Swaziland is a landlocked country located in Southern Africa and is bordered by Mozambique in the east and the Republic of South Africa in the west, north and south. Its geographic location is 26 30 S, 31 30 E.
It has been estimated at 1.1 million as of November 2007. At least 3 quarters of the Swazi population lives in the rural areas.
Swaziland is a bilingual country, with siSwati being the native language and English being the official language, most commonly used in business and commerce.
Swaziland’s economy is highly reliant on Customs duties from the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) which makes up about 70 % of government revenue. Also, Sugar and wood pulp are the major export earners. In addition to these processed agricultural and forestry products, the fast-growing industrial sector at Matsapha also produces garments, textiles, and a variety of light manufactured products.
Swaziland’s currency is pegged to the South African rand, subsuming Swaziland’s monetary policy to South Africa.
The Swaziland Industrial Development Company (SIDC) and the Swaziland Investment Promotion Authority (SIPA) have assisted in bringing many of these industries to the country. Government programs encourage Swazi entrepreneurs to run small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Tourism also is important, attracting more than 424,000 visitors annually (mostly from Europe and South Africa).
Visitors from countries other than South Africa, Botswana and Lesotho are required to conform to standard customs formalities. Residents of the 3 afore mentioned countries are required to furnish statistical information of goods brought in but are not for retail or resale. Road tax for foreign registered vehicles entering Swaziland is E50 (equivalent to 50 South African Rands) and is payable at the customs point.
The need for standardisation was first felt in the early 1980s when Swaziland tried to export timber to be use in mines in South Africa. The Republic of South Africa imposed a condition of testing and certification before the product could be allowed into the South African market.
The standards bill was passed in 1993, however, due to delays the bill had to be redrafted and Royal Assent was given in 2003, thus the Standards and Quality Act (10) of 2003 which provides for the establishment of SWASA came into existence. A Council was commissioned in December 2005 and an Executive Director was recruited in April 2007.
SWASA has been working on the development and adoption of close to 30 standards, 7 of which are in the process of being gazetted in preparation for their publication and availability for use. Given that the country did not have any national standards, the Authority has been helping local companies source standards, from neighbouring National Standards Bodies.
It has been established through research that South African National Standards sourced from SABS are most commonly used by local companies. Another commonly used standard is ISO 9000 and some companies are in the process of implementing HACCP. So far only one company is known to be implementing ISO22000 and is accredited to the standard. On the other hand it has been noted that local SMEs have very little knowledge on the use of standards and their perceived benefits.
SWASA has established various forums such as the consumer toll free line and through meetings with quality practitioners to effectively gather more information that will inform its standards development processes. The Authority is also exploring partnering with other agencies such as SEDCO, SIPA and World Vision as means of effectively reaching out to even the community based projects and businesses.