Addressing the 14th edition of the Correctional Services Day celebration in Matshapa in July 2022, His Majesty King Mswati III described the burning of structures as a Third World mentality. He further congratulated the Correctional Services department on its various programs, saying these were of First World standards. But, undoubtedly, it resulted in many debates in social circles.

The King initially set the First World status vision for 2022. Although realistically speaking, that dream will not be achieved in 2022, one thing is still sure: the vision is still very much alive. The King can not achieve this dream on his own. Suppose eSwatini is going to graduate from Third World underdeveloped status to First Word developed status. In that case, emaSwati will need to change how they operate and, most importantly, think and act like First World countries.

The modern definition of First World is used to classify highly industrialized countries with advanced economies. Further definitions describe these nations as having low poverty rates, high accessibility to modern resources and infrastructure, and a reduced technology gap among their citizens. eSwatini is nowhere near these definitions. However, some things can be done to begin the journey to First World status.

One such initiative will be making strides in closing the technological gap in the Kingdom. The pandemic fast-tracked how we operated and made the use of technology a part of our everyday fabric.

No doubt, new technologies have been beneficial. In the bigger scheme, they can help countries achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), among many other benefits.

However, new technologies can also have serious shortcomings. For example, rapid technological change threatens to outpace the ability of societies to adapt. Others fear that jobs will disappear as more economic activity is automated. Overall, there are concerns that frontier technologies will further widen inequalities or create new ones.

Before the First Industrial Revolution, most people were equally poor, and the gaps in per capita income between countries were much smaller. But with the industrial revolution and subsequent waves of technological change, a group of countries pulled ahead, with rapid and sustained economic growth that enabled more of their people to escape poverty. Western Europe and its offshoots – Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States – and Japan formed the global economy’s core. Most other countries remained on the periphery with inconsistent or minimal levels of growth and similarly low incomes.

All of these developments force us to ask a few pertinent questions. For instance, how will the latest frontier technologies affect inequalities in developing countries? How can governments minimize risks and maximize opportunities? And how can international cooperation help? The reality is that eSwatini, and other third-world countries can catch these new waves of technological change and ride them to diversify their economies, promote structural transformation and achieve sustainable development. This, though, will require different strategies at different stages of development.

eSwatini is a country with an average age of 21, where youth unemployment is at more than 40%, 80% of the population live below the poverty line, and 200 000 of its 1.148 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. The critical issue is whether eSwatini can adapt, adopt, and use future technologies to forge a new development model for wealth creation and sustainable development that leaves no one behind. While the challenges may be daunting, the opportunities are equally boundless. What are some of these opportunities that can be exploited to embrace the future? Let us consider three of these.

The Future of Work.

The way we work now came into effect after World War Two. It is a military model. It is hierarchical and rigid hence the famous “nine to five” working hours. With the pandemic, fast-tracking everything, how we work has changed. Back then, we were a manufacturing economy tethered to a five-day workweek of 40 hours or more. The covid pandemic allowed us to blow that up.

If eSwatini is going to develop further and leave no one behind, then it needs to change many of its ways of doing business and embrace the “new normal.” Why should development be restricted to the capital centers like Manzini and Mbabane when the population is spread out across the country? One should live in, say, Big Bend or wherever their family is and still be able to provide meaningful work for a company based elsewhere in the Kingdom. In a country with a strong resistance to change, the time is now for everybody to adopt new ways lest the country risk being left behind in this technological wave. It baffles the mind why when registering a company, there is an insistence on a lease agreement in eSwatini as if that is a measure of how genuine a company is. It is not!
For example, a company called Gitlab is registered in San Francisco, USA, a First World nation. The company has a market capitalization of over US$8 Billion. Yet, Gitlab has never had any physical offices. Instead, it comprises more than 1,300 employees spread across 67 countries and nearly every time zone, all working from home. This is the future of work. No geographical boundaries. Flexibility. Freedom to think differently. Faster Innovation.

At, we always say the future of work is more prominent than Johannesburg, Nairobi, Lagos, or Cairo. Its heart lies in every city, province, and country throughout Africa. The rise of the gig economy in Africa will drive the future of employment emaSwati could reside wherever they are in the country and perform meaningful work remotely, thus contributing positively to the country’s growth. Opportunities now abound to stay in eSwatini while working for a company in India, or the United States of America, to name a few. This is First World mentality.

Smart Agriculture

According to The World Food Programme IPC Report of 2021, an estimated 317 000 people in eSwatini will face high acute food insecurity levels in 2022. This has been exacerbated by the dry spells experienced in previous years, thus negatively impacting early cropping activities and resulting in reduced harvests. Furthermore, heavy rains caused by Cyclone Elois resulted in flooding in some areas, causing crop damage and poor yield.

Notwithstanding all these challenges, the growing population in eSwatini still needs to be fed. While intimidating, this presents an opportunity for employment creation and national development for the Kingdom. However, it will require linking rural, peri-urban, and urban communities in an urban food ecosystem encompassing (i) sustainable urban intensification; (ii) post-harvest storage and processing; (iii) transportation; and (iv) distribution to end customers.
None of this will be possible on a scale commensurate with the size of the urban food challenge without harnessing a wide range of frontier technologies. These technologies include connectivity (ICT, Internet of Things, mobile money, fintech financial services); controlled environmental agriculture including vertical farming and horticulture; block chain; high quality enhanced seed; enhanced genetics including cloud biology; nanotechnology and advanced materials; and 3D printing of cells, food, machinery, and structures.

Smart Factories

According to a recent paper by Deloitte titled “The Smart Factory: Responsive, adaptive, connected manufacturing,” The term “smart factory” entails:
“an integration of shop floor decisions and insights with the rest of the supply chain and broader enterprise through an interconnected IT/OT landscape. This can fundamentally change production processes and enhance relationships with suppliers and customers…. Smart factories go beyond simple automation. The smart factory is a flexible system that can self-optimize performance across a broader network, self-adapt to and learn from new conditions in real or near-real time, and autonomously run entire production processes. Smart factories can operate within the four walls of the factory. Still, they can connect to a global network of similar production systems, and even to the digital supply network more broadly.”
Smart factories need to become a prominent landscape feature in a country where manufacturing significantly contributes to gross domestic product. Piggy-backing on South Africa, eSwatini may also be well-positioned to capture some of the jobs and economic growth spawned by smart factories. Taking advantage of this will enable the Kingdom to pole vault over the low-wage, assembly operation stage of development which, in any event, will no longer exist to the same extent as in the past. Moreover, these smart factories and their related smart supply chains could serve as regional and local growth poles if countries position themselves to capture these benefits.

Let us take a hypothetical example of a toy store in Egypt that places an order for stuffed animals with a South African-based toy manufacturer, which, in turn, orders components for stuffed animals from factories in eSwatini. This seemingly simple, low-tech supply chain could be organized, managed, and coordinated via sensors connected to a low-latency internet of things, a private cloud, machine learning, robots, and AI algorithms.

As this example suggests, even in the supposedly low-tech toy sector, dumb suppliers and dumb factories will find it difficult to co-exist in the same supply chain with smart factories and smart suppliers. To thrive in a world of smart factories, second and third-tier suppliers must be able to receive and transmit up-to-the-second data via the cloud and, more importantly, instantaneously adjust the design, production, performance characteristics, and other activities. In the wake of these requirements, eSwatini, which previously relied on a seemingly inexhaustible supply of low-wage, unskilled labor, will discover that it must get smarter to survive. At a minimum, this will entail upskilling personnel and adapting machinery to support high-speed information flow and IoT connectivity. It will also require high-speed internet connectivity and access to secure cloud computing platforms.

The Way Forward

In the face of this technological revolution and the advent of smart cities, smart agriculture, and smart factories, learning how to get smart and deploy frontier technology will be indispensable. Conversely, relying on older technology will be a recipe for falling further behind.

Smart factories rely on high-speed internet and cloud services. Success in the smart factory arena will be impossible if these essential services are not available at world-class standards and integrated into a broader digital ecosystem. Additionally, the digital ecosystem should include shorter-term training courses and longer-term apprenticeship programs to equip workers with the specific skills to thrive in smart workplaces. Technical universities and colleges should deliver these training programs in close collaboration with smart factories. The government should be prepared to defray a substantial portion of these training costs, especially in the initial period. Moreover, the government will need to make a special effort to attract smart factories and implement supplier development programs to prepare a local squad of smart suppliers to support these smart factories. Learning how Mexico, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand, as well as more developed countries such as Korea, accomplished each of these tasks in partnership with local stakeholders and foreign investors will be especially relevant.

All of the economies around the world are becoming tech-enabled, and eSwatini should not be left behind. That does not mean everybody in the Kingdom has to be an engineer. It just means everybody must understand and utilize technology in their role. Skilling, reskilling, and upskilling are vital to this, as we need to be aware that the skills that were appropriate 25 years ago, even five years, might not be appropriate now.

Our expertise in digital transformation has helped many companies in Africa work better, save costs and increase profits four times. We are on the ground in eSwatini to help companies transform their operations. Our various partnerships with solution providers mean we have the correct cost-effective solutions for your organization in eSwatini. So please get in touch with us at, and let’s discuss how we can help.