Building A Nation From Scratch

Building A Nation From Scratch

South Sudan is not just the youngest nation on earth today. It is being built from scratch. “The South Sudan has just come out of Africa’s longest civil war. Owing to the war there was no focused development in the new country in the last 21 years,” says George Conway, UNDP head in South Sudan.

“The two decades of civil war ensured nothing existed. After the signing of the CPA and the eventual coming of a new government before the referendum, all the ministries existed on paper only. The government is starting to build itself up from scratch. This is a brand-new state.”

It is a Herculean task to construct a new landlocked nation the size of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda combined. The interest that the dawn of independence has generated for this new nation has spurred generosity from all corners of the world. Governments of Kenya, Uganda, South Africa, the US, China, India, the UAE, and even the World Bank, have loosened their purse strings for the new nation’s entry into statehood. Since 2005, Washington has advanced to the South Sudanese government some $10bn, with much of this going into infrastructure development.

According to South Sudan’s Ministry of Transport, for the country to be networked sufficiently to facilitate ease of commerce and trade, some 32,000km need to be tarmacked. The first phase covering some 5,000km is scheduled for 2012– 2017; the second and third phases will cover 12,000km and 13,000 respectively. To undertake this massive construction $7bn is required.  Over the past six years, 7,000km of road has been upgraded to gravel status linking the 10 states. In Juba, out of 350km, some 67km has already been tarmacked.

Excavators, graders and compactors are hard at work completing a key and strategic highway, the 193km Juba-Nimule highway, which is currently being tarmacked. Thanks to a $225m grant from USAID, the road is expected to be completed by February 2012. The Juba-Nimule road has been given the highest priority at present as it is the most efficient route to Mombasa port. Other link roads facilitating South Sudan’s access into Ethiopia and Kenya are also nearing completion.

Heavy construction work is ongoing at Juba International Airport. The Ministry of Transport has set aside some $130m to revamp it by expanding its terminal, restoring navigational aids, extending the runway, building additional taxiways and a separate helipad.  The other major airport in South Sudan is the Malakal Airport in Upper Nile state, which is also earmarked for upgrading, with plans to set up airports in all the 10 states on the cards.

A rail link connection to Mombasa, estimated to cost some $5bn, is also being discussed. Also on the cards is the much-talked-about Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport Corridor (LAPSSET) which, in addition to a standard gauge railway line and road, will have an oil pipeline linking Lamu Port in Kenya and South Sudan’s oil fields.

Huge power deficit

According to South Sudan’s Vice-President, Riak Machar, “We will mobilise $500bn from private investments in the next five years to build this nation to catch up with the rest of the world in infrastructure development.”

Practically everywhere in Juba there is a generator – not only demonstrating the urgent need for investments in electricity generation, transmission and supply but also how Khartoum underdeveloped Juba.

The South Sudan Electricity Corporation (SSEC) produces 10MW daily against a demand of 50MW. Most businesses, government ministries and NGOs generate their own power through generators. As it stands now, SSEC uses 48,000 litres of diesel daily to generate power for its customers. High demand for power by the hospitality industry is placing a huge strain on the national grid. Independent estimates show that South Sudan can harness close to 1,400MW along the River Nile.

But a major setback has already reared its head over disputes around the seat of government. It is now official that the capital Juba will perhaps have the shortest tenure as a capital city. In late August, the government decided to relocate its capital to Ramciel in the Lakes State after a bitter dispute between the government and the indigenous Juba inhabitants, the Bari community, over access to land.

“Juba is like a slum. You have nowhere to build roads,” says Barnaba Marial Benjamin, Information Minister. “You have to quarrel to get land. Where do you put government institutions and investors? We need a large parcel of land to accommodate development projects.” He adds: “The government has not succeeded in allaying the fears of the local community and so the cabinet decided to relocate the capital to a better area.”

This move by the South Sudan government will no doubt have serious ramifications on the country’s oil-dependent economy as it is bound to affect the current infrastructure cost estimates upwards.

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Written by African Business Magazine

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