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Environment in Sudan at a Glance
2014-02-02 00:00:00

Environment in Sudan at a Glance

Sudan’s Ministry of Foreign paid attention to the environmental issues at all levels locally, regionally and internationally such serious consideration reflected in the establishment of specialized Department for the environmental affair. The challenges of the environment and its impacts are serious, and increasingly complex.Sudan believes that the environmental issues should be treated through concerted efforts of the international community to save our planet and ensure benefits for current and future generations.A new concept has emerged linking closely the climate change impacts and the ،...

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     Rural Woman Empowerment and her Role in Poverty Reduction  Promotion and Present Challenge
2014-02-03 00:00:00

Rural Woman Empowerment and her Role in Poverty Reduction Promotion and Present Challenge

Background: Sudan  enjoys  a  strategic  location  in  the  center  of  the  African  continent.  It  shares geographical Location with seven countries of North, East, West and central Africa with total land area of 1,882,000 million km square  (250 million hectare). Current  estimates  put  the  population  at  excess  of  30,419,625  million  (North  Sudan)  , female 14.796  million  with  annual  growth  rate  estimated  at ،...

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Women Empowerment   Policy
2014-02-03 00:00:00

Women Empowerment Policy

Introducti          In the context of the aspirations of the Sudan, in light of current processes of  transformation  currently  underway  in the  Sudan,  and  in consideration  the  significant  contribution  to  the  social  and  economic development  of  the  Sudan  by  Sudanese  women  in  recent  decades; there is a better understanding of the concept of empowering women within  a  framework  of  realizing ،...

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Two Areas
2014-02-04 00:00:00

Two Areas

   A Tale of Two States The Agreement on South Kordofan and Blue Nile States and the Path of Implementation and the Recent Security DevelopmentsThis paper aims to clarify and illustrate the situation of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, from its inclusion in the agreement up to the current situation. We have summarized the agreement in the points below. The entire agreement is published and available for those who wish to obtain further details. Important points in the Agreement- Negotiations with the SPLM covered the two states, although th،...

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Abyei
2014-02-05 00:00:00

Abyei

Protocol between the Government of Sudan and SPLM/A on the Resolution of Abyei ConflictAbyei Area Referendum ACT 2009How the Abyei experts exceeded their mandate Arbitration Agreement between The Government of Sudan and The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement on Delimiting Abyei Area Agreement Of Temporary Arrangements For Administration And Security Of The Abyie Area.Agreement Between The Government of Sudan And The UN Concerning The Status of The UNISFA . AUHIP Proposals Towards a Resolution of The Issue of AbyeiAUHIP TFA Proposal Final Sudan Legal Note 27.12 LASTThe Republic of Sudan ،...

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Dailly Telegraph Report - Sudan



    • Cultural heritage & business opportunities abound in Sudan
      Once the largest country in Africa (before the official secession of the southern region in 2011), Sudan sits at the vitally geostrategic crossroads between sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and has one of the continent،s broadest and most ample variety of resources – human, natural, social and economic – all within its extensive borders
      Playing neighbour to no fewer than seven other nations, you only have to glimpse at its impressive surface area to comprehend its truly pivotal location – Mediterranean Africa in the north, central hinterland to the west and the Horn of Africa via the south. Head just 180 miles eastwards from Sudan’s Red Sea coast meanwhile and you arrive in Saudi Arabia – the Arabian Peninsula and the gateway to Asia.                                                                       .
      Owing to the sheer size and scale of the place (and the resultant wide range of resources to be found there) Sudan has been perennially mooted as a genuine hotbed of latent possibility. Indeed, the World Bank would go as far to say that it is a “potential economic powerhouse”.                               
       
      The capital city of Khartoum – the pumping heartbeat of the country – is where the land begins to straddle the famous and formidable African artery of the River Nile: the long-time lifeblood of the Sudanese people which has contributed to a tradition of agricultural productivity for generations.                                     .       
      It is upon either side of these fruitful banks that Sudan’s emerging industry has been built throughout history, with expanding infrastructure having sprouted to feed a rapidly urbanising population of over 32 million people                                                  .
      In truth, however, despite such evident promise it is an unfortunate and unavoidable reality that since its independence from Great Britain in 1956, Sudan has suffered from over half a century of considerable deprivation and stifled development due to a prolonged civil conflict that drastically pockmarked the country.
      When the warring factions between north and south eventually came to a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, the door for tangible cooperation and significant socio-economic progress seemed to have finally been left ajar. What’s more, the discovery and subsequent exportation of oil during the past decade went about fuelling the unprecedented growth that the region and its citizens had longed for.
       
      After experiencing a GDP increase of up to 11.5 per cent in the years following the CPA – making it one of the fastest growing countries in the world at the time – Sudan then generously relinquished 75 per cent of its lucrative oil production in favour of the newly separated state of South Sudan (who voted for independence in a 2011 referendum)                                            .
      As a consequence of this sacrifice – having previously been so dependent on its petroleum – Sudan’s economy has understandably faltered in recent times. Nevertheless, the austerity measures since employed by the Government as an upshot of its voluntary forfeit of oil have already seen the economy move firmly back on to the road to recovery, with the IMF predicting 1.2 per cent GDP growth in  2013                                                                                                                                             
      Furthermore, Sudan is now also working to diversify its income sources and pursue new policies that aim to remove all obstacles faced by foreign investors, including a new investment law passed towards creating a more suitable atmosphere for attracting greater capital.
      While Sudan faces various important challenges ahead in its continued path towards greater prosperity, it is undeniably a country with immense natural gifts from which it is keen to take further advantage. Sudan not only has huge areas of uncultivated arable land and bountiful water resources, but abundant gold and minerals capable of becoming major foreign exchange earners, while oil reserves are also still ripe for further exploration. Aside from this, it is a nation that enjoys areas of outstanding beauty and diverse cultural heritage, with more ancient pyramids remaining here than nearby Egypt.
             

      Sudan is looking to embrace and enjoy a newfound stability. And so, this land of many unfulfilled opportunities is today fully extending its hands to the world of business, investment and tourism, in the hope that such long-touted potential can at last be realised.

      Ongoing reforms rise to financial challenges
      The young and developing Sudanese banking and financial sector has weathered various challenges and holds a wealth of opportunity for investment, particularly in Islamic products, with potential of reach to hundreds of thousands of new clients
      Agriculture has traditionally formed the backbone of Sudan’s economy, contributing to between 35-40 per cent of its GDP and today still employing 80 per cent of the workforce. That was until oil exports started flowing in 1999 and the petroleum industry became the alpha provider of the country’s income. Rising oil production, high oil prices, and significant inflows of foreign direct investment fuelled an economic boom that lasted almost a decade and spurred the creation of new infrastructure and services – particularly in energy, health and education – to serve the nation’s new wealth generator.
      The region that is now South Sudan was responsible for about 75 per cent of the former Sudan’s total oil production, 55 per cent of its fiscal revenues and two-thirds of its foreign exchange earnings. Understandably, following South Sudan’s secession in July 2011, Sudan’s oil earnings dropped and its economy took a substantial hit: between 2010 and 2012 real GDP growth fell from 3.4 per cent to -2.6 per cent, inflation increased from around 13 per cent to top 44 per cent, and the current account balance deteriorated from -2.1 per cent of GDP to -10.8 per cent.
      Today, Sudan’s current estimated GDP of $2,600 on a purchasing power parity basis places it roughly in the same league as other developing African nations, such as Nigeria, Djibouti, Western Sahara and Cameroon. The secession also prompted the Central Bank of Sudan to introduce a new currency in July 2011, keeping the name of the Sudanese pound, but the value of one Sudanese pound (SDG) has fallen since its introduction from around $0.37 in 2011 to $0.26 in 2012 and $0.17 in 2013.
      The Sudanese authorities responded in June 2012 with a comprehensive package of corrective measures to turn around the economic imbalances thrown up by the country’s division and lay the groundwork for a much-needed process of adjustment.  Anti-inflationary measures have been introduced and according to the Ministry of Finance the aim is to bring inflation down to under 21 per cent in 2014 “by applying tough policies but without harming the economy”.
      It also points out that inflation was also affected by the Government applying a 60 per cent increase on public sector salaries and its social funding initiatives that help 500,000 families in need of assistance to meet monthly payments. Other measures taken in 2012 included gradually repealing fuel subsidies, the formal devaluation of the pound, a sharpened focus on more effective tax collection methods and highlighting the huge untapped potential in other sectors of the economy beyond oil and gas.
      Sudan’s overlooked industries are a ‘gold mine’ of opportunities for international investors. If tapped appropriately, the country’s gold reserves could potentially make it Africa’s third largest gold miner, after South Africa and Ghana, and one of the top 15 in the world.  As such, the Sudanese authorities are aiming to produce nearly 50 tonnes of gold – with an estimated worth of $2.5 billion – annually in the imminent future.  The Ministry of Finance also points to Sudan’s massive economic and investment potential in a wide range of sectors, such as finance and banking, power generation, agriculture, infrastructure development and telecommunications.
      Uniquely, the Sudanese banking system was the first banking system in the world to be based entirely on the rules of Islamic Sharia law, which is rapidly gaining international presence and features principles such as risk-sharing, leasing and interest-free ‘loans’.
      Commercial banks represent around 97 per cent of the financial system, based on total assets, with insurance companies and a small microfinance sector making up the remainder.
      Efforts are ongoing and in March 2013 a second package of measures and reforms were announced and the IMF reports that the signing of an agreement between Sudan and South Sudan the same month “opens a window of opportunity for renewed policy reforms to address the post-secession challenges” that should add stability to Sudan’s young and developing financial system.
      Zakat ensures social cohesion
      The Islamic practice known as Zakat – the compulsory giving of a set proportion of one’s wealth to charity – has been enshrined in Sudan’s law, playing a vital role in social cohesion and social security
      Similar to the Christian and Jewish practice of tithing, Zakat is an alms tax to help those in need and is mandatory only for those who can afford it. Zakat is a fundamental pillar of Islam and the word literally means “that which purifies”. Indeed, for believers, giving Zakat is much more than paying a simple tax; it is a soul-purifying act.
      The generally accepted guidelines for calculating how much one is to pay dictate 2-2.5 per cent on capital assets and between 2.5 and 20 per cent on livestock and agricultural goods, precious metals and minerals. A Muslim’s net worth of assets must first exceed a minimum amount before he or she is obligated to pay Zakat.
      Those who may benefit from Zakat, according to the Qu’ran can be divided into eight groups: the poor, those in temporary distress, the Zakat collectors, new converts to Islam, slaves (whose freedom can be bought), debtors, the mujahideen, street children and travellers.
      Worldwide, the Zakat culture raising billions of pounds’ worth of donations that are used to fight poverty, weaving social safety nets in the areas where they are most needed. In Sudan, Zakat is mandatory by law and the government-run Zakat Chamber, established in 1990 and operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Welfare, is mandated with distribution. Interestingly, Sudan is one of just six countries with a state Zakat collection and distribution programme, along with Malaysia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Pakistan.
      So ingrained is Zakat in Sudan, and so well-oiled its collection system, that in November this year Sudan and Libya agreed to cooperate and exchange experiences in Zakat. At joint talks held in Khartoum, the Director of the three-year-old Libyan Zakat Chamber expressed his eagerness to learn from Sudanese expertise

      The list of recipients legally eligible to receive Zakat in Sudan varies somewhat from the groups listed in the scriptures. They are, namely: disabled people, refugees, poor students, the homeless, orphans, mentally ill people, those with health problems, and the poorest of the poor. Sudan’s government also provides these groups with free health insurance.
      Earlier this year, the Zakat Chamber allocated 32 million Sudanese pounds for disaster relief around the country, and over the years it has donated funds to mitigate the effects of starvation owing to drought and desertification.  
      A 2 per cent Zakat tax is automatically deducted from the salaries of people who earn more $1,500 per month, and the Sudanese government itself also makes significant contributions into the Zakat Fund. In 2011-2012, the collection totalled 700 million Sudanese pounds (£96.9 million).
      Whereas Zakat is an institutional way to help the less fortunate, already deeply embedded in Sudanese culture is a feeling of social solidarity. Family ties and community togetherness are strong, with all members chipping in to help one another especially, for example, for crises, weddings and funerals. In most towns and villages, committees are formed to listen to people’s needs and to collect monies to build a collective fund which is then passed on at the end of each month to a family in need.
      Improving infrastructure


      Recent improvements to infrastructure have contributed significantly to per capita growth
      On the back of the wealth generated by the country’s oil boom in the last decade Sudan has heavily invested in expanding its infrastructure, and according to a recent World Bank report, such improvements have contributed significantly to the country’s per capita growth.
      Amongst the most notable of infrastructural achievements is the more than quadrupling of its power generation capacity (since 2005), the huge liberalisation of the ICT sector and the connection to an undersea fibre-optic cable.
      Substantial progress has also been made in the transport sector thanks to a combination of greater public spending and foreign investment. Firstly, increasing trade has led to higher freight traffic at the country’s ports, meaning the Sudan Port Authority has generated significant revenues for a series of upgrades, thus leading to Port Sudan becoming a major regional feeder port.
      What’s more, Sudan has also become a strong international air gateway, with per capita plane seats higher than any of its neighbours and enjoying good connectivity with the Middle East, Europe, Ethiopia and South Sudan via Khartoum International Airport.
      In terms of roads meanwhile, its network has more than doubled in length since 2000 following the construction of good quality highways linking major urban centres, while water supply and sanitation is also steadily improving with a 78.5 per cent rise in the availability of potable water during the same period
      Port Sudan a centre of industry, logistics and export


      The city of Port Sudan – lying on the spectacular Red Sea coast – is not only a prime tourism destination, but a logistics hub that holds a visionary investment park and a key oil refinery as well as acting as a strategic maritime gateway to the rest of the world
      Established by the British in 1909 to export cotton, sesame seeds and sorghum, Port Sudan lies on the Red Sea and is home to Sudan’s main seaport with modern dock facilities. From here, around $4 billion worth of goods is exported every year, while annual imports to the tune of $7.5 billion are offloaded, making the harbour an integral part of the country’s economy.
      The oil refinery on-site handles oil transported mainly from South Sudan. Sudan’s landlocked neighbour relies completely on the port for overseas exports of oil. This means billions of dollars in much-needed oil transport fees for Sudan, which lost 75 per cent of its oil resources following South Sudan’s secession in 2011.
      In April the Govern-ment of Sudan signed a Memorandum of Under-standing with an Italian company to rehabilitate and upgrade the refinery in order to handle the increasing demand for oil products.
      As well as being a transport hub for oil and other goods, Port Sudan is also renowned for its beautiful beaches and excellent scuba diving.   
      Meanwhile, the port as a whole is undergoing major modernisation and upgrading overseen by Sea Ports Corporation (SPC), with the Government repeatedly announcing intentions to make Port Sudan one of Africa’s top ports. Rehabilitation of the harbour began in 2006 with the help of Chinese investments, while one of the most recent major developments was in 2011 after the construction of a new terminal with a capacity for 800,000 containers was completed, again aided by the Chinese.
      However, it now seems that the UK itself wants to play a more significant part in development of the port that it originally built more than a century ago. Following a visit to Port Sudan in December 2012, British Ambassador Peter Tibber said that he looked forward “to a greater UK-Sudanese partnership in developing the Port”.  
      During a trip to Port Sudan last year, Mr Tibber also took the time to visit Red Sea Free Zone. He called it a “visionary investment park – a huge expanse of land linked up to power and telecoms and aiming to attract 500 new investors”.
      What’s more, in another major development for the area, plans are currently underway for the construction of a Dakar-Port Sudan railway line.  If the plans are eventually realised it will be one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in Africa  and will represent a quantum leap in the area of land transportation and trade exchange on the continent, giving four landlocked countries access to the sea and providing them with a 10,100km-long rail artery.   
      While overall modernisation of the port will no doubt be hugely positive for Sudan and its economy in the long run, with 30,000 people currently being employed by the port, the greater introduction of modern equipment and machinery will eventually lower the dependence on manual labour
      Determined not to neglect its social role, the Sea Ports Corporation says it wants to find a balance between the modernisation process and labour and is currently working to find alternatives for the harbour workers through training and assimilating them in other posts through creating alternative projects.A grand plan for a total of 50 free trade zones
      The National Council of Free Zones and Markets is planning to set up dozens of free trade zones (FTZs) in the country as part of improving and activating trade and investment
      In the past 30 years, free trade zones – or FTZs – have experienced monumental growth in the role they play in the socio-economic development of countries all over the world, especially so in emerging economies.
      Increasing global trade and corresponding rapid developments in infrastructure have prompted their rising establishment globally, having gained significant momentum as more and more countries open their doors to international business and foreign investment (FDI).
      From just the relative handful that had been set up worldwide in the early 1970s, today there are estimated to be over 2,800 FTZs, providing employment for approximately 65 million people.
      With the aim of minimising international trade barriers, FTZs have become increasingly popular as an instrument for the promotion of export-oriented FDI, the reduction of poverty through income generation and the invaluable transfer of knowledge and technology.
      With this in mind, the National Council of Free Zones and Markets was founded in 1993 to adopt, enhance and implement the successful free zones concept in Sudan.  As one of the pioneering economic institutions in the country and one of the basic pillars of the Government’s liberalisation policy, the council has gone on to establish a number of FTZs while also helping to provide a suitable business climate for local and foreign investors.
      Located at a focal point which connects Port Sudan and the Port Sudan International Airport, the Red Sea Free Zone (RSFZ) began operation in 1999 to coincide with Sudan’s oil production boom. While also lying on the Khartoum-Port Sudan Highway that links it to another major port, the Suakin Harbour, the RSFZ was built in collaboration with the Chinese government and is seen as a gateway to the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), continuing to offer investment guarantees, tax incentives and playing host to a range of multi-economic activities.
      The Al Gaili Free Zone (AGFZ) is another area where free trade and foreign investment have been heavily encouraged over the past decade. Situated just 60km north of the active business and industrial communities of capital city Khartoum, the AGFZ is likewise well connected to air, road and rail networks that extend beyond Sudan’s boundaries and into the neighbouring African markets.
      However Sudan’s plans for special free trade zones have not ended there. Having seen the positive effects that both the RSFZ and the AGFZ have contributed – not only towards enhancing the country’s foreign exchange rate but also in helping promote the economy in less developed regions – the Government is now putting forward huge plans to expand the number of FTZs in Sudan to 50.
      President of the National Council of Free Zones and Markets, Dr Mustafa Osman Ismail, revealed earlier this year that the plan developed by the Council includes the establishment of free zones in collaboration with a number of different African countries.  And already these plans are beginning to take shape.
      Just this month Sudan and Ethiopia agreed on the establishment of an economic zone at the border between the two states, with the aim of attracting greater investments to both.
      MINING: a golden new opportunity
      The Government is prioritising the mining sector to become its top foreign exchange earner, with lucrative gold investment and exports expected to spearhead GDP growth in the future
      Even though informal gold mining has long been an important element in the composition of the Sudanese economy, it is only since the secession of South Sudan in 2011 and the subsequent loss of oil that the Government has really begun to increase its focus on expanding the sector.
      Covering such a big surface area which contains incredibly diversified geology and merges across the boundaries between seven countries, Sudan has always been known as having huge mineral potential, especially so in gold. However, until just recently – excluding the initial venture of the French/Sudanese company Aryab in the early 1990s – no serious attempts had ever been made at exploration and production.
      This all began to change when in 2010, in foresight of the South،s then pending separation and the increasing realisation for the need to diversify the country،s income streams, the Government finally set up a designated department to manage Sudan،s mining resources.
      "The establishment of the Ministry of Minerals in 2010 marked a new era for the mining industry in Sudan," explains the head of the ministry, Kamal Abdul-Latif.
      "The mining sector،s contribution to GDP has increased to more than 8 per cent, over one million jobs have been created, and it has helped to accelerate rural development because the gold reserves are located in remote areas."
      It was indeed thanks to the ministry،s formation, along with the full and proper implementation of the Mineral Wealth and Mining Development Act that ultimately gave the sector the management and direction that it had long awaited.
      With this, the Ministry soon instigated and promoted a range of incentives to both local and foreign investors wishing to get involved with Sudan،s potentially money-spinning mining industry.  As a result there are now over 100 companies (domestic and international) who have obtained licenses to explore minerals in the country, eight of which have already started production, and a further 12 expected to start production by the end of the year.
      What،s more, last year Sudan opened its first gold refinery with the aim of increasing the quality and trade-capacity of domestically mined gold.  Today having been in operation for 12 months, should the refinery remain on track to meet top standards for a further two years, it will attract gold from other neighbouring countries to be refined in Sudan, giving the economy an additional and important boost.
      Such efforts from Government over the last few years to boost gold production and exports in particularly are certainly proving effective. Earning the country around $2 billion last year, 2012،s gold output stood at 41 tonnes, making it one of the country،s major export commodities and Sudan itself the third biggest producer on the continent behind South Africa and Ghana. With even greater foreign investment expected from major mineral companies thanks to the ongoing Government promotion of the sector, some estimates predict a spike in Sudan،s gold exports over the next five years, with the aim of becoming Africa،s second largest producer in the next decade.
      Furthermore, huge areas of the country have been designated for mineral exploration, including areas north of the capital Khartoum, and near the border with South Sudan, with rich deposits anticipated in most of it.
      "We consider 2014 as the year of gold and scientific research in the mineral sector and we are planning to update our geological map of the Sudan to provide detailed information to investors in gold production," explains Minister Abdul-Latif.
      "The Ministry is also planning to amend the [mining development] law so as to accommodate new developments in this strategic sector and encourage more investments in the fields of transfer of technology scientific research and institutional capacity building."
      Aside to other recent actions put in motion for a national plan for environmental preservation as well as the establishment of a police unit to secure the operations of mining companies from smugglers, safety measures to avoid the exposure of miners to poisonous mercury are also being put in place.
      Under the national strategy to eventually get rid of mercury in the mining process, the Government is introducing mercury-free machines for use by artisan miners.
      Meanwhile, apart from making the mining industry a safer place to be, the Government is now looking at  mineral diversification in the industry."Our future plan is to focus on the diversification of mineral production that includes other minerals like iron-ore, copper and precious stones," says Mr Abdul-Latif. "[With] huge reserves of more than 41 different minerals in different parts of the Sudan, I would like to invite serious investors to come and explore possibilities of investment in our other minerals.”
      Mining: A golden new opportunity


      The Government is prioritising the mining sector to become its top foreign exchange earner, with lucrative gold investment and exports expected to spearhead GDP growth in the future
      Even though informal gold mining has long been an important element in the composition of the Sudanese economy, it is only since the secession of South Sudan in 2011 and the subsequent loss of oil that the Government has really begun to increase its focus on expanding the sector.
      Covering such a big surface area which contains incredibly diversified geology and merges across the boundaries between seven countries, Sudan has always been known as having huge mineral potential, especially so in gold. However, until just recently – excluding the initial venture of the French/Sudanese company Aryab in the early 1990s – no serious attempts had ever been made at exploration and production.
      This all began to change when in 2010, in foresight of the South’s then pending separation and the increasing realisation for the need to diversify the country’s income streams, the Government finally set up a designated department to manage Sudan’s mining resources.
      “The establishment of the Ministry of Minerals in 2010 marked a new era for the mining industry in Sudan,” explains the head of the ministry.
      “The mining sector’s contribution to GDP has increased to more than 8 per cent, over 1 million jobs have been created, and it has helped to accelerate rural development because the gold reserves are located in remote areas.”
      It was indeed thanks to the ministry’s formation, along with the full and proper implementation of the Mineral Wealth and Mining Development Act that ultimately gave the sector the management and direction that it had long awaited. With this, the Ministry soon instigated and promoted a range of incentives to both local and foreign investors wishing to get involved with Sudan’s potentially money-spinning mining industry.
      One such company (out of the 100+ that have now obtained exploration licenses) is Taner Yilmaz’ Turkish owned TAHE International Metal Mining Inc who signed a concession agreement with the Government in 2010 (one of the best ever signed in Sudan), and have since heavily contributed to the development of the sector, the economy and provided vital transfer of expertise.
      “We are happy to invest here, it is a great time to be here in Sudan and we have a great collaboration,” says Mr Yilmaz, whose company will soon open on the London Stock Exchange.
      Meanwhile, following the increasing presence of international mining companies such as TAHE in the country, last year Sudan opened its first gold refinery with the aim of increasing the quality and trade-capacity of domestically mined gold. Today having been in operation for 12 months, should the refinery remain on track to meet top standards for a further two years, it will attract gold from other neighbouring countries to be refined in Sudan, giving the economy an additional and important boost.
      Such efforts from Government over the last few years to boost gold production and exports in particularly are certainly proving effective. Earning the country around $2 billion last year, 2012’s gold output stood at 41 tonnes, making it one of the country’s major export commodities and Sudan itself the third biggest producer on the continent behind South Africa and Ghana. With even greater foreign investment expected from major mineral companies thanks to the ongoing Government promotion of the sector, some estimates predict a spike in Sudan’s gold exports over the next five years, with the aim of becoming Africa’s second largest producer in the next decade.
      Furthermore, huge areas of the country have been designated for mineral exploration, including areas north of the capital Khartoum, and near the border with South Sudan, with rich deposits anticipated in most of it.
      “We consider 2014 as the year of gold and scientific research in the mineral sector and we are planning to update our geological map of the Sudan to provide detailed information to investors in gold production,” explains the Minister of Minerals.
      “The Ministry is also planning to amend the [mining development] law so as to accommodate new developments in this strategic sector and encourage more investments in the fields of transfer of technology scientific research and institutional capacity building.”
      Aside to other recent actions put in motion for a national plan for environmental preservation as well as the establishment of a police unit to secure the operations of mining companies from smugglers, safety measures to avoid the exposure of miners to poisonous mercury are also being put in place. Under the national strategy to eventually get rid of mercury in the mining process, the Government is introducing mercury-free machines for use by artisan miners.  
      Meanwhile, apart from making the mining industry a safer place to be, the Government is now looking at mineral diversification in the industry.“Our future plan is to focus on the diversification of mineral production that includes other minerals like iron-ore, copper and precious stones,” says the Minister of Minerals.  “[With] huge reserves of more than 41 different minerals in different parts of the Sudan, I would like to invite serious investors to come and explore possibilities of investment in our other minerals, as well as the services related to the sector.”
      Kenana،s sweet success
      Born out of a bold vision to provide Sudan،s and the Arab world،s food security, Kenana Sugar Company has witnessed remarkable progress over the last 35 years, during which time, it has firmly established itself as one of the biggest integrated and diversified sugar complexes in the world. In an interview with Upper Reach, Kenana،s Managing Director Mr. Mohammed El Mardi El Tagani talks about the company،s development and the great importance of Sudan،s agriculture sector for both food and energy
      We all know that agriculture is a sector that symbolises Sudan’s great potential. There are an estimated 200 million acres of land in Sudan, 70% of which is not being utilised. This is why the Government has identified the agriculture and livestock sector as being one of the most important sectors, and it is playing a vital role in food security and employment opportunities and is making a direct contribution to poverty and social development. It already employs 80% of the Sudanese workforce, and accounts for almost 40% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product). Please tell us about the possibility of Sudan one day becoming the breadbasket of the Arab world.
      As you correctly highlighted, agriculture is definitely the most important sector in the Sudanese economy. Kenana is one of the biggest integrated sugar companies in the world, and it is definitely a living example of how important agriculture is, as well as the role it can play in modernising the Sudan economy and at the same time, achieving all the objectives that Sudan is striving to achieve.
      Kenana is an agro industrial company, and it was established since 1975 by a joint venture investment from the Sudan Government, the Kuwait Government and the Saudi Government & other Arab institutions mainly to achieve food security objectives in the region. Cane is a basic crop, and also wanted to expand into other crops to address issues regarding food security in the region. Agriculture is the most important sector, and Kenana is a big, important player in agriculture in Sudan.
      Kenana is an integrated project because we are cane growers ourselves. Kenana is very much involved in agriculture. Our vast experience & proven record over thirty five years has been on a larger scale mechanised agriculture. There are 200 million acres available in Sudan for agriculture, but only 9% of that is being cultivated. Massive development is needed on the agricultural side, and mechanisation is one key element. This requires investment.
      What about the sector’s massive socioeconomic responsibility, now that the country has identified and diversified away from lost oil resources (70% going to the south)? What are the current challenges faced by the sector, and what measures do you think should be taken for greater training and investment in modern technologies?
      Kenana is a renewable source of food and energy. Energy is coming from agriculture now. Kenana is the biggest sugar producer in Sudan and one of the biggest in the world. We generate energy from the by-products of the sugar industry. It is no longer just a sugar industry – energy is also part of the industry. We co-generate electricity using baggas & cane trash.
      We produce ethanol from molasses & biomass. We have also introduced soya beans to produce biodiesel. We are renewable source of food and energy. By unlocking cane energy potentials, we are also going to compensate for the losses in revenue from oil in a big way. We are producing green fuel, which is even better than oil. Agriculture now is a very important sector for both food and energy.
      What are your views on Kenana’s truly remarkable progress over the last three decades? What should people know about Kenana when they read about you?
      We have provided a win-win model between our investors and the environment and the locals. So many companies talk about corporate social responsibility. But this is an in-built dimension within Kenana. Before we built the sugar factory, we built houses, schools and hospitals for the people living in the project area & around it. Kenana is a modern city in Sudan created by the company.
      Everything is built by the company, so the developmental and social aspect comes with the industry. Because we operate in remote areas, Kenana has been a very effective tool for rural development. That is very important. Nowadays, everybody is going to the big cities & in our case we reversed that. The last report completed by the Ministry of Health together with the World Health Organisation showed that all the parameters such as the mortality rate, infant mortality rate etc. are all up to EU standards in the areas that Kenana operates, compared to the rest of the country. That is because of the services provided by the company. We have built 58 schools of different levels at Kenana’s site with 11,500 students on our budget on annual basis.
      The social and development aspect within Kenana comes with the business. For example, Kenana has invested big money in another sugar project as big as Kenana. It is also integrated, for cane growing and sugar manufacturing. Kenana is the biggest shareholder. It is called the White Nile Sugar Company. Kenana owns 30% and we have the management contract for this company.
      Before we started the factory operations, we built eight new towns, with schools, hospitals, water, healthcare, education and everything. Forget about job creation – we are the biggest job provider in the country. At Kenana’s sites, you have engineers, researchers, agriculture people, technicians, accountants, insurance guys and doctors, and teachers.
      You have midwives too. Imagine a company playing a developmental and social role, without this affecting its financial viability. We are the most profitable company and our shareholders are so happy because we have been distributing dividends for the last twenty five years. This does not mean that we are not commercially efficient or that we are not achieving targets with regard to productivity.
      Kenana has one reputable Research Station and scientists working hard to ensure leadership position. At the moment, Kenana has the highest yield per acre of cane in the world. We are the world leaders in this regard. Even the efficiency of our factories and operations are a model worldwide. Operation-wise, we are so efficient because efficiency in the factory with down time less that 3%. At the same time, we have a lucrative market. We are currently the biggest trading partner of the EU under EBA arrangement. Last year we exported 100,000 metric tons of raw sugar, plus 40 million litres of ethanol to the EU. We are considered to be the biggest trading partner in the EBA initiative in the EU.
      I also want to stress that Kenana is not only diversifying its production in an efficient way. At the moment, we are the biggest sugar producer in the country and Africa. We are the biggest ethanol producer in Sudan and Africa. We are the biggest milk, beef and animal feed producer in Sudan and the biggest wood supplier in the market, because we have commercial forests.
      We do not only manufacture equipment and spare parts; we supply to the industry internally & abroad. We also have specialised subsidiaries with engagements all over Africa. We are currently building a sugar factory in Mauritania and we are the technical consultant for the Nigeria Sugar Board, helping them with their sugar expansion. We are also doing business with the Kenya Sugar Board. We have a footprint all over Africa.
      Regionally, we are cementing and fostering regional integration and cooperation . Kenana is not just exporting expertise. We do not just play a role in Sudan – we also play a role on the African continent, and also worldwide. We are an active player in the global stage.
       
      The UK has a longstanding relationship with Sudan. Please discuss the healthy relationship between the UK and Sudan, and the UK’s current involvement in Sudan’s agriculture sector and how Sudan and Kenana should welcome British expertise and business partners?
      The Sudan-UK business relationship has always been very strong. I have noticed over the past ten years that there has been a downward trend in that relationship. However, efforts were made, and I can see that the relations are improving again because there is a will between the two countries. The UK has an important program to restore business links with Africa and have appointed a cabinet minister who is responsible for Africa. I met with him during his visit to Sudan at the UK ambassador in Khartoum residence. His message was very clear - Africa is a focus and UK wants to restore the golden days of relations with Sudan. Kenana has always been linked to the UK – the co founder of Kenana Mr. Roland is British. We have had an office in London since 1974, and Kenana owns a building in Fitzroy Square. Crucial inputs & spare parts come from the UK. There are also a lot of British companies that are directly involved in the different areas of Kenana’s business. We are also handling most of our banking arrangement in UK.
      On the trading side, we used to have a long-term contract, and we have been the supplier of raw sugar to Tate & Lyle sugar refinery for four years. Before our ethanol exports, even the molasses used to go to United Molasses in the UK. Even our trading business has been linked to the UK traders for so many years, and it still is. A reputable British company has also been looking at Sudan’s sugar industry and more specifically at the current privatisation program which is taking place in Sudan.
      We feel that there is definitely now an opportunity for the UK and the EU in general to invest to secure a regular supply of sugar as this is very important, and also achieving objectives for food security in general. Sudan is the largest country in Africa with available land, water, good climatic conditions etc. Investors have to come in and to take the opportunity. Off take agreements and co investments are also available. The current investment law gives investors opportunities and there is infrastructure available in the country including irrigation systems and roads. Sudan can be a generous host for major investments at the moment.
      Access to education on the increase
      The Government has made great efforts in increasing educational access for children in Sudan
      Considering the fact that little over 10 years ago studies found that primary school enrollment stood at only 46 per cent in Sudan, a recent report conducted by the Ministry of Education which demonstrates that this figure has risen beyond 70 per cent goes to show just how far things have advanced for education in the country.
      Over the last decade the Government has worked to significantly improve access to education for children in Sudan. Educational access in areas previously affected by conflict has particularly improved, especially since the signing of the peace agreements in 2005 and 2006.What’s more, estimates suggest that, on average, 90 per cent of all children in northern Sudan have now had access to a formal school since 2010.
      The World Bank supported Basic Education Project (BEP) is one initiative that has helped the country witness such great improvements over the last few years, especially so in the challenge of leveling regional disparities in access to education.“The World Bank’s support is the first of its kind,” explains Sudan’s Minister of Education.  “It has focused on basic education in the remotest states, emphasising student intake as well as the quality and institutional structure.”
      Having seen several new schools built in the four BEP targeted states, the programme has not only helped contribute to a higher number of student’s in attendance every day, but also to reduce dropout rates, increased retention and improved test scores.
      Meanwhile, the BEP has also supported efforts to enhance teacher quality by funding training sessions, with over 10,000 teachers having received skills coaching in Arabic, mathematics and English through the BEP in total.“Education is [also] a tool to fight poverty,” the Director General for Education in North Kordofan, Ismail Maki told the World Bank in March.
       As Mr Maki identifies, in a time when Sudan is making all sorts of efforts to strengthen its economy through different measures, investment in education is the one sure-fire way to guarantee a more established long-term socio-economic development, and thus lift people from deprivation “The challenges ahead for Sudan relate not only to further reducing inequities in access, but in improving the efficiency of the education system to produce young adults equipped with the skills and knowledge to secure their livelihoods and contribute towards their society,” says the World Bank in its latest study.
      And with this goal evidently in the mind of the Sudanese Government, the progress being made at the base of the education already seems to be having the desired positive effect further up the system, with the number of students accepted at universities across the country also now rising substantially.
      From a number of 50,000 higher education students in the 1990s, more than 500,000 are now accepted at the country’s universities.  And while this ten-fold multiplication in the number of higher education entrants has not only been down to the gains made in lower education, it has also been due the increased investment and funding made for the construction and running of institutions.
      “The number of schools we have now stands at 4,792 and the number of universities are more than 40,” says the Minister of Education “The greater distribution of universities in all of Sudan’s states is contributing to our [national] development. With this, an increased number of students are bearing witness to the Government’s policy of expansion in education and the creation of partnerships with the private sector to attain quality and excellence. This in turn is guiding the education sector towards international criteria and standards to reinforce this quality and excellence.”

      Building on longstanding economic UK relations
      Along with the UK Government, British business is becoming increasingly more active in the African nation, helping it to build a more successful, prosperous and diverse economy
      As a former colony of the British Empire, Sudan shares an inextricable link with the United Kingdom. And ever since Sudan’s independence back in 1956, it is a relationship that has continued to develop in terms of diplomacy, cooperation, trade and investment.
       
      In their recent bilateral meeting in London this May, British Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Sudanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Ahmed Karti, reaffirmed their commitment towards the two countries’ longstanding and constructive partnership.
      Apart from acknowledging the good progress being made in Sudan’s relations with its southern neighbours, Mr Hague also pointed to several UK-Sudanese cooperation projects which are being implemented in the fields of capacity building and English language teaching.
      Commenting on the bilateral meeting, Minister Ali Karti added: “The relationship between Sudan and the UK is a very long and historical one. I hope we can work together to bring back the golden old days, and to work to promote relations between the two countries in every walk of life.” Meanwhile, both parties also praised their growing business ties which have been worth more than £2 billion in the past 10 years alone. Like the rest of the European Union, the UK operates an arms embargo in Sudan but continues to trade in non-military goods and services, resulting in increased commerce over the past decade.
      Minister Ali Karti underscores this small commercial renaissance, saying: “Business with the UK has increased to the degree that embassy staff who were relocated to Khartoum are now back in London.” Collectively, the EU is Sudan’s third largest trading partner and the UK accounts for around 20 per cent of this business, making Sudan one of the UK’s largest African partners.
      Reminiscing about the years during and following Britain’s colonial rule when business between the two countries was at its absolute peak, Minister Ali Karti says: “We share a history of existence, the British have been in our country for more than five decades, throughout that period we enjoyed the company of so many good people who had been appointed to administrate our country and who had been shouldering so many responsibilities. The British were doing a lot of jobs within a very tough atmosphere.
      “Education was also implemented in Sudan throughout that period. It connected so many Sudanese and scholars with British culture and the English language as well as in other fields of studies, such as the common law system. Our cities were planned according to the common law system. In the fields of trade and economics, our economy was closely connected to the economy of the UK.   
      “The UK was our best trading partner for a long time and much of the country’s infrastructure was built by British companies,” he says, full of optimism that these days will soon return.“Our heritage is based on that and from our side we have the intention and determination to go back to that history of support and engagement, whether in the field of culture, language and sciences or trade and investment.”
      The UK Government likewise appears open to strengthening business links following the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) trade mission to Khartoum earlier this year, producing a brochure for British firms interested in the country’s possibly lucrative sectors.
      Attracted by its massive potential, a number of British companies are already active in Sudan, while UKTI is also promoting the country as one that offers plentiful and “profitable business opportunities” in industries including gold and copper mining, oil exploration and construction.
      Elsewhere in Khartoum this May, in another important step for positive UK involvement in Sudan, the British Embassy celebrated the opening of its brand-new residence.
      Welcoming guests at the event, British Ambassador to Sudan Peter Tibber said: “The house is new, but the British-Sudanese relations to which this house makes its concrete contribution is old, long-standing, and constantly refreshed.”
      Apart from its improved UK relations, Sudan has also been working since 2007 through the non-profit, non- governmental organisation Bridges International to help the country cultivate avenues for more positive communication with the rest of the world, with the overall aim to promote harmony within Sudanese society, with all its various factions, ambitions and aspirations.
      Khartoum welcoming business with open arms


      With a ،one stop، investment centre, modern infrastructure and five star hotels and services, Khartoum is the country،s hub of business and investor relations
      Located at the confluence of the Blue and White Nile rivers, Khartoum is a surprise to those who visit for the first time. The Lonely Planet describes it as a “boisterous, modern, flashy city with an ever-increasing number of glass tower blocks altering its skyline” as well as an excellent museum with “breathtaking exhibits”, some fascinating souqs, Nile-side views, good facilities, hospitable people and a laid-back vibe.
      Tourism facilities have improved recently, as Ghassan Dalal, General Manager of the Al Salam Rotana Khartoum Hotel, demonstrates.
      “During the years, Khartoum has developed so drastically that a lot of four and five-star hotels in the city have been built, travel agencies have improved their services – they are now arranging city tours and packages especially for foreigners.
      “There are also new roads in the city and better infrastructures, stability in electricity supply and better lighting and landscaping along the roads. Khartoum has surely become a business-friendly city,” says Mr Dalal.
      The five-star Al Salam Rotana Khartoum Hotel, just 10 minutes from the airport and 15 minutes from the city centre, was recently named Best Airport Hotel Africa 2013-2014 by the African Hotel Awards.
      The capital city of what was not too long ago the world’s fifth fastest growing economy according to The Economist, Khartoum has not slowed down in its efforts to continue driving the nation forward.  
      SUDAN a journey of Peace and Progress


      OMAR HASSAN AL-BASHIR, President of Sudan: "We want to leave the problems of the past behind us and open a new page"
      While it is an unfortunate truth that the prevailing reason for Sudan،s notoriety in international media over recent times has largely been a result of the protracted conflict that has long pockmarked the country and hindered its development, this is today a perception and a reality that Sudan not only realizes is begging for drastic change, but an issue towards which it is taking bold steps to resolve.
      For many years it has been widely mooted that Sudan is in-fact a genuine hotbed of latent possibility. Indeed the World Bank would go as far to say that it is a "potential economic powerhouse." As one of the largest countries in Africa, Sudan sits at the significantly geostrategic junction between sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and has one of the continent،s widest and richest ranges of resources - human, natural, social and economic - lying within its vast and extensive borders.
      When the country´s prolonged civil war (defined by a deep schism of religion and culture between the Arab north and Christian south) finally came to an end in 2005 through the signing of a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the door to truly positive development had finally been left ajar, and the discovery and subsequent export of oil during the last decade went about fuelling the unprecedented growth that the country had long anticipated.
      However, despite experiencing such change in fortunes (after having suffered from the deprivation caused by war for over half a century), when Sudan agreed to the secession of South Sudan in 2011 the Muslim country made a truly gallant and munificent sacrifice in the interests of sustaining peace. As part of the independence deal, Sudan willingly relinquished over two thirds of its lucrative oil production in favour of its neighbours. Within a continent that has customarily been scarred by constant and continuing internal discord amongst its many troubled states, such a selfless act by Sudan towards helping achieve lasting harmony (becoming the only African country ever to voluntarily bequeath its borders) has rightly been hailed as a true milestone in the contemporary history of Africa
      Meanwhile, much to the widespread endorsement of the international community, a series of agreements was signed by the two countries in September last year to resolve the outstanding issues left over from the secession. And while there have been obstacles in implementing the pacts over the last twelve months, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his southern counterpart Salva Kiir have recently met in Khartoum and Juba over the last six weeks, vowing to open a new era in the relations based on the understanding that the countries need each other،s full support to prosper.
      "We want to leave the problems of the past behind us and open a new page," said President Bashir, promising that that the talks would see the end of all rebel conflict that has continued in border-contested regions, and full implemention of economic and security agreements.
      And now with the two countries working together to overcome their problems, the economic dividends of a permanent peace could be enormous. Sudan not only has immense areas of uncultivated arable land, but abundant gold and mineral resources capable of becoming major foreign exchange earners, while oil reserves are also still ripe for further exploitation.
      Today, the austerity measures being employed by the Government as an upshot of their voluntary forfeit of oil has already seen the economy move firmly back on to the road to recovery, with the IMF predicting a 1.2% GDP growth in 2013. Furthermore, in the face of its previous heavy reliance on petroleum, the Government is now working to diversify its income sources, and pursue policies that aim to remove all obstacles faced by foreign investors, including a new investment law passed towards creating a more suitable atmosphere for attracting greater capital.
      Above all, this nation of over 35 million people is exceptionally eager to project a more positive and accurate image of the genuinely beautiful yet wonderfully enigmatic place that it really is, and without doubt, Sudan is a country with a brighter new outlook. Having embraced its new found stability, this land of opportunity is fully extending its arms to the world of business, investment and tourism, hoping that its rapidly urbanising population can finally benefit from such long-touted potential, and a fully inclusive social and economic development that goes with it.
      Sudan improving relations with the South


      Following a number of agreements with the South, the two countries are making great efforts to open a new positive chapter in their relations. Here Sudan´s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hon. Ali Ahmed Karti, talks to Worldfolio about how they are both working together to resolve their problems
      The secession of South Sudan in 2011, following a referendum for self determination by its people in accordance with the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, meant that Sudan had to sacrifice three quarters of the country´s oil wealth that was produced in the South.
      Despite this, Sudan became the first government in the world to recognize the new country, with President Al-Bashir taking part in the celebration of the birth of South Sudan state and extending to it a hand of genuine cooperation and assistance.
      Following mediation by panel of former African leaders headed by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa,   a series of agreements  was signed by the two countries in September 2012 to resolve the outstanding business left over from the secession.
      While there are still a few pending issues, the two leaders most recently met in Khartoum on September 3rd 2013 and vowed to open a new chapter in the relations between the two countries based on the understanding that the countries need each other’s cooperation in order to prosper.
      How important is it to have good relations with neighbors in the border?
      It is all important. One of the defining characteristics of today’s world is the great interdependence between neighboring countries, especially in terms of peace, stability and economical and social welfare. In fact, regional peace and stability is indivisible. Hence, good relations with neighbors become an imperative of national security. This is crystal clear in our case. Sudan is surrounded by EIGHT countries, one of them across the Red Sea – Saudi Arabia. Fortunately, we have had very good relations with all of them, maybe with exception of relations with South Sudan.
       
      But relations with the South are steadily improving now aren´t they?
      Yes, we are working hard to mend and improve our relations with South Sudan, which are of special nature, given our common history the very long border and social and cultural ties, as well as the post-secession issues. Stategically speaking, we, as Sudan and South Sudan, have no option other than having good relations and close cooperation. In my view, the current challenges in the relationship between the two countries stem from two sources: First are the teething difficulties that South Sudan as an infant state is currently facing. The second source is the baggage of the New Sudan project with the Sudan People Liberation Army Movement (SPLAM).
      This project calls for restructuring of the entire Sudan and to change its cultural and national identity through war of liberation which would not be confined to the South only.  
      SPLAM sought to create and incite rebellion in other parts of the country and has embraced rebel groups from what they called the marginalized areas. Unfortunately, this has continued after South Sudan became an independent country. It might come as a surprise for many, that South Sudan still uses the name “Sudan People Liberation Army” for its armed forces. This is the crux of the current crisis in the relations between Sudan and South Sudan. However we have the sufficient political will to overcome these situations and we are hopeful that our brothers and sisters in South Sudan will soon listen to voice of reason and wisdom, and share us the same attitude at the end of the day, neither of two countries can do well without having good relations with the other.
      Aside to your relations with South Sudan, the heavy loss of oil resulting from the secession has had serious effects on your economy.  Importantly for the issue of food security, this has now put pressure on the Sudanese government to intensify their focus on the agriculture sector. Having now identified the agriculture and livestock industry as the country´s key priority – playing a vital role not only in food security, but employment opportunities, poverty alleviation and social development – Sudan is now massively boosting its public spending on the sector. What are your views on the massive potential of Sudan in the area of agriculture and food security?
      Without any exaggeration, if there is a single country that is able to feed all Arab countries it will be Sudan. We have more than 200 million acres of arable land, the majority of which is yet to be properly utilized. We equally have abundant water resources. Beside the River Nile and its five tributaries we have other rivers and the average annual water fall is around 4000 billion m3, and total renewable ground water is 4.02 billion m3.
      In addition, we have a wide diversity in weather which allows cultivating different crops. This is coupled by a long experience in commercial and irrigated agriculture, which we knew since the early 19th century.
      European forums pave way for better investment
      Along with recent measures taken to improve the business environment, a number of economic forums in various European capitals over the past 12 months have been promoting investment opportunities in the country
      The Sudanese-Italian Economic Forum in Rome this October was just the latest in a series of multilateral and bilateral trade and investment conferences held between a delegation of Sudanese officials and businesses with a number of different European countries.
      Apart from Rome, the delegation led by Sudan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Ahmed Karti has visited Vienna, Berlin and Madrid in the past year, in an attempt to strengthen diplomatic links as well as business ties with their European counterparts.
      This is all part of the new focus by the Sudanese Government to attract greater foreign investment from the EU states.
      While collectively the EU is already the African country’s third largest trading partner, being an Afro-Arab state means that Sudan has traditionally experienced the large majority of its foreign investment from within Africa, across the Red Sea in the Middle East or even farther afield from China – the African continent’s (and Sudan’s) single largest investor.
      Today however, Sudan is hoping to enhance its international partnerships by pulling in increased amounts of capital and expertise from a larger number of individual countries from the West
      Exactly in line with this premise, missions from all over Europe (17 countries in all) as well as organisations from Africa and the Middle East came to attend the ‘Sudan & Europe – Prospects of Cooperation for Regional Peace and Development’ in Vienna last year, in what was the first of Sudan’s recent run of economic forums on the European continent.
      The roundtable events have been considered a real breakthrough in the country’s international relations, with the bilateral meetings that have accompanied proceedings allowing for the host nations of Austria, Germany, Spain and Italy to voice their full support for the peace process between Sudan and South Sudan; identifying the stimulation of business in both countries as the crux to solving their problems together.  Indeed, one of the major outcomes of the summit in Vienna was the formation of the strategic ‘European Network for Regional Peace and Development in Sudan’.
      Meanwhile, the foreign ministers from each of the hosting nations have all personally inaugurated their respective conferences over the past 12 months and encouraged their own country’s businesses to further explore opportunities in Sudan.
      On the back of this, perhaps the most notable achievement of the forums has been the heavy economic and investment push from companies in Germany and Spain, which has led to the formation of a Sudanese, Spanish and Gulf region consortium in the field of industry, targeting the markets of Sudan, the Gulf and COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa).
      Likewise in Italy last month – where Sudan and Africa as a whole have traditionally received high investment – yet another trilateral treaty (also including the Gulf) was signed among the countries, including a further Italian pledge of 20 million euros to help in the development of health projects.
      With such major partnerships having arisen from the forums, the Sudanese Government and private sector are now looking to take their delegation elsewhere in Europe, as well as invite prospective investors to witness what Sudan has to offer in person, starting with the Sudan-Europe conference in Khartoum this coming March.
      And yet, while the renewed Sudanese investment push is already bearing considerable fruit in terms of propelling cooperation both diplomatically and economically with the country, efforts towards attracting investment are certainly not a new thing.
      Sudan’s Minister at the Higher Council for Investment, Dr Mustafa Osman Ismail, remarked in Rome last month that Sudan has in fact attracted more than £18.5 billion from across the world as part of its drive to boost foreign investment since the year 2000.
      This being said, the actual injection of European specific cash would certainly be much higher if the instability caused by decades of conflict had not severely hampered confidence in the country’s business environment in years gone by, including the effect of a US trade embargo that remains in force.
      But with Sudan now realising that increased diplomacy is essential for its full integration into international business circles, Khartoum is eagerly implementing the measures that are required to win back the confidence of investors from the West by further easing the process of doing business.
       
      “Investment has become a top priority all over the world, especially in terms of foreign direct investment. Not only for third world countries but for well developed countries too,” says Sudan’s Minister of Investment, Dr Ismail.
      “We in Sudan are trying very hard in order to create a good environment to compete with all the other countries, especially amongst those who are in our region.
      “We have developed our rules and institutions to such an extent that between the year 2000 and 2010, Sudan was the number two destination in the region for attracting foreign direct investment [behind Saudi Arabia].”
      It was indeed down to this investment drive of the past decade – coinciding with exportation of oil and the Comprehensive Peace Agreement – which saw confidence flowing in the country for the first ever time.
      However when South Sudan officially separated in 2011 and took two thirds of oil production with it, Sudan’s economy and business climate were hit badly. As Minister Ismail explains, this has now led to the refreshed efforts of the government to draw investment back once again.
      “This is why the government last year took a very important decision to work hard in order to regain our position, not only as number two, but as the primary destination for FDI in the region,” he declares
      As a result of this decision – alongside the series of economic forums that the Minister of Investment and the rest of the Sudanese business delegation have embarked upon across Europe in the last 12 months – 2013 saw the upgrading of a landmark ‘Investment Encouragement Act’.
      The new law, which includes additional exemptions brought about as a result of abolishing VAT on commodities, is the first big step in the ongoing process of helping Sudan to become a more efficient place to do business, as the Government also promises to crack down on incidences of corruption that have also deterred investors to set up in the country in the past
      A place of ancient history and warm hospitality
      Not only does Sudan boast UNESCO honoured archaeological sites, abundant wildlife and a crystal-watered coastline, it offers a characteristically warm and friendly welcome too
      As one of the largest countries on the African continent, Sudan is as undoubtedly enigmatic as it is gigantic. Moreover, its reputation as an unknowable yet notoriously troubled land has long been perpetuated after decades of civil war persistently deterred the most curious of tourists. However, since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005 and the end of the majority of conflicts in the region, an ever growing number of travellers have been returning from Sudan with tales of not only stunning landscapes and ancient cultural heritage, but the inspiring and sometimes overwhelming hospitality of the Sudanese people (which completely contradicts the less than privileged lives in which many of them reside).
      In fact, the natural warmth and generosity of the Sudanese has become legendary among the increasing number of tourists who have visited the country in the last few years, and this is a trait that will serve Sudan very well as its tourism industry really begins to establish itself in the years to come.
      With news continuing to spread that the country is a gradually safer and ever friendly place to visit, the industry is seen as a key strategy to boost its economy as well as improve its international image and reflect the good nature of its society.
      Indeed, little is it known, for example, that Sudan is actually one of the most culturally rich countries in the whole world – with its population divided among 19 major ethnic groups and about 597 subgroups who speak more than 100 languages and dialects. With such wide ethnic variety it means that wherever you go in this huge nation, you’ll discover something traditionally distinct.
      One inclusive characteristic that does bind the many different Sudanese people together, however, is their love of music, art and dance – ensuring that this Afro-Arab country is always a very vibrant and lively place to be.
      Meanwhile – again owing to its great expanse of lands – Sudan is as geographically diverse as it is culturally, meaning that its abundance of beautiful, natural and historic resources provide for a good number of tourist attractions. While benefitting from some of the continent’s most abounding quantities of wildlife at many of its protected national parks, the major tourism draws are largely located on the 700km-long Red Sea coast, including popular diving spots at the magnificent coral reefs, family boat trips and other adventurous water sports.
      Furthermore, the numerous impressive pyramids, temples and other ancient sites littering the northern deserts are equally a treasure to behold, and just another one of the great surprises you might find if you visit Sudan.  And so with tourism infrastructure and services now steadily expanding, it won’t be long before Africa’s once forgotten gem is surprising a few more people with an inherent warmth and beauty that has remained shamefully undiscovered for far too long.
      Realising a great electrical ambition

      Besides irrigation the River Nile has huge potential for hydropower generation, while investment opportunities in renewables are also abounding
      Amidst today’s ultra-modern, increasingly globalised and highly connected societies, it is absolutely without doubt that basic access to electricity remains inseparably correlated to our economic growth and advanced societal development. For most of us, it is something that we consider as requisite to the way in which we go about living our lives.  
      However, as in many other developing countries, less than half the population of Sudan currently shares the privilege of direct access to electricity, yet it is a provision with which the Government has employed increasing focus in recent years in order to spark improvement; bringing greater electrical power to really energise the African nation.
      In a country which not so long ago was only capable of producing 200MW of electricity, this has increased dramatically over the last decade with capacity standing now well into the thousands of megawatts, meaning power is reaching far more people in more remote areas, with shortages and outages also becoming much less of an occurrence.
      While Sudan’s energy mix has traditionally been dominated by oil, the recent power push has largely been generated by better investment in hydroelectricity. For example, the Chinese funded £1.2 million, 174km Merowe Dam situated on the River Nile finished construction in 2009 and consequently doubled the country’s power generation at the time.
      Furthermore, in one of the biggest development projects to hit Sudan lately, the Roseires Dam on the Blue Nile in the south of the country was expanded earlier this year (this time by Gulf donors), boosting not only the existing dam’s power supply, but also further downstream in the Merowe plant, as well as improving irrigation and agricultural productivity in the area.
      With these projects alone having dramatically enhanced Sudan’s power generation capacity in such a short space of time – and with the demand for electricity constantly growing amongst the country’s rapidly urbanising and industrialising population – along with initiating projects to increase generation further still, the Government is now working to establish an extended national grid network.
      Under the Ministry of Electricity and Dams, five state companies replaced the National Electricity Corporation in 2010 with the responsibility of generation, transmission and distribution of electricity in Sudan, while also charged with improving overall efficiency and creating a more attractive environment for investors.
      One major joint mission of these companies is to connect all the states of Sudan with one stable electrical transmission network by the year 2015. The role of foreign investment is, of course, essential to achieving this goal, with the installation of transmission lines expected to see major growth amidst the wide availability of investment opportunities. Already Sudan has seen significant funding by the Chinese Government in its power line development initiative, while the latest work that commenced in June on the Abu Hamad transmission line is being supported by Qatar.
      And with so much more anticipated in terms of Sudan’s electrical energy industry on top of the advancing conditions of the business climate, now is the right time for electrical generation and distribution companies to discover new opportunities and markets. Indeed aside from the country’s evident vast potential to produce power from hydro sources along the River Nile, there are also great prospects in the area of renewable energies.
      “In addition to the transmission lines, we also have thermal plants which are going on now and connecting the whole of Western Sudan,” says the State Minister of Electricity and Dams, Dr Tabita Boutros.
      “We are focusing on renewable energy, such as thermal, solar and wind generation, and we are also looking at biomass and geo-thermal. In a region which has extremely high solar intensity, solar (as well as wind) installations can already be found in Sudan. However projects remain on a relatively smaller scale as the Government continues to seek greater foreign financing.
      Furthermore, with Sudan’s enormous agricultural resources, biomass is also becoming a viable power generator – with Chinese investors again becoming the first to embark on a bio-energy project there.
      And so, Dr Boutros (who is one of the female ministers that together account for more than 28 per cent of Sudanese parliamentary seats) along with the full Minister of Electricity and Dams are today keen to emphasise the need for the private sector to lead Sudan’s strategy for alternative energy – which is seen as key to increasing access, and thus, lessening deprivation.
       
      Sennar State
      This southeastern province is where the UNESCO shortlisted Dinder National Park is situated, and at some 4,000 square metres, it is one of the largest nature reserves in Africa
      As with the many other of Sudan’s 18 “wilayah” (the Arabic word for “states”) Sennar is renowned for its agricultural productivity; particularly for the great number of farmers who grow tropical fruits such as bananas and mangos on the banks of the Blue Nile each year.Then what is it, you may ask, which sets this state apart from the rest?
      It is the fact that Sennar (sometimes known as just “Senna”) is the proud home to one of the continent’s largest national parks and biosphere reserves, and a place that holds presence on UNESCO’s tentative list for potential ‘World Heritage’ status.
      Founded in 1935, Dinder National Park lies approximately 400km southeast of Khartoum on either side of the Dinder and Rahad rivers and the Sudanese border with Ethiopia; and it is a result of this distinct location which makes the area so ecologically significant.
      Falling on the ecotone between the Sahel Region (semi-arid) and the Ethiopian Highlands (montane woodland), the park contains three different ecosystems which allows it to play habitat to 27 large mammal species including lions, leopards, buffalo, elephants, giraffes and rhinoceroses.
      What’s more, over 160 species of birds can be found (it is in a major flyway used by birds migrating between Eurasia and Africa), as well as 32 fish species and a good number of reptiles and amphibians.
      Indeed, it is thanks to such rich biodiversity that this park was designated a member of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1979. Biosphere reserves are sites recognised under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme to promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science.
      As a place that seeks to reconcile conservation of biological and cultural diversity and economic and social development through partnerships between people and nature, Dinder fits the bill perfectly.
      Although the park is fairly remote (as you would expect a protected area to be), experiencing these beautiful and unspoilt natural surroundings for yourself is certainly possible. The best way to visit Dinder is via the capital, where you can arrange to have a four-wheel-drive (a very necessary mode of transport for the park’s dirt tracks) to collect you from your hotel.
      The dry season in this part of the world runs from December to May and is the recommended time for visiting the park. From June to October, on the other hand, travel should be avoided as the tracks can become heavily flooded.
      Meanwhile, upon arrival at Dinder, there are rooms for rent and places to eat as well as a museum to explore. And while the concept of tourism is only just finding its roots here with sightseeing services and development remaining at their most basic, such a scenario offers you the very rare opportunity where, unlike most game reserves in Africa, you can truly see game in its natural state, without the presence of hundreds of other tourists.
      This opportunity won’t last forever, however, so it’s advised to get to this wonderful and little known gem before hoards of other curious adventure-seeking travellers do!

    • The Red Sea


      Renowned for its excellent scuba-diving and beaches, as well as the fascinating medieval city of Suakin, it is no wonder that this seaside state is Sudan،s capital of tourism
      The main attraction of the Red Sea State for tourists lies in its name. With beautiful unspoiled beaches along the Red Sea, clear warm waters, dazzling coral reefs, and a wide spectrum of marine life, it has the potential to become a hotspot for scuba-diving, snorkelling, yachting and other water sports.
      Two popular destinations along the state’s Red Sea coast are Port Sudan and Suakin. The state capital Port Sudan, already a favourite with domestic tourists, is becoming increasingly popular with foreign tourist because of its excellent beaches, scuba-diving, wonderful local cuisine and warm and friendly people. Each November the city hosts the Red Sea Festival for Tourism and Marketing which is part of the strategy to build the profile of the state and its growing tourism industry, and is being supported by the international airport that is located close to the city.
      Around 60km south of Port Sudan lies the ancient city of Suakin, which was once the country’s chief port and trade hub. The old city built of coral is in ruins, but efforts are being made in collaboration with Turkish restoration experts to restore some of this once-bustling city’s splendour, in an attempt to boost tourism. The local tourism authority is confident that – once finished – the restoration works on this ancient coral city will attract large numbers of tourists.
      The Red Sea State’s virgin beaches and aquatic treasures combined with its ancient ruins and rich heritage (the region is renowned for a diverse social fabric comprising different tribes producing a unique cultural heritage) make it easy to see why it is the number one tourist state in Sudan, as well as the only to touch the warm waters of the Red Sea
       Keeping Sudan connected
      The ICT revolution that has swept Africa over the last 10 years has contributed to growth more than any other sector in the country
      The telecoms sector is by far the fastest-growing and most lucrative market in Africa. Sudan has invested heavily in ICT infrastructure in recent years, with some notable achievements. It has made enormous strides in liberalising the telecoms sector and, as a result, has attracted significant private capital.  
      Liberalisation of the telecoms sector began in 1993 and, according to the General Manager of the National Telecom Corporation, Dr Izzeldin Kamil Amin, Sudan was the first Arab country to privatize the industry.
      “Economic reform began in 1993 and the government started with the reform of telecoms, as it was seen as the key development sector,” he explains. “The first private telecommunication was company was formed by SUDATEL. It replaced the Sudan Telecommunication Public Corp.”
      Privitisation and reform paved the way for rapid growth. At the time of privitisation, the state of communication was very poor; there were about 50,000 telephone lines and many of them did not even function. But in the space of two years, the number of lines jumped to 1.3 million.
      Nowadays the Afro-Arab nation can boast to have a relatively well-equipped telecommunications system by regional standards. Investment has spurred mobile penetration to grow from 1 per cent in 2000 to 60 per cent in 2012. Internet penetration was 21 per cent in 2012, well above the Sub-Saharan average of 15.4 per cent. Connectivity to an undersea fibre-optic cable meanwhile has led to expansions in access, improvements in quality, and reduction in prices. Yet broadband penetration is still less than 1 per cent.
      With a growing population, economy and stability, coupled with a highly under-saturated market, Sudan offers a significant opportunity for those in the telecoms industry. There has been much done in order improve the investment climate for investors. Recently, the 30 per cent profit tax on telecom operators has been scrapped until 2015, and replaced with a 2.5 per cent levy on total income, in a move that should help the sector attract greater investment.
      “The future of telecoms is very bright and extremely promising. From the establishment of Mobitel, then Areeba and finally Sudani Telecom, the market has become a breeding ground for competition and continuous forward thinking solutions. In 2014 the sky is the limit in terms of opportunities that are present in the market  today,” says local telecoms expert Dr El-Tinay.
      “An area where investments would be most effective with regard to telecoms and ICT would be the addition of value-added services, as there is much room for growth in this sector. Overall it is important to note that Sudan is still a developing market, there is much room for growth and it will benefit greatly from the cooperation of long standing business partners such as those formed with the UK to help propel it into the next chapter of prosperous growth.”
      Both Dr Izzeldin and Dr El-Tinay are convinced of the profound impact that the growing telecoms sector will have on the economy. Dr Izzeldin cites a number of recent studies that say that for every 10 per cent of broadband penetration, 1.3 per cent is added to GDP.  
      On the other hand, Dr El-Tinay states that: “There is no doubt ICT will help further develop the knowledge based society in Sudan, it will achieve this by facilitating the dispersion of services and helping these services become more efficient. The overall effect of a concentrated effort in development of ICT in this sector will ultimately decrease such percentages such as illiteracy while adding much needed jobs to the market.