JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN —
More than 250 companies have been invited to an international investors' conference for South Sudan in November, which was announced this week, and which officials hope will be a step forward in breaking the country's dependence on oil revenue.
“We need to boost our private sector and therefore we need to invite investors so that they can boost our economy by investing in our country," Deputy Finance Minister Mary Jervas Yak said.
"That also will create jobs for our people and you know that, without investment, the economy cannot grow.”
Oil revenue accounted for 98 percent of the South Sudan's income before production was shut down in January last year over a dispute with Khartoum over transit fees.
After the shut-down, South Sudan was forced to introduce austerity measures that are expected to remain in place until the end of the year at least.
Revenues coming into state coffers have, however, gone up since independence in 2011, increasing from 242 million South South Sudanese that year to nearly 600 million pounds last year.
But Yak said that, to really jump-start the economy, the country needs to focus on generating more revenue streams than just tax and oil.
“We want heavy investors because we want them to invest in huge projects like agriculture schemes, like infrastructure, tourism, and so we need international investors who have got money,” she said.
South Sudanese businesspeople hope that the conference, which is a follow-up to the South Sudan Economic Partners Meeting that was held in Washington in April, will also help to erase negative preconceptions of the country.
The South Sudan Business Forum has offered to do its part to attract outside investors by helping them to cut through red tape and give them guidance on which authorities to deal with for specific projects.