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INTRODUCTION

The Embassy of the Kingdom of Swaziland in the State of Qatar has undertaken  number of activities, which include meetings with several business people, the Middle East political turmoil and its challenges. A political analysis on the latter will be presented following an all-important conference aimed at establishing the causes of the region's uprisings and how best they could addressed without shedding further blood. 

TRADE
In March, the Ambassador held high level talks with the Governor of the State of Qatar Central Bank. On top of the agenda, among other important issues discussed, was wooing one of the commercial or investment banks in Qatar to open a branch in the Kingdom of Swaziland. It is hoped that if an Islamic commercial bank could be established in Swaziland, many investors from the Arab World can begin to invest in Swaziland. This is because the Arabic Community believes in one of their own to handle their investment affairs. It is hoped that, therefore, new companies from the Middle East can develop interest in investing in Swaziland and keep their profits in a bank that they have confidence in.

The Embassy has identified the Qatar National Bank (QNB) as the most suitable and ideal financial institution that can open up a branch in Swaziland. The Ambassador has already initiated negotiations with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of QNB. In their discussions, the CEO reiterated the common language of the Qataris – asking Swaziland to bring a detailed bankable project. This project should be supported by a clear feasibility study.

SIKHUPHE/QCAA PARTNERSHIP
As the completion of Sikhuphe International Airport is expected sometime this year, it is hoped talks with the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority (QCAA) to partner with Swaziland in the running of this facility will be concluded soonest. If an agreement to that effect is reached, Qatar Airways will use Sikhuphe International Airport as its hub in Africa, in particular Southern Africa.


As of end of May, both aviation authorities were directly holding high level talks on signing an agreement on how they will cooperate in this joint venture.
This promise was made to the Ambassador by the Chairman of Qatar Civil Aviation Authority, His Excellency Abdu Alaziz Mohammed Al-Noaimi during a meeting on January 17, 2011. In this meeting, the chairman undertook to look into making Sikhuphe Qatar Airways' hub in the African region. First, he said it was imperative for Qatar Airways to study the business model to service Africa and Latin (South) America from Swaziland.

 
He said if that test passes through, they would ask that a bilateral agreement between the two governments is signed on joint partnership of the facility. Matters of training Swazi personnel in airport management and other specialized aeronautic fields are at an advanced stage. It awaits a meeting between the Ambassador and the Minister. Such programmes include, among others, long academic studies in diplomas, degrees and post graduate programmes. Swazi personnel would also receive practical training in the running of airport and an airline by attached attachment to Qatar Airways for a certain period. The Ambassador then provided the chairman with all relevant documents pertaining all areas of training needed by the newly formed Swaziland Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA).


At the moment Qatar Airways is using the Oliver Tambo (Johannesburg) International Airport as its hub for Africa and Latin America.
As a follow up to Qatar government's generous provision of scholarships extended to Swazi students to train in the field of airport operations in the State of Qatar at the Qatar College of Scientific Aviation, the Embassy has vigorously pursued this through diplomatic channels. This offer was extended to Swaziland in April 2010.

QATAR RED CRESCENT
On April 11, 2011, The Ambassador and Counsellor held high level talks with the Qatar Red Crescent Director, Dr. Khaled Diab and the organisation's National Strategic Partnership and Humanitarian Diplomacy Officer, Carini Chehab at the Swaziland Embassy's offices. The purpose of the meeting was to motivate two proposals which the Embassy had earlier submitted to the organization for assistance in upgrading the health systems in Swaziland. The two proposals are:
1. Proposed Projects for External Funding and the
2. Concept Proposal for the Advancement of Swaziland's Diagnostic Capability, Hospital Sterility and Medical Waste Treatment Systems (SDCHSMWS).

The former was prepared and presented by the Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr. Stephen Shongwe, in response to the Embassy's request to him to do so. The Embassy had earlier been engaged in talks with the Qatar Red Crescent authorities – seeking ways and means to improve services provided at the Mbabane Government Hospital. The total request to carry out this capital project was at that time estimated at E25 million Emalangeni (US$3.57 million).
The second proposal, which is quite an extensive and elaborative one, was prepared by Afritool (PTY) Limited.
Hassad Food Company

INVESTMENT

In April, the Ambassador held several meetings with different major Qatari companies with the hope of wooing them to Swaziland to establish branches. Hassad Food is one of them and they have a branch in neighbouring Republic of South Africa. The Ambassador and the company's chairman and his management held a meeting where the Ambassador advanced Swaziland's interest in establishing a cassava starch processing factory. He invited the company to partner with Swaziland in this venture as a feasibility study of 2007 had indicated that this was an economically viable project. Hassad Food Company informed the Ambassador that they are not interested into such a venture.
Hassad Food Processing Company is also involved in manufacturing fertilizer. In fact it is the world's leading fertilizer manufacturing industry. In this business aspect, the Ambassador made the company aware that it could benefit a lot if it were to establish a branch in Swaziland. He highlighted that Swazis depend on farming and they make good use of fertilizer adding that the commercial sugar companies/mills and citrus companies all use the product.  He then negotiated that the company consider establishing a branch in Swaziland. The response to this venture was that they have a South African partner which already supplies Swaziland.


The third item on the Ambassador's agenda was to ask Hassad to consider funding or partaking in the establishment of a Fuel Ethanol and Agricultural Plantation (bioethnol project) which is being proposed to be constructed at Lavumisa. This proposed sweet sorghum and sugar cane plant is meant to sell its products mainly to the European bio-fues market.
Responding to all these, the chairman said it was very unfortunate and regrettable that his company's policy was against venturing on businesses which require them to start things from the scratch. He said they were only interested in buying existing companies. He said they were not into establishing new companies. He then explained that their interest in Swaziland was in buying one or all the existing sugar mill companies. He said their attempt to do so had been rejected by the owners of these companies. The Ambassador has also held talks with Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company's Africa Projects Director, Waleed Mohamed Al Kaldari. The meeting was centered on the financing of the multi-million Swazi City Project. Kaldari was non-committal as he said he was going to study the project first. This was after the Ambassador had given him documents containing details of the whole project - outlining the business purpose and full costs.


The last item which the Ambassador discussed at length with Kaldari was on convincing his company to either join forces with Casquip Starch (Pty) Limited Swaziland and South Africa's based Hire (PTY) Limited (CASQUIP) as a partner or partly finance it. Casquip is the company that was responsible for the establishment of a cassava starch processing factory in Swaziland in 2007. This company is also involved with the design of cassava production equipment and development of cassava cultivation in Swaziland and South Africa.
Again in this project, Kaldari made no commitment except to say he would give the proposal to his team of experts and his executive for consideration.
Swazi Ambassadors Gulf & Middle East Meeting

SOCIO - POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

On April24-25th April, 2011, the Ambassador joined his Kuwait and United Arab Emirates colleagues in Abu Dhabi for a regional meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to review the political and economic landscape of the region as well as addressing the question of accreditation to the various Gulf and Middle East states. Several policy recommendations were made in this meeting by the three Ambassadors. Since a comprehensive report was compiled covering a wide range of issues discussed, there is, therefore, no need to discuss or highlight these issues here.

POLITICAL SITUATION
Talks are ongoing between the Director of Technical Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Embassy on securing a land where the latter can construct its operational offices. The Director who also doubles as a Head of Africa- Asia Affairs/Department has promised to give a feedback on this issue. This was a mere follow up by the Embassy to the land that was given by the Qatar Government, through His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, to His Majesty King Mswati lll in October 2009. This was during the King's visit to Qatar. Several letters (Diplomatic Notes) have been prepared and delivered by the Embassy to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a follow up to that issue. The Embassy was promised that land will be allocated to the Kingdom of Swaziland on a reciprocal principle.

BILATERAL AGREEMENTS
Following the eminent pending State Visit to the Kingdom of Swaziland by the Emir of the State of Qatar, His Highness Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the Embassy, with the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Affairs, has already presented a number of proposed bilateral agreements to be signed by the two governments. These bilateral agreements are all ready for signing. The Embassy has already requested the esteemed Ministry of Foreign Affairs here in Qatar to facilitate the signing ceremony by stating the venue and date.
These proposed bilateral agreements are:

  •  Agreement Concerning the Regulation of Manpower Employment in the State of Qatar.
  •  The Tourism Agreement and The Civil Aviation Authority Agreement
  • Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Kingdom of Swaziland & the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the State of Qatar;
  • Agreement between the Kingdom of Swaziland Government & the Government of the State of Qatar for the Establishment of a Joint Commission for Cooperation;
  • Agreement between the Government of the Kingdom of Swaziland & the State of Qatar for the Avoidance of Double Taxation & Prevention of Physical Evaluation with Respect to Taxes on Income;
  • Agreement between the Kingdom of Swaziland & the State of Qatar on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investment Agreements;
  • Memorandum of Understanding Between the Federation of Swaziland Employers & Chamber of Commerce (FSE &CC) & Qatar Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
    Middle East Socio-Political Crises.

At the moment almost the entire Middle East and the North African regions are confronted with economic, political and social disorder following the unprecedented revolts mounted by people against the reigning regimes in the region. These socio-political upheavals have given the Arab World new challenges as these problems have a direct negative effect in their economies. Since the beginning of this year, the sporadic anti-government demonstrations have resulted in the leadership of some of these governments being replaced. This has been witnessed in Tunisia and Egypt. The same strategies used in Egypt and Tunisia are being vigorously applied in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Syria and to a lesser extent in Oman. Some of these countries are major suppliers of oil and gas products.

ROOTS CAUSES OF DISCONTENT
Indicators say human right groups, trade unionists, Al Qaeda and opposition political parties are chief organisers of these unrests. They mobilize support through modern communication network such as the Facebook. At a recent three day Doha Forum, held on 9-11 May, 2011 at Sheraton Hotel, the root causes of discontentment which lead or result to socio-economic and political uprisings and upheavals were highlighted and discussed at length. The Embassy was represented by the Ambassador and the Counsellor in this all-important international conference.

The purpose of the conference was to deliberate on how to effectively deal with the causes and establish lasting solutions to the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. Economic and political analysts made key findings on the causes to the uprisings and were listed as follows:

  •  High rate of unemployment of the younger and educated generation which has a much higher expectations from leaders of governments.
  •  Failure by leaders/governments to identify and address socio-economic ills of the younger generations. The delay or postponement of addressing the youth expectations only achieve one thing – to ferment and fuel much anger, hatred, mistrust and discontentment towards the leadership. Such negative feelings and attitude towards the leadership/governments make it most ideal and conducive for opposition parties to organize and convince the frustrated young people to revolt against leadership.
  •  Low wages vs cost of living. The low wages earned by the working class as well as unfavourable working conditions were cited as some of the key causes. When prices for basic commodities such as fuel and food surge and the workers no longer afforded to maintain their families, this becomes a serious threat to the leadership and government. Political opportunists seize this opportunity to spread their anti-regime propaganda. They make every possible effort to appear as an alternative answer to the many unanswered questions the unemployed and the aggrieved workers. Normally, this voice comes from a combination of forces such as from the opposition, trade unions, human rights groups and so on. Some employers too end up secretly contributing in fueling the socio-economic and political instability. These are employers who are not happy with government's new policies, in particular those policies which tend to increase taxes on them.
  • Government's/leadership's failure to make private sector observe and adhere to labour laws. This includes making employers create better and acceptable working conditions and services. Letting poor working conditions deteriorate to the lowest ebb as a result of the leadership's failure to regulate, monitor and compel employers to adhere to better working conditions. This leads to employees feel ejected and unprotected. Trade unions have a bad tendency of not telling their members that governments are not responsible for increasing prices for basic commodities. It is, therefore, within these premises that governments have to create regular forums with workers where governments will explain their predicaments. Workers have to be taken on board in seeking lasting solutions to some of the problems faced by governments. In short, governments should seek to establish mutual bonds of communication, understanding, cooperation and respect with the work force. Trade unions should not be allowed to enjoy the monopoly of addressing workers alone and politising industrial issues.
  • Heavy taxation of benefits: This is another serious cause of discontentment which creates a big gap between the ruled and the rulers. Labour experts also cite governments' tendencies of imposing heavy taxations on salaries and wages of low earning citizens on a monthly basis and again upon their retirement, cause discontent and dissatisfaction. Heavy taxation imposed by government is not only a problem to employees, but also to employers. Employers who feel heavily taxed by government tend to offer lower wages and salaries. Some employers end up retrenching and those employers who fail to either pay small wages or retrench eventually close down. This means loss of jobs. The retrenched workers together with those whose companies have closed down join the masses of the unemployed.
    Political hyenas then use all these economic ills experienced and suffered by the working and unemployed classes as a point of entry to causing political and social confusion, instability and disorder among the people.
  • Lack of accountability, transparency, democracy, corruption and social justice also contribute to uprisings. Suppressing people's views on issues they regard as pertinent to their lives as well as failure to deal with corruption were said to be leading causes of discontentment, discontentment which eventually lead to revolutions. 
  • Unfairly distribution of national wealth or resources and the rotation of the same faces to the administration or leadership of the country for prolonged periods is seen by those outside the administration as monopolizing the national sources. This is also seen as tantamount to corruption in disguise. Administrators whose retirement periods have matured deserve to go home and open space for new blood. This is seen as a way of creating more job opportunities. This also serves as a source of motivation to the general work-force as a whole.

The above were summed up as key findings which are largely responsible for uprisings. The researchers also agreed that in all the areas of socio-economic and political instability, the causes of these anti-regime or government sentiments are the same. Their advise was that all countries, as family members of the United Nations Organisation, are urged to create periodical forums where all the aspirations, expectations and concerns of the people are addressed. Governments are urged and encouraged not to fear facing aggrieved citizens. Proper structures of presenting public views over issues of their concerns ought to be established and governments should squarely face the people and explain their positions to them.

THE ARAB LEAGUE
This is a regional organization consisting 22 Arab speaking member states. It was founded in 1945. It draws its membership from North Africa and the whole Middle East or Gulf Region. Since the outbreak of political unrest in the region, the Arab League has tried its level best but without success to have these crises resolved. In Libya, the League did, in principle, agree to the No-Fly Zone. However, when the NATO forces started bombing Libya, the League was quick to denounce the NATO actionIt said it only agreed to the No-Fly Zone arrangement as it believed it was meant to protect civilians. The League repeatedly reiterated its earlier statement that it only sanctioned the No-Fly Zone activities with the hope that it solely meant to protect civilians, not the bombardment of Libya.


At the end of March, the Libya Contact Group was launched in Britain and its first meeting was held in Doha, Qatar mid April. The Contact Group comprises of all the following countries; Britain, France and the United States of America. In the Middle East, it was first joined by Qatar and later the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. The purpose of this group is to raise and mobilize support for the Libyan rebels. In the Doha meeting, it was agreed that the Rebels should be given all necessary support – military, financial and political. Qatar was first to give military support as it sent its war planes to Libya to be used by the NATO forces.


A second round meeting for the Contact Group was held on May 5, 2011 in Rome, Italy. In this meeting, further support and pledges for the rebels were solicited. An emergency fund was then established in this meeting whereby the governments of Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and United Arab Emirates joined forces with the Western Powers and pledged to pump in huge sums of money to the rebels through the fund. Financial pledges worth billions of US Dollars were made. Leading them was the State of Qatar which pledged a total of US$500 million dollars. It was followed by Kuwait with US$180 million. The other countries promised to make contributions within a week's time as they were still going to consult and evaluate the situation.

SPORTS
Since sports continue to play a pivotal in the creation of employment and boosting the tourism industry, the Embassy has made attempts to establish mutual working relationships and cooperation with some of Qatar's world class sports organizations. On 13th December 2010, the Ambassador and his delegation were taken for an extensive tour of Aspire Sport Academy Complex. The Embassy later wrote a letter to the General Manager of the facility expressing its willingness to establish a much closer working relationship aimed at enhancing cultural and sports ties between the two countries. Aspire Sport Academy is an indoor and outdoor facility housing an approved FIFA and IAAF 50 000 seat athletics track and football stadium. Other sporting events such as Olympic size swimming pools, Gymnastics, Tennis, Handball, Martial Arts, Volleyball, Basketball courts etc are also catered for. This institution has fully fledged hired professionals for all the sport disciplines. Their purpose is to train the local and international athletes who reside within the campus.













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