The Scramble for the Southern Sudan

African Business, October 2011 | Go to article overview

The Scramble for the Southern Sudan


On 9th January 2005, after three years of intensive negotiations Sudan's civil war came to an end when the two warring parties, South Sudan and Northern Sudan, signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Nairobi, Kenya. While this pact ushered in a new chapter for Sudan, to neighbouring countries and superpowers alike, it signalled a scramble for a piece of the pie that is South Sudan.

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A race for South Sudan's resources has been intensely under way over the last five years, with the US, China, India, Norway, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa are in the forefront.

Other players involved include Malaysia, Sweden and some members of the Arab League. All these countries have embassies and consulates in both Juba and Khartoum. At stake are South Sudan's massive oil boom, lucrative mining, infrastructure, telecommunications, medical supplies, educational, tourism, agriculture, supplies and defence contracts.

Tales of large-scale bribery, underhand dealings and official malfeasance underscore the real 'scramble for South Sudan'. Accusations of corruption among ministers continue to dog President Salva Kiir's new cabinet.

In more ways than one, these factors not only affect the economies of all these countries involved but also shape their foreign policies and realign their international relations and obligations. In other words, there has been a radical paradigm shift within South Sudan, largely driven by the profit motive.

Battle for land leases

The scramble for Juba also extends to large land-based investments sometimes referred to as 'land grabbing'. Foreign interests have managed to secure some 5.74m hectares of land for agriculture, forestry, biofuels, ecotourism and carbon trading.

Leading the pack in the large land-based investments is Al Ain Wildlife, a United Arab Emirati outfit which has been granted a 30-year lease on the entire Boma National Park covering 2,280,000ha in the Eastern Equatoria and Jonglei States. Al Ain Wildlife intends to construct hotels, tented resorts and promote conservation.

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Some 75km out of Juba, in the Central Equatoria State, an American company, Nile Trading and Development, has leased 600,000ha to 'develop, produce and exploit timber and forestry resources on the leased land'. In the lease agreement, Nile Trading and Development has a right to extend its investments to 1,000,000ha.

In Unity State, another US firm, Jarch Management, has already leased some 400,000ha for agribusiness and negotiations are still underway for a further 400,000ha.

Prince Badr bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia has been granted a 25-year lease on some 105,000ha in Gwit for agricultural purposes.

Others involved in seeking large-scale land-based investments in South Sudan include Central Equatoria Teak Company (UK/Finland), Madhvani (Uganda), Green Resources (Norway) and its South Sudan subsidiary TreeFarms, Blue Lakes (Kenya), MAJ Foundation (India), Fenno Caledonian (Finland), Citadel Group (Egypt), and the Australian outfit Concorde Agriculture.

Africans toe to toe with multinationals

Interestingly, the scramble for business in Juba has seen strong African entrepreneurs going toe to toe with the more monied US, UAE, China, EU and Indian firms. …

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