Mbabane, 24 August 2017. The Micro Finance Unit, a subsidiary of the Ministry of Finance, in 2015 commissioned for the first time in Swaziland, the FinScope MSME Survey Swaziland 2017. The survey was conducted between October 2016 and March 2017. The Survey amongst other things sought to determine the performance of the MSME sector as well establishing the level of financial inclusion of the MSME sector in Swaziland.

About FinScope MSME Surveys

The FinScope MSME Survey, developed by FinMark Trust, is a research tool to assess financial access in a country and to identify the constraints that prevent financial service providers from reaching the financially under- and un-served MSME owners. The FinScope Survey is a nationally representative survey of how MSME owners started, operating and growing their businesses and how they manage their businesses’ financial interest. It also provides insights into MSME owners’ attitudes and perceptions regarding financial products and services. FinScope MSME Swaziland involved a range of stakeholders engaging in a comprehensive consultation process, thereby enriching the survey. The Survey Steering Committee comprising of the following organizations/Ministries, the Ministry of Commerce Industry and Trade through the SME Unit, the Ministry of Economic Planning and Development through the Central Statistical Office, the Small Enterprise Development Company (SEDCO), the Central Bank of Swaziland and the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA). The Survey Steering Committee provided guidance throughout the implementation of the Survey. On 27 July 2017, the Micro Finance Unit and FinMark Trust released the Survey Topline findings to members of the Survey Steering Committee and the Survey results are officially launched today to the public. To date, FinScope MSME Surveys have been conducted in eight countries including Swaziland.


A total of 405 Enumeration Areas (EAs) were sampled using probability proportional to size (PPS) based on the CSO 2007 census. These EAs included 95 urban and 310 rural areas. All households in the selected EAs were then listed constituting roughly 62 180 households. Within the EAs, all MSME owners were identified. Within each selected EA, six qualifier business owner households within rural EAs and twelve qualifier households within urban EAs were systematically selected from the listed MSMEs. The selection process used for households with more than one business owner included the use of a Kish Grid to randomly select the qualifying household member. A total of 3 024 interviews with MSME owners were conducted by Ipsos during 4 October 2016 to 10 March 2017. The survey was weighted to the adult population of Swaziland estimated to be around 600 thousand adults. MSMEs are defined by the number of employees, turnover and value of assets and sub-category according to the SMME policy for Swaziland (2009). For the purposes of this survey, the term MSME includes ‘informal businesses’ which refers to enterprises that are not registered or licensed with the relevant institution within Swaziland. The MSMEs were categorised using number of employees only as this is the most reliable measure of size. The categories of individual entrepreneur (0 employees); micro- business (1 to 3 employees); small business (4 to 1o employees); and medium business (11 to 50 employees) were thus created in line with the existing country definition.

Key findings of the Survey

Business profile

The overall MSME sector in the country as of January 2017 is estimated to consist of 59 283 business owners. Three in four business owners fall in the individual entrepreneur category while 18% fall under micro- businesses, 7% under small businesses and only one percent under the medium enterprises. The sector employs approximately 92 643 people. Swazi MSME business owners are typically local citizens and the majority (74%) fall within the 35 years or older bracket. It was also found that MSME business owners are the head of the household and 74% are based in rural areas. There are more female MSME business owners (65%) than male business owners (35%) in the individual entrepreneur category with fewer and fewer female business owners identifying as micro and small business entrepreneurs. Three in five business owners rely on their business as their only source of personal income. The largest proportion of MSME business owners operate in the agricultural sector specialising in crop cultivation. The educational background of Swaziland MSME business owners is diverse, with 72% having a secondary education qualification or higher – 46% taught themselves the skills required to manage a business, with 11% indicating some work experience before venturing into their own business. The largest sector in which most businesses operate in is wholesale/retail (39%). The remaining businesses operate in the agriculture/farming sector (23%) followed by the community and household sector at 14%. Looking at industrialising sector, businesses in manufacturing had 13% while construction contributed 3%.

Formalisation and age of businesses

MSMEs in Swaziland are relatively established or mature making 49% of the sector; majority (68%) reported that their businesses are more than 3 years in operation. In total, a quarter of all MSME owners reported that their businesses are registered. The bulk of the MSMEs are registered with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Commerce. Of the registered MSMEs, 56% is owned by individuals (sole proprietors), 23% are private limited companies and 7% are in partnerships. In terms of operating location, the study indicated that 41% of small businesses operate from residential premises, with 15% operating from door to door and 13% on the street.

Financial inclusion levels

The survey indicated that about 87% (52 000) of business owners are financially included while 13% of business owners (7 200) are financially excluded – i.e. they do not use any financial products or services (neither formal nor informal) to manage their business finances. About 41 000 of business owners are banked (69%) and 66% (39 000) have/use other formal non-bank products and services such as having mobile money accounts. The survey showed that the financial inclusion differences between urban and rural usage of financial products lies in the extent of usage of bank products and exclusive reliance on informal mechanisms (illustrating the role of the informal sector in terms of pushing out the boundaries of financial inclusion, especially in rural areas). About 76% business owners in urban areas are banked while 67% in rural areas are banked. Around 12% rural business owners rely only on informal mechanisms to manage their financial lives, as opposed to 8% of urban business owners.


According to the survey results, about three in five business owners do not have a bank account. 69% of business owners have a bank account. Of those with bank accounts only 14% are in the name of the business and 86% use their personal bank account to manage their businesses’ financial needs. The study showed transactions are most common among businesses with a bank account with savings being moderate with banked businesses while credit penetration is very low at 7% of the banked businesses. Around 54% of MSME owners deposited all or some of the revenue for the business within the past month and 96% of business transacted in the past month. The main drivers for banking are related to referrals and promotions whereby 38% chose a bank account because it was advertised by commercial banks. About one in three were banked because it was recommended by friends or family. Very few business owners chose a bank due to its product/service offering (suggesting a lack of appropriateness of banking products and services tailored to the MSMEs). The main barriers related to banking are affordability with business owners indicating that they are not banked due to monetary reasons (21% reported low income and 19% reported irregular income).

Borrowing and credit

The study indicated that 89% of business owners do not borrow or did not borrow money for business purposes in the past 12 months prior to the survey. This is at the back of the findings that show that there are three broad categories of business constraints; obstacles inhibiting starting a business, obstacles inhibiting smooth operations, and obstacles inhibiting growing the business. The common thread across the board is access to finance. About 60% of business owners reported access to finance as the leading obstacle in starting a business, 49% of owners reported access to finance limiting operations while 25% attributed it to inhibiting growth. Further analysis showed that only 5% of businesses currently access credit from the commercial banking sector. This suggests that Swaziland, although having suppliers with products channelled at the MSMEs, may not have appropriate financial services targeting MSMEs. This in turn creates huge opportunities for microfinance institutions that could serve the purpose of grooming the MSMEs to a point where they are bankable though micro-loans and creating credit history. It can be argued that some borrowing is seasonal or cyclical. Hence, further analysis of the findings explored borrowing that occurred in the past 12 months as the business owner may not currently be borrowing. This slightly increased the credit penetration of banks from 5% current borrowers to 8% in total including those borrowing in the past 12 months. Borrowing from other formal (non-bank) increased to 5% from 1% and overall borrowing including all sources increased from 11% to 20%.

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About FinMark Trust

FinMark Trust (FMT) is an independent trust established in 2002 with the objective of making markets work for the poor. Initial core funding was provided by UKaid from the Department for International Development (DFID) through its Southern Africa office. Recently additional funders have come on board including the UNCDF, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the MasterCard Foundation as well as private and public institutions at country level. FinMark Trust’s purpose is ‘Making financial markets work for the poor, by promoting financial inclusion and regional financial integration’. FinMark Trust does this by conducting research to identify the systemic constraints that prevent financial markets from reaching out to these consumers and by advocating for change on the basis of research findings. Please visit for more information.


About Micro Finance Unit

The Ministry of Finance established the Micro-Finance Unit (MFU) in September 2010 to facilitate the development and sustainability of the microfinance sector in the country. This should enable the sector to continue to effectively contribute to the development of rural communities. The objective of the MFU is to facilitate the provision of efficient and effective financial services on a sustainable basis; the development of an enabling and enhanced environment for business development in rural areas; and the establishment of micro- and small-scale enterprises as well as business services in rural areas. FinScope

FinScope was launched in 2002 by the FinMark Trust ( Its purpose is to establish credible benchmarks on the use of, and access to, financial services. It is designed to highlight opportunities for innovation in products and delivery and also identify constraints. The FinScope survey is a comprehensive and national representative study on financial inclusion, looking at how people or small businesses source their income and manage their financial lives. It has been implemented in 29 countries (14 in SADC, 8 non-SADC Africa and 7 in Asia). FinScope MSME surveys have been conducted in eight countries including Swaziland.