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Economic Conference a Lesson for South Sudan, says Official

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir addresses 66th United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 2011 (file photo).

This is Part Three of a six-part series on African Investment
Continue to Parts: 1 / 2 / 4 / 5 / 6

An economic adviser to South Sudan President Salva Kiir says the recent conference of the New York Forum Africa provided a learning platform that would help Africa’s newest nation formulate policies to attract investors.

Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, who led the South Sudan delegation to the conference, said Juba highly values the three-day meeting held in early June in the Gabonese capital, Libreville.

Learning through the experiences of others, he said, is the easiest and fastest for the country to move forward. “Interacting with government delegations as well as chief executive officers of various companies,” he explained, “facilitates and enables South Sudan to know how things are done globally,” said Sabuni.

The forum brought together international investors and African business leaders in an effort to foster partnerships. Organizers say the forum created an environment in which leaders from different sectors and industry experts could consider new ideas for promoting growth.

Observers said the gathering lived up to its billing as one of the largest gatherings for economic, business, and political leaders looking for new investment opportunities in Africa.

Sabuni said “South Sudan should start from where the rest of Africa is [today] -- and not to start 50 or 60 years [behind]” because of the decades spent fighting the Republic of Sudan for independence. “[At the forum] we got exposed [to new ideas and the lessons on development from other countries], and exposure is a very key issue,” said Sabuni.

The East African Community (EAC) is expected to decide later this year whether to accept South Sudan’s request to join the sub-regional group.

Sabuni underscored the importance of its application.

“At a global level South Sudan will be able to be pulled up by the [boot] straps by the East African Community nations,” continued Sabuni. “[The EAC’s] legislative framework, its infrastructure, its way of managing the economy, banking, the macroeconomic aspects, which we are still in the process of establishing or instituting, will be fast tracked…. So there is quite a lot that South Sudan is expected to learn from its neighbors.”

Some South Sudanese have expressed concern that ongoing tension with neighboring Sudan is creating instability and preventing much-needed investments needed to develop.

Sabuni concurs but adds that South Sudan is working with international partners to resolve its disagreements with its northern neighbor. He admitted Juba needs to do more to attract foreign investors.

“When we started our legal framework, our institutions, our capacity issues were awfully deficient,” Sabuni said.

“Now, in terms of investment, recently the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment was able to put in place what we call a one-stop shop center. This was just accomplished early this year…this is the required legal framework establishing the appropriate environment for doing business, being able to register a company within a period not exceeding seven days. These are the things we are trying to put in place.”

South Sudan shut down its oil production over disagreements with Sudan. Sabuni said the government is implementing policies to ensure the country doesn’t rely too much on the natural resource.

“The shutdown of oil production in a way I think is a blessing, because it has enabled the leadership to focus on diversification of the economy with agriculture as the leading sector,” said Sabuni.

He said the government is working closely with its neighbors in the region to help it find alternative ways of exporting oil if the government decides to resume production.

Sabuni expressed hope talks between South Sudan and Sudan will help ease tensions and resolve outstanding issues.
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