Here’s a news report the Swazi media seem to have missed. On Friday (31 August 2007) Forbes.com reported that Swaziland King Mswati III was the richest monarch in all of sub-Saharan Africa. Forbes estimates his net worth to be 200 million US dollars (one billion four hundred thousand Swazi emalangeni).
He was also the youngest monarch to appear on the Forbes ‘rich list’ of the 15 richest monarchs in the whole world.
What Forbes did not report was that about 70 per cent of the Swazi population of 1.1 million people live in poverty with an income less than one US dollar (seven emalengeni) per day. More than half the population is presently receiving food aid from overseas’ donors following the failure of crops in the kingdom due to drought. In July UN agencies appealed for 18 million US dollars to help Swaziland, but so far only 3.1 million has been forthcoming, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Donors have been more willing to help other countries in need such as Lesotho.
Chinwe Dike, Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), points out, ‘It is important to note that although Swaziland is classified as a middle income country, most of its human development indicators are those of a LDC [least developed country].’ Wealth is highly skewed and poverty in the rural areas is widespread.
At 0.609, Swaziland has one of the highest Gini Coefficients in the world, according to the UNDP. The Gini coefficient uses a measurement between 0 and 1 to determine income distribution - the closer to 1, the more unequal a society; the closer to 0, the more equal a society.