Manzini City: A rising giant in the Switzerland of Africa

Somewhere in the Continent of Africa lies a gem; a tiny yet so breathtaking country which has over the years earned itself the tagline “the Switzerland of Africa” due to its dazzling scenic beauty.

At the heart of this gem there is a steadily rising giant that is sure to be the epitome of Africa’s world-class urban development in the not so distant future.
The City of Manzini, otherwise known as the Hub of Swaziland, is the commercial mecca of the Royal Kingdom of Swaziland.

Another view of the City of Manzini.It is in this very city that the first economic and commercial activities of the Kingdom began over 100 years ago.

Because of its central location, coupled with its all-time vibrancy, the city has over the centuries remained the most convenient trading zone for people coming from all 4 regions of the Kingdom.

Despite a persistently growing population, the city’s security agents, including the Royal Swaziland Police, have over the years been able to ensure that this marvelous city is one of the safest to visit or live in.

The number of tourist buses that descend the city almost on a daily basis is enough evidence on how this rising giant has claimed its spot in the world map as a tourist destination that is so strong on culture.

One of the key priorities for any city worth its salt is to focus more attention on infrastructure development. The beautiful City of Manzini is no exception.

The city, through its hardworking and visionary Municipal Council, has over the years invested multi millions in local currency (Emalangeni) into transforming the young giant, Manzini, from being a dusty city into something that closely relates to other modern African cities.

About 60 per cent of the entire road network (approximately 134 kilometres) is laden with high quality bitumen surface; of this, quite a significant amount having been upgraded barely 10 years ago. The Municipal Council’s target is to have the remainder of the urban road network surfaced in totality by 2022; of course, resources permitting.

The bustling city has also recently witnessed upgrading of its traffic lights from the conventional type to the world-class Light Emitting Diodes (LED) which are clearer even against direct sunlight; thereby perfecting Manzini City’s driving experience. These also have the benefit of consuming less energy.

Ever since this prudent investment by the Municipal Council, the number of traffic accidents owing to the condition of the city’s traffic lights has unbelievably plummeted.

In a bid to strengthen the safety and security of the city’s inhabitants, the Municipal Council of Manzini has also recently taken a wise decision to replace the traditional street lights with the more efficient high mast lights; which do not only provide lighting along the streets but come with a wider coverage (about 300 metres in diameter). Again, this investment has contributed to a reduction in the rate of crime within the city.

Where there has been a notable slack regarding infrastructure development is with regard to the provision of user-friendly and well furnished recreational parks. The Municipal Council is beckoning potential partners toward the rehabilitation and upgrading of all recreational parks in the city so that the citizens – both young and old – can enjoy a refreshing experience in these open spaces.

Beginning this year and going forwards, one key area that the Municipal Council hopes to focus attention on is the comprehensive regeneration of the urban infrastructure. Having been in existence for so many years, the city indeed needs some form of renewal so that it does not lose its meaning as a modern African city.

One of the iconic modern buildings in Manzini which houses a parkade.With the rollout of the urban renewal project, the world is about to witness more skyscrapers within this rising giant as well as well maintained and perfectly stunning urban building infrastructure. As a result of the same project, the city will soon be face-lifted with user-friendly walkways which will also appeal to people with disability and the old folk.

Owing to its magnetic nature with people from all walks of life always cramming the city in order to earn a living and for shopping, the vibrant African city has unfortunately become a victim of congestion – both traffic and pedestrian.

Currently, the city has a day and night population of over 100,000 and approximately 30,000, respectively, in a country with barely one million people in population. However, the ever-committed Municipal Council has risen to the occasion, rolled up its sleeves and looked for solutions.

The first stop has been to conduct a comprehensive traffic study that, amongst others, sought to determine the causes of the obtaining congestion as well as recommend possible solutions. The traffic study has been completed and recommendations made.

One of the recommendations has been to upgrade the current main bus terminal from the current flat structure into a multi-level facility that will accommodate a combination of uses such as shopping, informal trade and public transport parking.

As a result of the study, it has also been realized that the city needs satellite bus ranks in strategic angles in order to spread out the movement of pedestrians and public transport throughout its corners instead of the current set up where public transport activity is centred at the heart of the city.

With the implementation of the traffic study, some of the streets within Manzini’s Central Business District (CBD) are set to be pedestrianised so that, like all developed countries, this lively commercial mecca can be a walkable city.

The City of Manzini is undoubtedly the preferred destination for both foreign direct investment and local investment. The city’s location as the hub of Swaziland as well as the fact that it boasts the largest population of all cities and towns in the country not only guarantees a lucrative market share but also gives it a competitive advantage for business.

Being strategically located in the centre of the country, the City of Manzini enjoys close proximity with the nearest sea ports (Maputo and Durban) and the Matsapha Dry Port for those who prefer rail transportation.

The city’s proximity with the King Mswati III International Airport further gives Manzini a competitive edge with regard to the movement of passengers and freight.

With a growing rate of unemployment coupled with an equally high education level, the City of Manzini guarantees a readily available and energetic skilled and semi-skilled English and siSwati speaking workforce.

The city also enjoys Swaziland’s long established free market economy as well as a safe and secure environment for both business and family. Competitively priced utilities such as water, electricity, modern telecommunication and postal services are accessible in Manzini. Issuance of trading licences and other business legal requirements is done by the National Government’s Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade which has offices in the City of Manzini.

The Municipal Council’s competitive property taxes (rates) also contribute to Manzini being the most fertile ground for investment and trade. Consider investing in the City of Manzini and reap the desired profits.

Like the beautiful Kingdom of Swaziland, Manzini City is strong on culture. As a result, it is now focusing attention on riding on this rich historical and cultural background in order to strengthen its tourism drive.

Did you know that Manzini is the first administrative capital of Swaziland? Did you know that Manzini is the first town in the Kingdom of Swaziland to have a hotel?

With assistance from relevant stakeholders and partners, the Municipal Council of Manzini has recently conducted a study on historical sites and way over 30 potential historical sites identified. What lies ahead is the declaration of these interesting sites as official historical sites.

The Municipal Council is also working on developing a museum, in a form of a Public Private Partnership, so that this exciting historical information can be accessible from a one-stop shop.

Manzini City is also located less than 15 kilometres from the traditional capital, Lobamba, where the annual national traditional ceremonies such as Incwala and Umhlanga (Reed Dance) take place every year.

Informal traders who earn a living by selling handicraft products in Manzini photographed in one of their trading zones.In 2013 the Municipal Council of Manzini went to the drawing board wherein a new organizational strategy was drawn. The new 5-year strategic plan gave rise to a new vision for the city, being; ““To be a Vibrant African City that consistently provides efficient, relevant and sustainable services to all stakeholders”.

Manzini city’s new strategic mission “To create an environment, driven by the provision of quality services and good governance through partnering with our stakeholders to add value to the people of Manzini” has spurred the Municipal Council into reviewing its service delivery approach from top-down to the globally acceptable bottom-up.

As a result of this new and efficient approach, every development project or programme that has been delivered to the city has been a result of intensive consultation with all stakeholders; making sure everyone participates in decision-making and that all development impacts positively on citizens’ lives.

As part of a strong quest to deliver on the 5-year strategic goals, Council focused attention on enhancing the economy of Manzini through a Local Economic Development (LED) Strategy during 2015.

The purpose of the LED programme is to ensure growth of the economy of Manzini through facilitating a conducive business environment, job creation and informal sector development.

The LED programme has seen the introduction of quite a new phenomenon in the Swaziland municipal landscape; that of community-based contracting. This new phenomenon entails awarding municipal service delivery contracts to companies that are based in the municipal neighbourhoods as well as ensuring that these (contractors) recruit people from those communities.

This is one way through which the Municipal Council is making an attempt at job creation in the hope for a reduction in the level of unemployment in the city. 

Council, through the LED programme, has also focused attention on the informal business sector. Over a thousand informal traders – male and female, young and old – currently earn a living out of doing business in the City of Manzini.

The local government has facilitated for the provision of capacity building on entrepreneurial skills to the informal business sector. As the city walks the mile to Vision 2022 and in its quest to remain a modern African city, the Municipal Council believes that it would be reckless to ignore the informal business sector as it also contributes significantly to the economy of Swaziland.

As part of the strategic turnaround, the Municipal Council has re-engineered its organizational structure. As a result, the Municipal Council has embarked on a comprehensive organizational transformation which, amongst others, has ushered in a Quality Management System as part of a SHERQ initiative; organizational restructuring; employee wellness initiatives, gender equality and a Performance Management and Development System (PMDS).

As alluded to earlier on, Council has put emphasis on stakeholder participation and collaboration in line with the 2013 – 2018 Strategic Plan. As a result, most of the development that has taken place in the city has been a result of such.

In consultation with stakeholders, Council developed a 5-year Integrated Development Plan (IDP) wherein stakeholders expressed their development needs as well as the change that they wish to see in the city.

To-date, Council utilises the IDP as a reference for development in the municipality. Council has also made it a point that stakeholders are consistently updated on progress in the delivery of the IDP projects and programmes through a number of fora such as community meetings and the media.

The inadequacy of resources in order to ensure the operational efficiency and further infrastructural development of the city continues to be a major stumbling block for the City of Manzini.

The local government continues to rely heavily on property taxes for survival against a relatively unfavourable economy; resulting in the collection of rates (property taxes) being sluggish.

However, the Municipal Council is spending sleepless nights in search for alternatives to this income stream.

Another challenge is that of congestion due to rural-urban migration and other socio-economic factors. However, as mentioned earlier on, there is a glimmer of hope that implementation of the traffic study will make this a thing of the past.

The city is also faced with a challenge to bring the crime rate to almost zero levels in the years ahead. The interventions that have been put in place so far have contributed to the reduction of crime. Nonetheless, more still needs to be done in order to eradicate this challenge.

Like any other African country, Swaziland and the City of Manzini continues to grapple with a number of social challenges such as HIV and AIDS. As a result, the Municipal, Council has established a clinic that specialises in the provision of services related to this disease and treatment is offered free of charge. With more interventions and increased collaboration from partners, the Municipal Council hopes to triumph over this challenge in the not so distant future.

Looking forward, the Municipal Council has a clear strategy and its focus for 2016 will be on further improvement in the quality of service that it delivers to the citizens of Manzini.

Improvement in infrastructure development; contributing towards job creation initiatives; exploring partnerships with the private sector – both local and international – to develop the city; enhancing community participation and building relations with other local and international municipalities in order to improve capacity; ensuring good governance and operational efficiency.

Best practices are high on the agenda for 2016. The Municipal Council expresses appreciation to the National Government of Swaziland for its continued technical and financial support as well as advice pertaining facilitation of development at the municipal level.