South Sudan: Challenges and Opportunities

South Sudan became independent in 2011 from Sudan after waging   two wars (1956 to 1972& 1983 to 2005) with referendum done under the supervision of the United Nations. To begin with there were 10 states and by December 2015 there are 28 states in South Sudan. It is larger in geographical area as compared to Sudan with an estimated population of 11 million. States are subdivided in to County and Payam and Boma.

Traditional justice is the order of the day in most of the areas as modern government machinery is unheard of in rural areas.

The internal conflict of  Dec 2013  was a big  blow to the  good  governs of the  country as it was more of ethnic nature  resulting in the fleeing or killing of  thousands of the  citizens. Thus the clock of development was put backward and many of the development interventions were put in the back burner decelerating the economic growth potential. Many  units  of  production were shut  down for  good or  shifted  to  safer  countries  resulting in  job losses.

There are many tribes. The most dominant are  Dinkas  and Nour.  But  majority are  Dinkas. Other tribes are  many spread all over the  country. One  important feature of  the  tribes is that most of  them  are mostly  polygamists  with as many as  seven to  10  wives.

The  average life  expectancy in the rural areas is  said  to be 70 plus despite poor medical facilities and rampancy  of  poverty  and illiteracy. Infrastructure facilities if  something to mention are  only  confined  to Juba the national  capital of South Sudan. Main roads are  tarred only in  Juba  and  that   too some extent  only not  exceeding 20km. UN establishment s   are fully secured and  all diplomatic missions  too.

Hospitals are a kind  of  apology  for health services. There  are  a few  universities. But schools and colleges are coming with new avenues of empowerment offering new hope to the lost millions due to long waged wars.

Air port is a kind of touchdown place for air crafts. After  alighting from air craft,  one  is  required to  walk in the rain  and  sun for five to ten minutes to reach immigration where  one is harassed for  bribes despite having  visa etc. Here begins  the  rude  shock of the  country with  poor  roads and crazy traffic. It  seems  the independent  country was trying to  build   a national capital  air port  without  much  success. Now it is said that with Chinese help air port may become a dream realised within five years if further internal upheavals do not hamper it. It is  a very  volatile  place and can have  any kind  skirmishes at any  time. Even the  creation of  28 states in December  2015 from the  existing  10 is  a matter of political   troubles. Peace negation teams  from  neighbouring  countries are in and out to  settle  many a dispute.

Security  threat map  shows the  capital city is in level IV needing night  curfew dusk to  dawn. The  rich oil drilling area is situated in the  northern  region and its  pipe lines  pass through Sudan and  they charge their  fees as  agreed  up on in the peace  agreement. As  world  oil prices are  declining, the oil revenue earnings  of  South Sudan is affected  badly too. 98  per cent of the GDP is  accounted by oil  alone.

Other sectors which contribute to national economy are agriculture. Here food crops and cattle constitute a major portion. It is a landlocked country. Only lakes and River Nile make good source of fishing. Juba is on the bank of the   Nile and it is a very fertile land for cultivation to make quick money for this starving country.  Much of the vegetables and other food items come to the country from Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. The  dry  weather is  good for  growing  all kinds of  exotic food  crops and  vegetables. People are to be trained and motivated by the ministry of Agriculture and FAO to make them sustainable as per the SDGs of the UN.

There  are  many Ugandans here seeking  work,  running  small businesses like Ethiopians ,Eritreans, Kenyans and Indians. Some  are  good  entrepreneurs. They  provide  employment  to many  locals and  augment the  process  of  development.

Crime  rate is  increasing may be  due  to illiteracy and unemployment. Bribery is very much  everywhere. It  is  an accepted way  of life. Government  staff  are  paid very  poor. There  is difference in the  salary  scales  of  centre and state  government  employees. A state government employee is paid USD equal of 30 it is just enough for him to buy a bag of cooking charcoal. Price  of day to day  items  are  sky rocketing .With  average  family size  of 8 to  10 people  how would they manage to survive and   send  children to  schools is  the biggest challenge. The answer is simple beg, borrow, or steal or take bribe for everything.

Inflation is on its  way  up. Recently the currency was devalued.  The currency is known as South Sudan Pound (SSP). In July 2011 one USD was equal to 2.00SSP. Over a period of time it was officially at 2.96 and unofficially 19.20. But by this devaluation in Dec 2015 it is equal to 18.5 pounds with provisions of floating mechanism in place.  Inflation has made life miserable for the locals in terms of purchasing power.

A cursory look in the market shows the real picture as alarming. One kg  of rice  costs pound 25; sugar  20; tomato 30;  potato 20; carrot 40 ;corn flour 80; cassava 25;  sweet  potato 25; fish tilapia 75; chicken 80;  beef 110; one hair  cut 20; lemon one kg 40; minimum bus fare 5; petrol 22a litter; one  ripened  banana 5 ,cucumber 30,Cauli flower 25,  pineapple 30, green pepper 70, spring onion 30, garlic 150,French beans 40, cabbage 25 per number.

Two major health hazards are malaria and typhoid. It is very rampant during the rainy season. It really makes people suffer much in an otherwise poverty stricken country.

The Way Forward:

  • Political will is the first prerequisite for this country to move forward. They must get united above ethnic  lines and narrow and  parochial considerations  with  national pride as  it  is being  successfully  done in Rwanda, again  another  east African nation under its dynamic  leadership with  indomitable political
  • For nation building reconciliation based on truth and sagacity coupled with love for fellow human beings must be the North Star and the creed for all leaders. Leaders must learn from the famous Gettysburg speech of Abraham Lincoln. Kennedy said do not ask what the nation has done for you but ask what you can do for the nation building.
  • Inclusive growth strategy must be in place with a vision 2030 for South Sudan. Bottom up and top down planning process must be initiated without loss of time.
  • People’s participation must be assured in any development efforts as they are the final stakeholders.
  • One must bid farewell  to the trickledown theory of economic  development and  embrace a  culture  of include  and prosper while realising the paradigm development practised  erstwhile namely  amass and amass that Moses  and prophets as observed  by  Carl Max.
  • Corruption is a national curse and cancer which will ultimately kill the progress of the nation and bring about untold misery to millions of its population.
  • With the help of international community and UN agencies translate the MDGs and now SDGs of the UN realistically for South Sudan with forward and backward linkages to usher in prosperity to its millions by 2030.
  • Education is the starting point. During the wars many generations lost the gift to be empowered. But posterity must not be stolen of this right to educate and empower.
  • As 98 per cent of the national revenue is accounted by oil, efforts are needed to think of value addition like oil refining within the country with distributive justice.
  • Agriculture must be accorded top priority in plan outlays and in training framers with new methods of farming with value addition. A fully revamped agriculture sector is the need and challenge of this country. The fertile Nile delta to be profitably made use of. Millions of pound  going  to other  countries for  importing  food  items can be  saved  for  other  priorities of nation building.
  • National pride must come in the   form of good infrastructure  including  all weather roads,  health  facilities even in rural areas, a  flag  ship type  air port, drinking water ,etc.  One should   look at Rwanda as a possible model to be followed here too. In fact basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing must be considered non negotiable rights of the citizens.
  • In soviet Russia Joseph Stalin said to begin with,”Soviets plus electricity means economic development”. “ Soviets plus  roads  means development” “Soviets  plus  irrigation  and modern agriculture mean economic  well being for its  ” We need to learn many things from others to move faster to deliver as per SDGs of the UN by 2030. Why to waste time to reinvent the wheel?

(Dr  KM George; Email  melmana@gmail.com)