South Sudan investment event looking to lure foreign firms

In July this year South Sudan became the world’s newest country when it officially celebrated independence from its northern neighbour Sudan.

In a referendum earlier in 2011, southern Sudanese voted in favour of secession from Sudan. The referendum was a core component of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended decades of conflict between the Southern Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Khartoum government.

Barely a few months after independence, South Sudan will host its first trade and investment conference in a bid to attract investors to the fragile region.

The South Sudan Investment Conference and Trade Fair, scheduled for early October in the capital Juba, is expected to bring together government officials, donor agencies and the private sector.

South Sudan is underdeveloped, and offers significant opportunities for business and investment. “There exists an urgent need to develop [South Sudan’s] infrastructure: road networks, housing, education and health sectors, civil services, insurance, schools and other amenities, which are all critical for development,” said a statement released by the organisers of the event. “There is a huge opportunity for the donor community, the government, and above all, commercial investors to help in this development.”

The potential for investment in the hospitality, agricultural, energy and mining sectors were also highlighted.

Investment consultant David Raad, however, warns that South Sudan can be a difficult environment in which to do business. “It is an inhospitable area. Malaria and other debilitating diseases are widespread and deadly. Medical services are limited,” he told How we made it in Africa in an earlier interview.

Tokyo-based Japan Tobacco recently announced a deal to buy Sudanese cigarette manufacturer Haggar Cigarette & Tobacco Factory (HCTF). HCTF has a presence in both Sudan and South Sudan. “The political landscape in the region remains sensitive. However, we believe that critical steps toward achieving peace are taking place and our presence will keep providing economic opportunities for Sudan and South Sudan,” said Fadoul Pekhazis, who looks after the company’s Africa business.

A few years ago, beer maker SABMiller also invested in a brewery in South Sudan.