Everyone wants a piece of the pie that is Juba, South Sudan.
Almost a year before the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Nairobi Kenya intense lobbying had begun. The signing of the CPA on 9th January 2005 unleashed a frenzied scramble for Juba’s resources.
While the CPA is widely acknowledged as having initiated a new dawn in the Sudan, it also triggered off an economically hewn interest attracting both the developed and the developing nations.
The successful South Sudan secession referendum in January 2011 and eventual independence celebration cooled the frayed nerves of many who had adopted a wait-and-see attitude over South Sudan.
However it is instructive to note that since 2005 USA, China, India, Norway, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Turkey, Kenya, Uganda and South Africa and their respective private sectors have been in the forefront seeking to secure business concessions with the new nation. To make this easier and faster all these nations have embassies and consulates in both Juba and Khartoum. Southern Sudan’s massive oil boom, tourism concessions, logging, lucrative mining and infrastructure tenders, medical supplies, education, financial services, agriculture, defense contracts and commodities supplies are a glee to many triggering what is now politically referred to as “land grab”.
The Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) commissioned investigations on the alleged “land grab” in South Sudan which culminated into a 48-page dossier dubbed “The New Frontier”. The dossier reveals that in the period 2007 to 2010 “foreign interests sought or acquired a total of 2.64 million hectares of land (6.52 million acres) in the agriculture, forestry and biofuel sectors alone.”
According to the report’s author David Kuol Mading “That is a larger land area than the entire country of Rwanda,” said the report’s author, David Kuol Mading. “If domestic investments, tourism and conservation are added, the figure rises to 5.74 million hectares (14.17 million acres), or nine percent of Southern Sudan’s total land area.”.
“With the nascent state of government, a society still reeling from years of conflict, and the legal ambiguity of the transitional period, there is also a danger that this influx of investment, if left unchecked, may serve to undermine livelihoods,” the report says.
Foreign interests into the South Sudan pie have managed to secure some 5.74 million hectares of land for agribusiness concerns namely agriculture, forestry, biofuels, eco-tourism and carbon trading.
Exactly two years after the signing of the CPA, the well known wildlife lobby Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) conducted an aerial survey which revealed thriving wildlife in large hordes, along the South Sudan Savannah and sudland. In comparison WCS compared the South Sudan savannah wildlife to the ones found in Tanzania’s Serengeti plains. This revelation debunked the myth that South Sudan had no wildlife and at the same gave rise to new investments interests on tourism and conservation.
Indeed the largest land deal detailed in the report is primarily hinged on wildlife conservation and tourism. It is the leasing of 2,280,000 hectares (5,631,600 acres) in Boma National Park which is situated in Jonglei state to an Emirati company Al Ain Wildlife. Under the agreement, Al Ain National Wildlife will construct high-end class hotels and tented resort camps within the park. In this stake the Government of South Sudan (GOSS) is said to have a concession of only 35%. Incidentally, public consultations and local community involvement were not factored in when this deal was struck.
This is followed by US firms Nile Trading and Development and Jarch Management, which have leased 600,000 hectares (1,482,000 acres) in Central Equatoria state and 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) in oil-rich Unity state for agricultural investments. The latter scheme results from a controversial deal which was signed two years ago between Jarch, a New York-based investment house, and former warlord turned deputy commander of the SPLA General Paulino Matip.
Prince Budr Bin Sultan of Saudi Arabia has been granted a 25 year lease on some 105,000ha in Gwit for agricultural purposes. According to the dossier others involved in seeking large scale land based investments in South Sudan include Central Equatoria Teak Company (UK/Finland), Madhvani (Uganda), Green Resources (Norwegian) and its South Sudan subsidiary TreeFarms, Blue Lakes (Kenyan), MAJ Foundation (Indian), Fenno Caledonian (Finnish), Citadel Group (Egyptian), and the Australian outfit Concorde Agriculture.
China National Oil Petroleum Corporation, Malaysian oil giant Petronas, Moldovian oil Company Ascom Group, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) Videsh and Sweden’s Lundin are exploring and exploiting oil in Jonglei state. According to Minority Rights Group International, French oil giant Total also holds massive oil concessions in Jonglei.
In the name of assisting the new nation come into being, the reality however showcases personal, national interest and little to do with philanthropy. Putting all these in perspective, tales of large scale bribery, underhand dealings and official malfeasance denotes the real ‘scramble for the South Sudan’. Accusations of corrupt ministers continue to dog President Salva Kiir’s new cabinet.
Widow of the liberation hero John Garang, Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior has found herself on hot soup for criticizing Kiir’s government and condemning corruption in cabinet. She was first demoted from her roads and transport cabinet portfolio and appointed to a less glamorous post of Special Adviser on Gender and human rights.
In more ways than one all 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.
Interestingly the scramble for business in Juba has seen strong African entrepreneurs pushing the limits off the savvy and more monied US, UAE, China, EU and Indian firms. Leading African nations entrenching their businesses in South Sudan include South Africa, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia and Egypt.
South Sudan is Uganda’s main export market, importing goods worth $184.6 million in 2009, according to the Uganda Exports Promotions Board. Kenyan exports to South Sudan were worth $157.7 million the same year. Apart from Nairobi, Khartoum, Cairo, Kampala and Addis Ababa the other major African player in Juba is Pretoria.
South African interests in Juba kicked off in earnest in 2004 when Mechem a subsidiary of Denel (the South African arms parastatal) began its demining operations in Southern Sudan. Mechem which is known globally for its mines removal and battle grounds clearance is still undertaking its operations in Southern Sudan today. As of last year it had cleared 9050km of road removing 3237 anti personnel, unexploded ordinances (UXO), anti tank land mines. This is only a tip of the ice-berg of SA’s involvement in South Sudan. South Sudan is said to purchase much of its weaponry from Denel and even training of its key security personnel is conducted by the South African Defense Forces (SADF).
Lately South African Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) have intensified their engagement with Southern Sudan paving way for an influx of South African businesses making inroads in Juba. In February 2009 a Breakfast Roundtable hosted by the DFA bringing together, South African business magnates and Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) ministers opened the floodgates of the scramble for the South Sudan pie not just by private South African firms but also government parastatals. In July 2009 under the DTI led some 20 South African public and private sector companies on a trade and investment mission to South Sudan. The 20 companies covered, telecommunications, agriculture, forestry, water purification, timber, financial services, infrastructure development, energy and minerals, SAB Miller has invested over R354 million in the South Sudan Beverages Limited. PetroSA has oil concession rights and Global Engineering Consortium SA signed a $21 million contract with Sudan Railway Corporation. New Kush Exploration Company registered in both South Africa and UK has been awarded several exploration rights for gold and uranium in South Sudan.
At the heart of these business deals is the South African-Sudanese Joint Business Council. Spoornet, Denel, Arivia, Safcol, SAB Miller, Mechem among other South African entities have all dipped their fingers on Southern Sudan’s pie of timber, technology, infrastructure and defense contracts. Intensive South African interests in the Sudan are said to have nosedived during the tenure of President Thabo Mbeki. To this day Mbeki, is deeply involved in the peace process of the Sudan. He is still the chairperson of the African Union High Level Implementation Panel for Sudan.
With the emergence of a new republic, the scramble has just reached fever pitch and Pretoria, Washington, Mumbai, Beijing, Nairobi, Kampala, Addis Ababa, Bangkok, Istanbul are upping their game. These are among the key issues that ascertain the deep involvement of foreign nations in Juba.
Some foreign entities in South Sudan:
Kenya Commercial Bank – Kenya
Equity Bank – Kenya ,
UAP Insurance – South Africa
SAB Miller – South Africa
Mechem – South Africa
Commercial Bank of Ethiopia – Ethiopia
Itsalat International – Saudi Arabia
Petronas – Malaysia
Byblos Bank – Lebanon
China National Petroleum – China
RAK Ceramics – UAE
Barwa Real Estate – Qatar
Total – France
Arab Swiss Engineering Co (ASEC) – Egypt
Qatar National bank – Qatar
Delta Industries – Egypt
Emirates Bio Fertilizer – UAE
The Lundin Group – Sweden/Switzerland
ONGC-Videsh – India
ASCOM Group -Moldova
AUTHOR: Wanjohi Kabukuru
E-MAIL: wanjohi [at] positiveoutcomes.org
South Sudan seeks food and farmland investments
JUBA (Reuters) – South Sudan hopes to attract investors from Gulf Arab states, Israel, China and fellow African countries to boost production of basic food items, a government official said on Thursday.
Created in July after a 2005 peace agreement with Khartoum, Africa’s newest nation faces food shortages and grave economic challenges such as annual inflation at almost 80 percent in November.
Around 2.7 million South Sudanese will need food aid from next year as widespread violence and crop failures have hit hard farm production, according to the United Nations’ food programme.
South Sudan has held talks with investors from Gulf Arab states, Israel, China, Uganda and the Netherlands to invite them to invest into agricultural production, said Elizabeth Manoa Majok, undersecretary in the ministry of commerce, industry and investment.
“The government has made food production the top priority…80 percent of South Sudan depend on agriculture,” Majok said in an interview in the capital Juba.
“No serious commitment has been made so far….(but) interest of investors is big,” she said.
South Sudan wants with the help of investors to increase production of basic food items such as sugar, rice, cereals and oilseeds, livestock as well as cotton, she said.
“We import everything, even tomatoes. We should produce this ourselves,” Majok said. “We have the farmland, the resources.”
The government was preparing tenders to invite investors to revamp food factories damaged during the civil war and was also open to other partnerships such as farmland investments, she said without giving details.
Desert Gulf Arab countries have been trying to buy or lease farmland in Africa and Asia to secure food supplies but local famers have opposed such investments in some countries.
EAST AFRICA TRADE
Civil war waged for all but a few years since 1955 has left South Sudan with an almost complete lack of infrastructure and industry, aside from oil. The country has few paved roads outside Juba and large parts become inaccessible by ground transport during the rainy season.
Often described as one of the world’s least-developed nations, it has high levels of poverty, illiteracy and maternal mortality rates. Hospitals and schools are scarce.
South Sudan is also under pressure to diversify its economy away from oil generating 98 percent of state revenues. Oil reserves will halve by 2020 if no new finds are made, according to the International Monetary Funds (IMF).
To facilitate trade with East African countries such as Uganda and Kenya the government is considering setting up free trade zones in border areas, Majok said.
“Consultants are doing a study on free zones. We haven’t announced it yet,” she said.
Landlocked South Sudan depends for most of its needs on imports which are driving up inflation. Roads to Uganda and Kenya are poor and tensions with Khartoum have disrupted supplies from the north.
“Their loss is bigger than ours because we are a big market,” Majok said of tensions with Khartoum hitting bilateral trade.
Majok also said the government had passed new investment laws and was about to approve another package of bills to improve legal security for foreign firms.
South Sudan threatened by land grab
Four months before South Sudan becomes an independant nation nine percent of the country has been targeted by investors, a Norwegian People’s Aid report reveals.
Author: Tine Johansen
The report, The New Frontier, A baseline survey of large-scale investment in Southern-Sudan, is part of a baseline survey of large-scale land-based investment in Southern Sudan prepared for Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA). It presents data on 28 foreign and domestic investments planned or underway across the ten states of Southern Sudan. In just four years, between the start of 2007 and the end of 2010, foreign interests sought or acquired a total of 2.64 million hectares of land (26,400 km2) in the agriculture, forestry and biofuel sectors alone. That is a larger land area than the entire country of Rwanda.
- Jan Ledang, NPA South Sudan Country Director (left)
If one adds domestic investments, some of which date back to the pre-war period, and investments in tourism and conservation, the figure rises to 5.74 million hectares (57,400 km2), or nine percent of Southern Sudan’s total land area. While in theory, this influx of investment could provide development opportunities for rural communities, without the appropriate procedures in place there is a danger that it will serve to undermine livelihoods. Below are a series of recommendations that may help the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), its international partners, civil society, companies, investors, and rural communities in Southern Sudan to address the risks and opportunities of largescale land investments moving forward:
1. Adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure for all documents associated with large-scale land-based investments;
2. Develop clear jurisdictional roles for public institutions at all levels, including an appropriate balance between central oversight and state-level flexibility, and providing a role for the legislative branch in approving large-scale land allocations;
3. Consider establishing a graduated land ceiling in which the authorization of successively higher levels of government is required as the size of land allocations increases;
4. Consider a temporary moratorium on all land acquisitions above a certain size in order to allow time for the appropriate procedures to be put in place;
5. Establish a technical committee to review all existing contracts to ensure that they comply with relevant provisions of the 2009 Land Act, the 2009 Local Government Act, and the 2009 Investment Promotion Act;
6. Promote alternative business models that better account for the needs of local populations, such as giving communities an equity stake in the venture or maximizing the links between companies and smallholder producers living on or around the project area;
7. Explore opportunities for constructive engagement with companies that demonstrate a willingness to adhere to regulatory standards and prioritize the development needs of host communities.
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