JUBA— South Sudan President Salva Kiir declared the world's newest country open for business in a speech to kick off an international investment conference in Juba Wednesday.
"God has blessed us and endowed our young country with vast resources in terms of fertile lands, forests, water resources, minerals and petroleum resources... Those who wait too long may miss the vast investment opportunities that our country offers," he told the conference, which the organizers say has brought more than 800 delegates from some 50 countries to Juba.
U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth called on the government to enact legislation that enhances protection for foreign and domestic investors.
“A formally adopted land act would allow investors access to land and secure land tenure, and I think that’s what I have heard from many investors is absolutely crucial," Booth said.
"A framework for public-private partnerships would also allow the government and investors to maximize returns on private money and leverage economic growth,” the U.S. official added.
Booth urged investors to take advantage of the fact that South Sudan this year became eligible for the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows African countries to export goods to U.S. markets
The South Sudanese National Assembly is looking at draft laws on land rights, microfinance, and trademarks, among others, all of which would make for a more attractive investment environment.
But the head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan, Hilde Johnson, said passing laws was not enough to draw investors to South Sudan; officials also have to enforce the laws.
“Rules need to be abided with, also in practice," Johnson said, urging the government to make "sure that the justice sector works.”
South Sudan hopes to attract investors to six key areas -- agriculture, health, infrastructure, mining, petroleum, and tourism -- to boost the country's economy, create jobs, and eradicate poverty.