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Swaziland

Region: 
Did you know: 

Swaziland is a monarchy.

It is one of seven landlocked Commonwealth countries, all of which are in Africa. Mountains in the western highlands rise to 1,862m, and the lowlands to the east fall to around 150m.

As a neighbour of South Africa – Africa’s economic powerhouse – Swaziland receives more than most other African countries in remittances per capita.

Key facts

Joined Commonwealth: 
1968
Population: 
1,250,000 (2013)
GDP: 
p.c. growth: 0.8% p.a. 1990–2013
UN HDI: 
World ranking 148
Official language: 
siSwati, English
Timezone: 
GMT plus 2hr
Currency: 
lilangeni, plural emalangeni (E)

Geography

Area: 
17,364 sq km
Coastline: 
none
Capital city: 
Mbabane
Population density (per sq. km): 
72

The Kingdom of Swaziland is a small landlocked country in the east of Southern Africa, bounded to the east by Mozambique and elsewhere by South Africa.

The country comprises four regions: Hhohho (in the north), Manzini (west-central), Lubombo (east) and Shiselweni (south).

Main towns: 

Mbabane (capital, pop. 61,800 in 2010), Manzini (94,900), Malkerns (8,000), Nhlangano (7,000), Mhlume (6,800), Big Bend (6,700), Siteki (6,100), Simunye (5,500), Hluti (5,400), Pigg’s Peak (4,600) and Lobamba (legislative capital, 3,800).

Transport: 

There are 3,590 km of roads, at least 30 per cent paved, linking with South Africa and Mozambique.

The 300 km railway is used mainly for freight and continues in a north-easterly direction to Maputo in Mozambique, providing Swaziland with access to shipping. Since 1986, there has been a direct connection between Mpaka (35 km east of Manzini) and the South African railway network. The passenger service from Durban to Maputo, Mozambique, passes through Swaziland, stopping at Mpaka.

A new international airport, King Mswati III International Airport, located to the east of Manzini, replaced Matsapha as the principal international airport in 2014.

International relations: 

Swaziland is a member of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Non-Aligned Movement, Southern African Customs Union, Southern African Development Community, United Nations and World Trade Organization.

Topography: 

There are four regions, all running from north to south. The western Highveld, a continuation of the Drakensberg Mountains, rises to 1,862m. East of the Highveld is the grassy Middleveld, beside the Lowveld (also called the Bushveld) at around 150–300m with some higher ridges and knolls. The eastern region, the Lubombo, is a narrow escarpment. The four most important rivers, all flowing from the Highveld east towards the Indian Ocean, are the Komati, the Usutu, the Mbuluzi and the Ngwavuma. None is easily navigable. The Lowveld watercourses are wadis, except after heavy rain.

Climate: 

The Highveld is near-temperate and humid, the Middleveld and Lubombo subtropical, the Lowveld near-tropical. Swaziland is one of the best-watered countries in southern Africa although, in common with the region, rainfall may be unreliable and periods of drought occur in the Lowveld, for example in 2004–05. Summer (October–March) is the rainy season. There is occasional, short-lived frost in the Highveld and the Middleveld.

Environment: 

The most significant environmental issues are overgrazing, soil degradation, soil erosion, limited supplies of drinking water, and depletion of wildlife populations by excessive hunting.

Vegetation: 

Varies from the forested Highveld with its Usutu pines to the grassland and bush vegetation of the Lowveld. Forest covers 33 per cent of the land area, having increased at 0.9 per cent p.a. 1990–2010. Arable land comprises ten per cent and permanent cropland less than one per cent of the total land area.

Wildlife: 

There are eight nature reserves inhabited by indigenous species, several of them under threat elsewhere, such as black and white rhinoceroses, elephants, buffaloes, hippopotami, and a vast variety of bird species – including storks and vultures. Six mammal species and 11 bird species are thought to be endangered (2014).

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