South Africa business urged to invest in South Sudan

15:31, July 16, 2011      

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"South Africa business expertise" can render big contribution in rebuilding South Sudan, an expert of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) said on Friday, advising business to "explore opportunities"that will help in developing the economy of Africa's newest state.

As South Africa's ruling Africa National Congress (ANC) National chairperson Baleka Mbete called for business to consider investing in the development of South Sudan, the call was joined by Petrus de Kock, researcher of SAIIA's Governance for Africa's Resources Program.

Emerging from decades of North-South conflicts, South Sudan was declared a sovereign state on July 9.

"It is a good opportunity for South Africa business to explore opportunities. There are several opportunities due to the level of underdevelopment at all levels in the South Sudan economy," the researcher said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

SAIIA is South Africa's premier research institute on international issues. It is an independent, non-government think- tank whose purpose is to encourage wider and more informed awareness of the importance of international affairs. The Institute was founded in 1934.

The autonomy of South Sudan marks the opening of its new drive towards reconstruction and development, it ashes a process where institutions must work together to consolidate democracy and government addressing critical challenges that the new country faces.

In an analysis published by SAIIA titled "The celebrations and tribulations of Southern Sudan's Independence", de Kock said South Sudan's independence ends "a long and very painful history of North-South conflict."

Since gaining independence from Britain in 1956, Sudanese people from both the north and south have had to endure two civil wars that lasted a total of 40 years.

The first civil war began in 1955, a few months before independence as the state of Sudan, and lasted until 1973. The second civil war started in 1983 and ended 23 years later in 2005, with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).

According to de Kock, the key immediate challenges to South Sudan include lack of basic infrastructure and the need to form a cohesive national identity.

"The main challenges in South Sudan pertains to infrastructure i.e. roads,water provision, construction, communications infrastructure etc, South Africa business expertise can make a big contribution to these areas," de Kock said.

The senior researcher also singled deficiency of skilled workforce as a key factor that requires serious and immediate considerations. Lack of skilled human resources thwarts swift development and economic growth of a nation.

"There is a need for training and skills development to help the economy diversify in the long term, South Africa business can play a role on that front as well," de Kock told Xinhua.

The ANC and Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) have strong party to party history and relations forged over many years of struggle for freedom for the people of South Africa and South Sudan.

Since the formation of the SPLM in 1983, the two political movements shared common vision for a democratic, non-racial and sexist society. The two revolutionary parties shared offices Harare in the 1980s. After 1994 the ANC handed over its offices and property to the SPLM.

On Tuesday Mbete said the ANC established a Sudan Task Team (STT)that will work with SPLM to ensure speedy development and reconstruction in Africa's 54th state and United Nations (UN)'s 193rd member.

"There are many opportunities lets go there," Mbete who led the ANC delegation to South Sudan inauguration said responding to question during her press briefing on South Sudan Tuesday.

"There is space I want to encourage business people in Africa and in particular here in South Africa...go there, there is a lot that you can do.. opportunities are there," the senior politician said.

Mbete, former South Africa deputy president who emphasized that the responsibility of developing South Sudan lies in the hands of Africa, said areas of priority are construction, infrastructure, housing and tourism.

"I will encourage those that I know, we will speak to those we know in the business sector," Mbete said when Xinhua asked if the ANC was going to convince the business sector to participate.

De Kock said there is huge mining and agricultural investments opportunities in Juba and advised South Africa mining companies to work with the government in advancing their interests.

"SA mining companies can engage the government into exploration activities due to a substantial mineral resource base that has largely been untouched due to decades of civil war. There are also opportunities for engaging in agricultural development and food production," he said.

However, the Governance for Africa's Resources expert urged the business to cautiously study the political circumstances in Juba before entering the markets.

"It would also be necessary to study internal political dynamics carefully to assess risks of investing in southern Sudan, " de Kock told Xinhua.

De Kock said trade between Africa countries and regional integration processes are still a strategic goal to stimulate African economic growth and in Africa's newest state.

Source: Xinhua
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