BY Paul Ndiho, Washington DC
JULY 7, 2011
Sudan’s south will mark independence from the North on Saturday, July 9, and the South’s government says it has thrown open its borders to foreign traders to supply goods, labor and expertise to help build its economy.
After the Comprehensive Peace Deal for Sudan was signed in 2005, foreign traders filled the gap left by the departure of many northerners. Neighboring vendors rushed to Southern Sudan, hoping to cash in on opportunities there.
The south’s After decades of conflict, Southern Sudan has almost no capacity to manufacture essential goods, and almost everything needs to be imported.
South Sudan is due to declare independence from the north on Saturday, and authorities are eager to build a robust environment for business to build the economy.
Bagat Minyang Chan, with Ivory Bank in Juba, says Juba has become a budding area of commerce.
“They (southerners) have been marginalized even in terms of there was no investment in the south before. People did not find themselves with the trade, not many people were trading because trade was in the north. Here you know before the agreement most of the traders were northerners.”
Chan says business people from neighboring countries are cashing in on supplying goods to the south.
“They (business people) are hopeful… there is investment and especially after the north closed the borders with the south, a lot of people have come to us for investment to bring goods, to bring goods from East Africa.”
Elizabeth Mungai from Kenya came to South Sudan in 2007 and now owns a shop selling imported general provisions in downtown Juba. She says she has no plans to leave and hopes for even bigger profits after July 9.
“Because I’ve been here for all that time, through the referendum, the elections I’ve been here, through separation …all those things I’ve been here so I proved there is no problem.”
Not only small traders are grabbing opportunities in South Sudan – banks, construction and agriculture companies, telecoms and financial firms are cashing in as well.
Gihad Ghalayini, a Lebanese businessman who came to South Sudan in 2008 and contracts with the government to supply vehicles. He operates across south Sudan and employs more than 30 people. But Ghallayini says investors have one need in particular:
“If we have land with proper land documentation, proper layout, proper titles then loads of investors will come, buy land, lease land, develop,”
South Sudan’s government says it aims to attract 500 billion dollars in Foreign Direct Investment over the next five years. South Sudan becomes the world’s newest country on July 9 and the 54th Nation on the African continent.