More trade, investment needed in southern Sudan

Friday, February 27, 2009

Johannesburg - Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Sue van der Merwe has urged African countries to increase trade and investment with southern Sudan, to help the country tackle the challenges of post-conflict reconstruction.

Speaking at a trade and investment seminar in Johannesburg on Thursday, the deputy minister said while the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in January 2005 bringing an end to a long period of civil war in Southern Sudan, there were numerous challenges facing the country.

"There is still an enormous task of reconstructing and developing a region that has suffered from severe underdevelopment in all walks of life, including infrastructure and human resources," said the deputy minister.

She said these challenges could not be tackled alone and that African countries had to support the government. "We cannot be exclusively concerned with our own national interests, but we need to collectively tackle challenges facing us at regional and continental levels."

The deputy minister noted that the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) has been engaged in setting up institutions and structures of governance, the provision of basic services to the people of southern Sudan and in ensuring that the peace agreement brings lasting peace, security and stability in the region.

Deputy Minister van der Merwe said it was crucial that African countries support the GOSS, especially in areas of trade and investment.

She urged participants at the seminar to use the opportunity to forge the necessary partnerships in working towards the consolidation of peace in southern Sudan through economic development and by so doing advance the implementation of the peace agreement.

"Southern Sudan requires massive investment that would contribute to realising its potential," she said, adding that stimulating of the economic potential of Sudan would contribute to the development of the Horn of Africa region as well as the regeneration of the continent.

The deputy minister said that as Sudan progresses, economic opportunities would be extensive.

"Sudan will open up markets to the region, as southern Sudan's potential is unsurpassed in all sectors. It still remains an untapped territory in almost all areas, including agriculture, stock-farming and minerals, where vast areas remain unexplored," said Ms van der Merwe.

South Africa has been deeply involved with the post conflict reconstruction and development programmes of Sudan.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was the Chair of the African Union Committee on the Post-conflict Reconstruction and Development of Sudan and is also responsible for the engagement of African Union member states in the implementation of the peace agreement.

In November 2008, the department led a multi-sectoral delegation to southern Sudan to identify areas of co-operation in the socio-economic fields.

The department, in partnership with the GOSS and the University of South Africa (UNISA), is involved in a capacity and institution building project for southern Sudan. The project is aimed at capacitating government officials and in contributing to the strengthening of government institutions.

Over 1000 officials have already benefited from the project and South Africa is currently providing training to 39 officials from the GOSS Ministry of Legal Affairs, 25 officials from the GOSS Ministry of Mines and Energy and 20 officials from the GOSS Judiciary.

"Our South African Police Services (SAPS) are in the process of finalising preparations for the training of the Sudanese Police, and the department is also finalising preparations for assisting the Sudan National Electoral Commission, which has a mandate to oversee general elections in the Sudan in 2009," said Deputy Minister van der Merwe.

Also attending the seminar were the southern Sudan Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of the Investment Authority of Southern Sudan, Dr Luka Biong Deng; Minister of Regional Co-operation, Dr Marial B Benjamin; Minister of Trade and Industry, Mr Anthony Lino Makana as well as Ambassador of Sudan to South Africa, Kuol Alor.

Ms van der Merwe said South Africa was looking forward to strengthening bilateral relations with Sudan, particularly southern Sudan.