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Sudan's Economic Development Increases Despite Sanctions


Despite U.S. sanctions on the Khartoum government, the Sudanese economy is experiencing double digit growth. Infrastructure projects under way in the African country run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Khartoum.

The economy in Sudan is booming, despite U.S. sanctions and the fact that many Western nations believe this is a country where investment is too risky. The Economist Intelligence Unit has estimated a 10.3 percent growth in gross domestic profit in Sudan this year.

In 2006, the IMF put economic growth in Sudan at 12 percent. This has not gone unnoticed by some countries, such as China, Malaysia and Korea, which look at Sudan as a land of opportunity.

Currently, the largest project in the country, the Merowe Dam on the Nile, is being constructed with the help of Chinese capital.

Resident engineer Ahmed El Hassan says 22 million cubic meters of materials are being used to build the 9.2-kilometer-long dam, which will be 67 meters high and will create a 12-billion-cubic-meter water reservoir.

The dam's hydroelectric power plant is expected to double Sudan's electric power.

"This dam can generate 1,250 megawatts, and accompanied to this dam project is built 1,700 kilometers of high-capacity transmission line of 500,000 volts and extending to all the directions of the country," said Ahmed El Hassan.

El Hassan says more than 1,000 kilometers of highways have been developed and 7,000 people have been working on the $2 billion project in different disciplines. He says the dam's benefits will not come only from electricity power and water.

"The most important benefit of the country from this project is the transfer of knowledge, the transfer of technology and the start of large-scale development," he said.

El Hassan says power generation will begin in October of this year and the dam will be completed in 2009. In addition to this, the Kajbar Dam, located at the Nile's second cataract, is also under construction. China is financing 75 percent of the approximately $200 million project.

The two largest dams on the Blue Nile, the Roseires and the Sennar are also being upgraded and five new bridges are under construction, including three in and around Khartoum. A $45 million building program for 450 kilometers of roads, including a ring road for the capital, is underway in Khartoum state.

Khartoum's new international airport is a $1.3 billion project just outside the city. The facility will become one of Africa's most modern and largest hub airports.

Sudan is also planning to construct the largest new refinery for the country in Port Sudan. The basic engineering and design has been completed by the Italian engineering company APS, whose chairman is Antonio Quadrato.

"The capacity is 176,000 barrels per day," he said. "The refinery is a very modern one, it is the biggest in Sudan, maybe in Africa as well."

The project will more than double the country's refining capacity. Quadrato says construction is expected to begin soon, in the next couple of months.

It is still unclear whether it will be built by the Chinese or the Koreans, but the funding will be Malaysian. Beijing is the biggest investor in Sudan's oil fields and buys two-thirds of the country's oil exports.

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