FILE - In this July 24, 2011, file photo, Sudan's new currency sits behind a window at the central bank in Khartoum, Sudan. The…
In this July 24, 2011, file photo, Sudan's new currency sits behind a window at the central bank in Khartoum, Sudan.

WASHINGTON - The first wire transfer between Sudan and a U.S.-based bank was completed successfully last week ending more than 20 years of economic isolation. Sudanese Ambassador to the United States Nureldin Satti told VOA he received a test wire transfer from Qatar National Bank in Khartoum to his personal account at Wells Fargo in the United States.    

The change will facilitate remittances through direct bank transactions between Sudan and the United States benefiting the Sudanese economy and people, Satti told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.   

The process to re-establish direct transactions between the two countries started a few weeks ago when the U.S. Department of Treasury sent a message encouraging banks to do transactions with Sudan.    

“One of the banks was Qatar National Bank which responded favorably to this request and got in touch with Well Fargo which also accepted the request and the offer,” said Satti.     

Qatar National Bank in Khartoum did a test wire transfer of a small amount to the U.S.-based Wells Fargo “which I received to my personal account a few days ago” Satti told VOA on Monday.     

Historic transaction     

This was the first time money could be remitted between Sudan and the United States through official channels since the Clinton administration imposed economic sanctions on Sudan in 1997. Through an executive order, President Bill Clinton banned all U.S. investment in Sudan and most bilateral trade citing Sudan’s continued support to international terrorism, its poor human rights record including lack of religious freedom, and its efforts to destabilize the region. The United States had also placed Sudan on its list of State Sponsors of Terrorism earlier in 1993 for harboring international terrorists, including Osama Bin Laden.

South Sudanese protest outside the White House in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, Apr. 28, 2015. The protesters want President Salva Kiir to step down and say more targeted sanctions are needed against those blocking peace in South Sudan.

Lifting sanctions     

The Obama administration began the process of lifting economic sanctions on Sudan in 2017 citing Sudan’s cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism and its efforts to improve its human rights record.     

The U.S. officially rescinded Sudan’s designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in December last year following the political change in Sudan and the transitional government’s agreement to compensate terror victims in cases where Sudan was found guilty of supporting al-Qaida.     

Economic reforms    

But analysts told VOA that direct bank transactions to Sudan remain problematic because of “distortions” in the Sudanese economy and the multiple and widely varying exchange rates of the Sudanese pound to the U.S. dollar.      

On February 20, Sudan’s transitional government announced a decision to float the pound to close the huge gap between Sudan’s official exchange rate, which was 55 pounds to the dollar, and the black-market exchange rate, which stood at nearly 400 pounds to the dollar.   

The move was touted by Sudanese officials as part of broader economic reforms that Sudan’s transitional government made under a plan endorsed by the International Monetary Fund in October 2020.      

“The depreciation of the Sudanese pound was very harmful to anybody who wanted to send remittances to Sudan or who wanted to invest in Sudan,” Satti told VOA. “And, of course, to the Sudanese people above all because of the high inflation rate that has been taking place for the last 20 years.”   

The Sudanese government hopes the unification of its multiple exchange rates will encourage direct trade and investment in Sudan and facilitate transactions between Sudan-based banks and the outside world through official channels, said Satti.     

Sudan’s top diplomat to the United States noted that another test is being made this week to reverse the process by sending money from a U.S.-bank to Sudan and, if successful, Sudanese people in the United States will be able to send remittances back home through reliable and official channels for the first time in decades.