Currently, South Sudan’s pound (SSP) is the strongest currency in the region and this explains why all kinds of entrepreneurs are streaming into this new nation.
The allure of the South Sudanese pound (currently exchanging at $1 = 3.50SSP) is hard to resist, despite the fact that the new nation lacks basic amenities.
“I was born in Mbarara, Uganda. I came to Juba after it became difficult to make ends meet in my country of Uganda,” David Rukakire says, “so far the opportunity to work here in Juba has seen me constructing my house back home and meet all my needs plus a little saving.” Rukakire operates a barber’s shop in the bustling Konyokonyo market.
Many like Rukakire – from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), together with the South Sudanese who have returned home – see healthy entrepreneurial opportunities in Juba, Malakal, Kwajok, Torit, Wau, Bor, Bentiu, Yambio, Aweil and Rumbek, the respective capitals of the 10 states that make up South Sudan. Others are coming from China, Malaysia, India, Turkey, Egypt and the Middle East.
Long before the river port city of Juba attracted all and sundry, it resembled a typical hinterland payam (village) with thatched houses all around. “There were only six vehicles in all of Juba,” recalls UNDP’s George Conway. Today Juba experiences traffic jams at peak hours. Thatched houses are fast disappearing and mansions, maisonettes, villas, flats and multistoreyed buildings are springing up. From one telecommunications tower in the country, there are now over 500, making mobile phone coverage possible over much of the country.
Operating food kiosks, apparel shops, public commuter service vehicles, boda boda motorcycle taxis, lodgings, household items shops, motorcycle spare parts, mini-shops, dhobis (laundries), barber’s shops and a host of others are Kenyans, Chinese, Egyptians, Ugandans and Ethiopians.
Along the Juba International Airport Road, White Nile River and the Wizarat Roads, you will find upmarket cafes and restaurants offering Ethiopian, Eritrean, Indian, Chinese and Italian cuisine. Oriental cafes and local hotels give Juba an international cuisine look.
South Sudan in its infancy is already beginning to take on a multicultural, multiracial and multiethnic flavour. In the major towns, Rumbeck, Juba and Bor, you find people of diverse nationalities, languages and cultures braving the oppressive heat and lack of amenities to stake out new lives for themselves and perhaps shape the future of this young nation.