Africa-Press – Eswatini. I have often wondered what the future of the Kingdom of Eswatini looks like. As one age above 50, one finds oneself reflecting with greater wisdom on many life issues. God has been good to me and I have had the opportunity to travel extensively worldwide. I have recently travelled to South Korea and India. My mind is particularly drawn to South Korea, where I realised development is unimaginable, given that South Korea was poorer than most African countries only 50 years ago. The Korean wars devastated the country.

The capital, Soul, is way above anything we can imagine back in Africa. These are the same people who suffered colonialism and post-colonial dictators just like most African countries. EmaSwati had it even better than all African countries in that we never experienced civil war, political violence, and oppression on the scale of many of our fellow Africans, and indeed, many Asian countries. I imagined a car industry developing within the kingdom pioneered by emaSwati and supported by the government as a national project. We have reopened the iron ore mines and now we need to develop it further.

Identifying one product to sell

One of the greatest advantages we have as a nation is the fact that we have a King who can influence thinking nationwide. If I had a chance to speak to him one-on-one, I would ask him to use his influence to channel all the efforts we have as emaSwati towards producing one product to sell to the world. And that product would be a vehicle. We would bring together all our greatest minds and try to identify products within the car industry in which we can excel; an industry in which we, as emaSwati, can become a world market leader in the next 50 years. Botswana is now the world’s number one diamond-producing country by value. The diamond industry accounts for 30 per cent of the country’s GDP and 80 per cent of its exports. We may not have diamonds but we have iron ore.

Car industry Eswatini

Imagine if King Sobhuza II had the vision to start a car industry in the early 1960s, just when the Hyundai Motor Company in South Korea was starting. He would have demanded that the Japanese buy our iron ore on condition that they start a small steel-making factory in Swaziland. A team of emaSwati engineers would have travelled to Japan with the specific goal of learning components within the car industry, that could be manufactured locally. We have historically some of the oldest iron ore mines in the world, but we have no steel industry. Our local iron ore mines have reopened. My prayer is that government establish the Royal Steelworks Company, with the specific and consensus decision to start a car manufacturing industry. The government would deliberately support this industry by introducing an African car in the next 10 years. The interesting feature of the car industry is that it has the potential to produce many components which could be sold internationally.

The initial stage would involve buying components internationally and putting the vehicle together locally by the Royal Steelworks Company. Every part could be bought internationally and assembled locally. There is a market for a robust durable cheap African vehicle that can be a workhouse for the agriculture sector. We as emaSwati once built a tractor/lorry called Tinkhabi. It was half tractor half pickup three-tonne lorry. The government would then support the company by hiring only local products for agriculture. Within a few years, Tinkhabi would be exported initially throughout Africa and eventually, the whole world. The concept would develop into agricultural vehicles and all kinds of agricultural planting and harvesting vehicles. Africa needs food to feed a growing population in the next 50 years.

International trade statistics

It is very frightening to realise that we are nowhere in teams of international trade as an African continent. The African share of global trade remained at less than three per cent, driven largely by merchandise trade. The Bible speaks of great sea-trading nations and is not referring to us. World overall, the total trade (both merchandise and services) slightly decreased in 2023, with exports at USD 31.6 trillion (down by 1.1 per cent) and imports at USD 31.5 trillion (down by 2.1 per cent) compared to 2022 of which Africa contributed only three per cent. The question stands: If Africa has only three per cent to sell to the world how are we to industrialise and develop? The whole African continent has no African-designed, manufactured and internationally or regionally distributed vehicle.

Mauritius is now a financial service hub from an island state of about 1.26 million people (2022) just like us. Mauritius is a beacon of economic success in Sub-Saharan Africa, having evolved from a low-income, sugarcane-dependent nation in the 1960s (just like Eswatini) to an upper-middle-income country with a per capita income surpassing US$10 000. This remarkable transformation was rooted in a stable democracy and a relatively diversified economy that now includes tourism, manufacturing, fisheries, ICT, and financial services, the latter contributing 40 per cent of GDP.

Eswatini cannot easily emulate Mauritius when it comes to financial services simply because of our politics. We are not considered politically stable enough or democratic enough to qualify as a financial hub the international community can trust. One day we will elect our prime minister and government, through our locally developed Tinkhundla political system or some hybrid democratic Political System and we will qualify. Luckily, we have minerals including iron ore and coal which can be used to produce steel including stainless steel.

Hyundai Motor Company

In 1967, Hyundai Motor Company was founded. The following year, the construction of the company’s Ulsan assembly plant was completed. Today, it is the world’s largest integrated automobile manufacturing facility, with an annual production capacity of 1.6 million cars. In 1968, the Cortina was the very first vehicle successfully assembled by Hyundai at its Ulsan plant, in cooperation with Ford Motor Company their technical partner.

Following the Cortina’s initial success and eventual dominance of the European market, Hyundai decided to develop its own locally produced car. The company hired George Turnbull, the former Managing Director of Austin Morris at British Leyland in February 1974. He immediately hired six European chief engineers to assist him, including a body designer, two chassis designers, two production engineers, and a test engineer. As they say, Hyundai would become a household name giving birth to Kia and many other products. Everything is possible if we have emaSwati with a vision, the will, and a supportive visionary government.

Source: times

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