How Switzerland made this African country change its name (kind of)

French President Emmanuel Macron (R) poses with King Mswati III, Head of State, of eSwatini. Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP
"No Mr Macron, we are not neighbours". French President Emmanuel Macron (R) poses with King Mswati III, Head of State, of eSwatini. Photo: LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP
Constant confusion with Switzerland forced this African king to change his country's name (at least partially).

Someone mispronouncing or misspelling your name is annoying enough when ordering coffee or picking up a pizza, so imagine how the African nation formerly known as Swaziland felt when people kept confusing it for Switzerland. 

From having the wrong flags flown and a different anthem played at official events, to bizarre jokes about banks, chocolate and cheese, Swaziland was particularly perturbed by the continual confusion. 

The annoyance was so pronounced for Swaziland, that they decided they’d had enough of the mixups and would change their name entirely. 

“I would like to announce that from today onwards, our country will be known as the Kingdom of Eswatini,” said King Mswati III, when the name was changed in 2018. 

“Whenever we go abroad, people refer to us as Switzerland.”

The name was not just confused at events and functions, however. 

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly got the two countries mixed up in an investigation into hacking. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland or Swaziland? the FBI appears confused

While it might sound like a significant change, in reality the name means the same, but is expressed in the local language rather than in English. 

The name Eswatini – sometimes stylised almost in tech form as eSwatini – means ‘land of the Swazi’, who are the people who inhabit the state. 

Switzerland on the other hand has a more complicated history with regard to its name, although ‘land of the Swiss’ isn’t really that far off. 

READ MORE: Why is Switzerland called Switzerland?

Swiss confusion wasn’t the only reason for the name change however, with the alteration coming on the country’s 50th anniversary of independence. 

Mswati III said the country wanted to abandon the colonial associations brought with the name 

“Swaziland will now return to its original name” he said when making the announcement. 

Several southern African states have changed their names after independence, with Rhodesia becoming Zimbabwe, Nyassaland becoming Malawi, and Bechuanaland becoming Botswana.

Eswatini. Not a Rostigraben in sight.

For anyone who still might be a little confused, we’ve done up a short summary of the major similarities and differences between the two countries. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland versus Swaziland – how they stack up

Three years since the change was made, most International organisations have recognised the new name

Mswati III is Africa’s last absolute monarch and has come under fire for his lavish lifestyle, despite the vast majority of the country living in relative poverty. 

His official Twitter bio – or at least a relatively official-looking Twitter bio – is quick to mention his wealth. 


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