Renaming a brand, a product, or a company is a huge, complex project. Have you ever thought about what happens when a country undergoes a name change?
The African nation of Swaziland is doing just that. It was announced in April that Swaziland was changing its name to "eSwatini," which means "home of the Swazi people." The new name eSwatini isn't completely "new" — a lot of the residents already use it locally — but the renaming announcement made by the country's King Mswati III on his 50th birthday, during the country's celebrations marking 50 years of independence from Great Britain,reportedly caught many citizens by surprise.
According to an AFP news agency report, the king said: "African countries on getting independence reverted to their ancient names before they were colonized. So from now on the country will be officially be known as the Kingdom of eSwatini." He also cited another reason for the name change: "Whenever we go abroad, people refer to us as Switzerland."
As King Mswati pointed out, Swaziland isn't the first African nation to change its name. Rhodesia changed its name to Zimbabwe, Nyasaland became Malawi, and Bechuanaland is now Botswana.
So what's the process and cost involved in changing a country's name? Darren Olivier, writing on Afro-IP, estimates that it will cost about $6 million, excluding "any legal cost associated with the name change." Olivier points out that as a member of the Paris Convention, Swaziland/eSwatini is entitled to international protection of its name "at no or little cost."
There are a significant number of physical changes to consider — things like signage, stationery, government documents — and the time it takes to prepare them and roll them out. The country's Home Affairs Ministry said it will hold down costs associated with the renaming by rolling out changes gradually. Along those same lines, the king issued an official notice that international agreements and legal contracts referring to Swaziland will be understood to refer to eSwatini, rather than requiring updates to a huge number of documents.