Swaziland Country Facts

By | May 21, 2024
Umbuso weSwatini
Capital city Mbabane
Surface 17,364 km²
Population 1,160,000
Road network length 3,800 km
Length of highway network 95 km
First highway 2003
Motorway name freeway
Traffic drives Left
License plate code SD

Swaziland, formally the Kingdom of eSwatini (Swazi: Umbuso weSwatini), is one of the smallest countries in Africa. The country has more than 1.1 million inhabitants, the capital is Mbabane with almost 100,000 inhabitants. The area is more than 17,000 km², comparable to half of the Netherlands.


Swaziland is located in southern Africa, sandwiched between South Africa and Mozambique. It is not located by the sea, but a relatively short distance from the Indian Ocean. The country measures approximately 130 by 175 kilometers. Swaziland consists of valleys, hills, low mountains and highlands. The northwest of the country is the most mountainous, with greater elevation changes and canyons. The 1,862 meter high Emlembe on the border with South Africa is the highest point in Swaziland.

Most of the country has a subtropical highland climate. The average maximum temperature in the capital Mbabane varies from 20 °C in winter to 25 °C in summer. Frost occurs sporadically on cold winter nights, but snow is very rare because winter is the dry season. Most precipitation falls in the summer, from October to March. Mbabane receives approximately 1,400 mm of precipitation per year, making it a relatively wet country.


Swaziland has a rapidly growing population, from just 300,000 in 1960 to 1.1 million in 2000 and 1.3 million today. The largest city in the country is Manzini, which has more than 100,000 inhabitants. The capital Mbabane has approximately 75,000 inhabitants. These are the only two real cities in the country, other places do not exceed the limit of 10,000 inhabitants. The population is therefore still relatively rural.

The Swazi are the largest population group. Their language is Swazi, also known as SiSwati. This is a Bantu language and is spoken by almost the entire population. It is also the official language, along with English. Most media is in English.


Swaziland is a developing country, a large part of the population works in agriculture to be self-sufficient. The economy is considerably less developed than South Africa. Swaziland’s exports mainly consist of various agricultural products. The main trading partner is neighboring South Africa.


The country was only slightly populated in the 19th century, when the current Swazi population migrated to this area. In the 19th century, whites also entered the country from South Africa. The border with South Africa was established in 1866, but the area was annexed by the British in 1868. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the British competed with the natives for power, which led to some power changes. Swaziland became truly independent in 1968. The country is a kingdom, on April 19, 2018, the king renamed the country to eSwatini, a name that has long been used for Swaziland.

Road Network

Swaziland has a network of approximately 1,500 kilometers of main roads and 2,268 kilometers of district roads. These roads are managed by the Roads Department. This is part of the Ministry of Public Works & Transport. In 2007, the Road Transportation Board was established.

The road network is largely relatively underdeveloped, there are really only two roads of significance, the MR3 as an east-west route and the MR8 as its branch to the southeast of the country. Swaziland has a series of border crossings with South Africa, but only two with Mozambique, in the north.

Highways in Swaziland

Swaziland has one motorway, consisting of the MR3, from the border with South Africa past the capital Mbabane and Manzini to the airport in eastern Swaziland. This highway consists of two parts (interrupted by Manzini) and is 95 kilometers long. In 2013, the section between Mbabane and Manzini had no highway status, despite having 2×2 lanes and grade separated connections. In 2022, the highway stretch from Manzini to Mafutseni opened.


The network of roads in Swaziland was developed mainly after World War II with financial support from the United States, Germany and the World Bank. In 1945 Swaziland had 1,070 kilometers of road, this had been increased to 1,510 kilometers in 1970, of which 114 kilometers were paved. In the 1970s, Swaziland’s road network was substantially expanded with support from the World Bank, with the First, Second & Third Highway Projects. However, much of the expansion at that time was also a reclassification of the road network. In 1977, Swaziland had an officially defined network of 2,709 kilometers of road, of which only 218 kilometers were asphalted.

In 1976 Swaziland had 21,000 motor vehicles, including 7,700 passenger cars. At the time, the transport of goods was mainly done with small trucks with a loading capacity of 3 tons. From the 1980s onwards, the use of larger trucks increased. In the 1970s, several thousand vehicles per day drove on the MR3 between Mbabane and Manzini and 200 to 500 vehicles per day on most main roads and less than 200 vehicles per day on district roads.

Swaziland’s first high-quality road was built in the 1990s, the double-lane road from Mbabane to Manzini, which was completed in the period 1995-1999. De-facto this is a motorway, although it is not so signposted. Opened in 2003, the section between the border with South Africa and Mbabane was Swaziland’s first signposted motorway. In 2009 the Mbabane bypass opened as the closing piece between these two highways. Later, in 2022, a 40-kilometer highway between Manzini and King Mswati III International Airport was opened. This gave Swaziland 95 kilometers of motorway, of which 83 kilometers belong to the MR3.

List of main roads

# No. Route Length
MR1 Motjane – Piggs Peak – Matsamo (gr. South Africa) 87 km
MR2 Piggs Peak – Ndziigenii – Madlangempisi 38 km
MR3 Ngwenya (gr. South Africa) – Mbabane – Manzini – Lonhlupheko – Ngomane – Lomahasha (gr. Mozambique) 165 km
MR4 Luyengo – Cana – Emahlatini (gr. South Africa) 47 km
MR5 Mafutseni – Luve – Madlangempisi – Mananga (gr. South Africa) 86 km
MR6 Madlangempisi – Buhleni – Ngonini 47 km
MR7 Lonhlupeko – Siteki – Mhlumeni (gr. Mozambique) 41 km
MR8 Hhelehhele – Big Bend – Lavusima (gr. South Africa) 130 km
MR9 Manzini – Hlatikhulu – Nhlangano – Mahamba (gr. South Africa) 107 km
MR10 Hlatikhulu – Ngudzeni – Maloma 48 km
MR11 Nhlangano – Mhlosheni – Lavumisa 90 km
MR12 MR10 – Mhloshenic 20 km
MR13 Sicunusa – Nhlangano 39 km
MR14 Siphofaneni – Sithobela – Nsoko 82 km
MR16 Kalanga – Big Bend 38 km
MR18 Matsapha – Malkerns – Bhunya 33 km
MR19 Mbabane – Bhunya – Nerston (gr. South Africa) 78 km
MR20 Piggs Peak – Bulembu (gr. South Africa) 21 km
MR21 Anysspruit – Hlushwana – Unexpected (gr. South Africa) 34 km
MR24 Tsaheni – Ngomane 32 km
MR25 Sithobela – Kubuta – Hlatikulu 40 km
MR26 MR9 – Hlatikulu – MR9 10 km
MR27 Mahlanya – Malkerns 6 km
MR32 Piggs Peak – Maguga Dam – Nkhaba 29 km
Main roads in Swaziland (eSwatini)
MR1 • MR2 • MR3 • MR4 • MR5 • MR6 • MR7 • MR8 • MR9 • MR10 • MR11 • MR12 • MR13 • MR14 • MR16 • MR18 • MR19 • MR20 • MR21 • MR24 • MR25 • MR26 • MR27 • MR32


The signage in Swaziland follows the pattern of South Africa, although it is noticeable that the signage is in much worse condition than in the neighboring country and there are also far fewer signposts. Anyway, almost all roads are signposted with green signs with white text on them. Swaziland ‘s motorways are signposted with blue signs with white text on them. The road numbers are indicated in golden yellow plain text with their prefix and number.

The font used on the signs is DIN1451. The only language on the signage is English.

Maximum speed

Swaziland follows SADC’s standards for speed limits, with a speed limit of 120 km/h on motorways, which is relatively high given the MR3’s winding route and the fact that it is often pedestrianized.


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