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Swaziland, Economy

large airport, Mbabane, customs union, forestland, pineapples

Swaziland’s labor force is split between two dominant sectors, agriculture and services. Some 26 percent of its workforce engaged in crop or livestock production, while another 48 percent hold service jobs. The country's economy is tied to that of South Africa through trade and currency links, and can rise or fall depending on the fortunes of its large neighbor. Gross domestic product in 2000 was $1.5 billion, or an average of $1,410 per person.

About three-quarters of the population live on Swazi national land, most cultivating staple crops of maize or herding livestock. The country's most productive farmland, however, are the tracts in private hands, which produce about 75 percent of the country's exports. Chief cash crops are sugarcane grown on irrigated land, cotton, citrus fruits, and pineapples. Livestock includes 615,000 cattle and 445,000 goats. Swaziland also has an important forestry industry. Much of the 522,000 hectares (1,289,890 acres) of forestland is devoted to production of pine. Because of a favorable climate, pine reaches maturity in Swaziland more than twice as fast as in Europe.

Swaziland has large reserves of anthracite coal, which with asbestos form the country's mineral exports. Asbestos extraction has diminished in recent years because health risks associated with the material have decreased its use. Industrial diamond mining began in the mid-1980s. Much of Swaziland's manufacturing is related to agricultural and wood processing. The tourism industry is growing; some 325,000 people visited Swaziland in 1998, attracted by the country's game preserves and mountain scenery.

The principal exports are sugar, wood and wood pulp, canned and fresh fruit, and mineral products. Along with Botswana, Namibia, and Lesotho, Swaziland is a member of a customs union with South Africa, and the country is Swaziland's chief trading partner. The unit of currency is the lilangeni (plural: emalangeni), which is maintained at an equal value with the South African rand (6.94 emalangeni equal U.S.$1; 2000 average).

Swaziland has 294 km (183 mi) of railroads, linking it to the ports of Maputo in Mozambique and Richard's Bay and Durban in South Africa. The road system extends 3,247 km (2,018 mi). The country's only large airport is at Matsapa, near Mbabane.

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