By Leon Louw, founder and editor of WhyAfrica
The post-revolutionary state of Sudan has made great strides since disposing of despot Omar al-Bashir in 2018. There are concerns though. The safety of its citizens and foreign investors is a pressing issue that new President Abdalla Hamdok needs to deal with.
The rise against Bashir and his Islamist National Congress Party was no doubt an inflection point in Sudan’s future trajectory. But Hamdok and his reformers have a mountain to climb in order to secure Sudan’s great potential and establish the country as the breadbasket of North and East Africa, as so many around the world claim it could be.
Hamdok boasts impressive credentials as a top development economist at the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa. Hamdok knows, more than anybody else, what is required to turn the country’s economy around.
The question is whether he can control the military and security forces and guarantee peace, stability, security, and the safety of Sudan’s citizens?
Hamdok’s government has introduced a range of economic reforms to improve the business climate in Sudan, which bodes well for companies looking to invest in Sudan.
Sudan’s great potential
Gold is found in abundance across Sudan. It is estimated that artisanal and small-scale miners are active in more than 14 of the country’s 18 states.
The African Development Bank (AfDB) recently approved a USD1.2-million grant to Ethiopia’s government to finance a feasibility study into a standard-gauge railway (SGR) link between Ethiopia and Sudan.
The railway line will link Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to Khartoum in Sudan, with an extension to Port Sudan on the Red Sea. The route, agreed by both governments, will stretch some 1522 kilometres from Addis Ababa to the Port Sudan.
Nigerian billionaire businessman Aliko Dangote is rumoured to have plans of establishing a flour processing plant in Sudan as well. Dangote has said on numerous occasions that Sudan’s proximity to large consumer markets like Egypt and the Middle East, makes of it a prime spot for exporting agricultural products.
According to the World Bank, only 30% of the arable land in Sudan is currently utilised. Moreover, farmers need to be linked to markets, and partnerships need to be established between farmers, agro-processors and foreign investors. This creates enormous opportunities and Sudan has indeed the potential to become the breadbasket of the region.
Lingering concerns about safety
However, concerns about safety and security remain. According to a recent report by the National Network for Social Justice residents of the Dar El Naim neighbourhood in the south of Port Sudan were attacked by individuals affiliated with the Central Reserve Forces and the regular armed forces last week.
According to the Network, one person was killed and several other wounded. This, according to reports, follows a similar attack on civilian residents of Omdurman earlier, where a number of civilians were killed.
In a statement, the National Network for Social Justice accused the Red Sea State Security Committee of bias and called for the withdrawal of the regular armed forces from the region, demanding their replacement with ethnically diverse and neutral forces.
The network further demanded the opening and protection of the Dar El Naim road and called on the government to clean out what it described as ‘gang outposts’ in the region.
In another incident the Coordination of Karari Resistance Committees accused the regular armed forces of killing five people and wounding dozens in districts 70 and 41 in Omdurman on the night of 01 July 2021.
These incidents and reports do not help Sudan’s cause and ambition to become a force in the region. That Sudan is on track and a lot safer, and more business friendly than what it was under Bashir’s rule is clear, but questions remain about safety and security, not only of business interests, but also of Sudan’s citizens.
Hopefully, safety, stability and security are on the Reformers’ list of priorities so that Sudan can start climbing the mountain to become the breadbasket of a region that has been in turmoil for much too long.
Leon Louw is the founder and editor of WhyAfrica. He specialises in natural resources and African affairs.
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