Sudan – Time, Hope and Patience

Sudan is a country in North-Eastern Africa which gained independence from Egypt and the UK in 1956. Previously called Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, the country has a rich history and before the split with South Sudan on 9 July 2011, united Sudan was the largest country in Africa and the Arab world by area. It is considered a treasure trove for archaeologists, due to a large number of prehistoric artefacts. Sudan’s post-independence history has been tumultuous, characterised by multiple coups and economic woes. These were exacerbated by international tensions – and later sanctions – following the government’s decision to allow terrorist leader Osama bin Laden to reside in Khartoum in the 1990s.

The country with a population of close to 42 Million (World Bank 2018) is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest. Khartoum is the capital and largest city of Sudan despite the most populous city being Omdurman. Islam is an integral part of Sudan’s social fabric and media landscape as well as a politically mobilizing and polarizing force. The Arab presence is estimated at 70% of the Sudanese population. By far the most popular tourist attraction in the country, the Pyramids of Meroe are one of the last remaining symbols from an ancient civilization. The best time to visit is just before sunset when the sun illuminates the structures with a golden hue. The Pyramids of Meroe were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2011. Sudan’s economy is basically agricultural, with inadequate infrastructure and ridden by the civil wars and social and ethnic conflict. Sudan lost most of its oil reserves (over 80 percent), after the secession of South Sudan. Unlike the rest of the Arab world that is mostly barren desert, Sudan has a significant size of arable land. The country has the potential to produce most of its food needs and export some to the Arab world. Despite Sudan accounting for less than 10% of Arab land, it counts for almost half of its arable land. GDP growth was an estimated 4.1% in 2018, up slightly from 3.3% in 2017. On the supply side, mining (growth of 6.3%), agriculture (3.7%), and manufacturing (1.5%) were the main contributors to growth. GDP growth is projected to be 3.6% in 2019 and 3.8% in 2020, benefiting from a strong commitment to ongoing macroeconomic policy and structural reforms, including removing tax exemptions and the like.

On the “Neil economic scale, a can of coke cost 18,58 SDG (R 6,00) and the price of litre petrol is 7,70 SDG (R 2,44). Sudan inflation rate though fluctuated substantially in recent years from 16.91% in 2016 to 63. 29% in 2019 with a projected rate of 50.43% in 2020.

Sudan faces key challenges include institutional and human capacity weaknesses, high youth unemployment, a high external debt burden, and climate change. However, there is hope with time and determination in Sudan as there are key opportunities include huge unexploited agricultural potential, an improved national policy environment, and private sector potential. Sudan also holds huge private investment opportunities in large-scale irrigated agriculture, dairy farming and animal husbandry, forest enterprises involving gum Arabic, and the leather supply chain for regional and global export, with the potential to increase national income and foreign exchange earnings by promoting exports of manufactured and semi-manufactured goods.