This is Part Six of a six-part series on African Investment
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South Sudan’s Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment says Africa’s newest nation is implementing policies to overcome its economic challenges.
Garang Diing Akuong said that includes measures to create an enabling environment for foreign investment.
“As at now we are attracting investors, but it’s not enough to [satisfy] our ambitions. We hope to have more,” he said. “We are supposed to put a couple of things in place to enable South Sudanese to invest and also to attract others to invest in South Sudan.”
Akuong expressed disappointment in conflict which he said destabilizes East Africa and discourages foreign direct investment.
“We are doing our best to stabilize South Sudan’s [domestically] ….so that people will go about their business in the normal circumstances. The pre-condition for investment is peace and … stability,” he said.
“We are also trying to build peaceful co-existence with our neighbor [the Republic of Sudan] that we left. Currently, we are having difficulty relating to Sudan due to our differences on oil and border demarcation. These are pending issues, and they are creating a lot of instability in the region.”
Akuong called on the East African Community, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the African Union to help broker a peace deal between Juba and Khartoum.
“We hope that [they] will come and aide the two of us so that we reach an amicable solution. Trade is very important element in this co-existence because trade binds more than the other policies in place,” he said.
Akuong made his comments at a recent three-day meeting of the New York Forum Africa held in the Gabonese capital, Libreville. The group brings together international investors and African business leaders on the continent in an effort to foster partnerships.
Akuong said since independence the government has launched initiatives to strengthen its diplomatic relations within the region.
“We are doing a lot to reconcile with neighboring countries, especially the Sudan. Because instability within the country and with neighbors can negatively affect investment,” said Akuong.
“We are also trying to organize the various sectors in the country so that we know what it takes for [each sector] to take off. For instance, we are looking into power generation. We have a huge power deficit. We have about 10-20 megawatts in the entire country, a country that has oil. This is unacceptable.”
Akuong said the government wants to attract investment in the energy sector, which he said is a priority and pre-requisite for investors. He said the government is also planning a massive infrastructural development program including road networks “for easy import and export.”
He said the government is enacting laws to serve as an incentive for the private sector.
“We are working to encourage private banking. As of now, we have about nine banks in South Sudan and more than half of them are private international banks from Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia.” He says it’s important because a healthy banking system is essential for financing development.
Akuong expressed confidence that South Sudan’s government policies will transform the country into one of the economic “tigers” of Africa.