebrate our longstanding private sector and trade promotion partnerships with the Eswatini Investment Promotion Agency and Business Eswatini, the joint co-hosts of the 2022 event.
The U.S. Government shares a vision with all our partners to promote the role of private sector-led economic growth. Our Economic Growth Policy demonstrates the United States’ commitment to promoting inclusive, sustained, and resilient economic growth in developing countries.
The Exporter Awards recognize the outstanding trade performance and innovation of Eswatini firms in reaching the South African and U.S. markets, especially under the African Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA. The awards are a demonstration of our support for Eswatini’s export-led economic growth model.
The U.S. Government supported the development of the AGOA Utilization Strategy for Eswatini that was launched in March 2021. We are pleased to note that it aims to increase exports from Eswatini to the United States under AGOA by at least 12 percent per year. This is a goal that will benefit both countries.
Judging by the companies represented here today, we are realizing fantastic results. Despite the turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Eswatini’s exports to South Africa grew by nearly 12 percent between 2020 and 2021, and they included drinks, sugar, timber, and textiles.
The U.S. Government, through USAID, linked four firms to Albert Scott, an e-commerce management firm that provides storage, marketing, and reputation management services in the United States, enabling them to list with the U.S. based e-commerce giant Amazon. Now, Americans can create the right lighting mood in their homes with Swazi Candles and enjoy a beverage from Ngwenya glasses, and in return, bolster the Eswatini economy.
While this event recognizes those who have contributed to these impressive numbers into the South Africa market and the new inroads into the American market, there is great potential to grow capacity and diversify these export products further.
Governments need to keep expanding efforts to diversify their economies and connect with sources of investment capital. We are here to be partners in this endeavor to strengthen economies and continue collaboration with the private sector. We look forward to the day that products made in Eswatini are in homes not just in the United States, but across the world, benefiting the people of Eswatini.
The U.S. is proud to invest in the future of Eswatini by strengthening and diversifying its export economy, and to secure the future of these investments, we must ensure a stable political system that is responsive to the needs of emaSwati and that supports and uplifts the country.
We look to the Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to communicate details on the upcoming national dialogue soon, and develop a process that will promote healing for the entire country. Without doubt, this is a moment of historic importance in Eswatini.
Allow me to thank Business Eswatini and the Eswatini Investment Promotion Authority once again for hosting the Exporter Awards Event this year. Judging by the performance of the nominees, Eswatini’s private sector will continue to expand through quality exports.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would also like to thank the exporters present here, in particular those nominated for awards, and wish them all the best. I hope the recognition will spur them to continue growing their businesses and the Eswatini economy as a whole.
In closing, I would like to ask everyone to follow the science regarding COVID, and vaccinate to protect yourself and others. To keep business open and commerce flowing, we must together do what we can to end this pandemic!