Khalid Al Mubarak
Large scale investment in the Sudan was hampered by two factors in the past. The civil wars (1955-1972 and 1983-2005) and the US sanctions. The conflict in the South was settled in 2005 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
US sanctions are still in place; but are looking increasingly illogical and becoming, gradually less damaging. In an international system that is evolving into a multi-polar political and economic playing field, no country can be “stifled” by the policies of ONE state, no matter how powerful and effective that state is. Market forces and core US interests too are a factor. Before US President Clinton signed sanctions against the Sudan,
he was approached by influential soft drink companies lobbies that drew the White House’s attention to the likely effect on Gum Arabic which is a key ingredient in their business. The president retreated and made an exception for Gum Arabic. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published it regulations in July 1998 enforcing Executive Order 13067 which allowed US companies to apply for licenses to import Sudanese Gum Arabic. The flaws in US sanctions policy against the Sudan were also exposed by the oil industry. The Sudan did not kick out Chevron in 1984. It withdrew of its own accord in the aftermath of an SPLA attack against one of its sites. Making use of a generous US compensation policy the company sold out its rights. This is where the Chinese came in. US desire to displace them in the Sudan or South Sudan are bound to fail. The most clever and pragmatic policy would be to lift the anomolous sanctions and accept the offer that was made by President Bashir on more than one occasion: to resume investment and exploration without conditions in a free market attempt to share the benefits of oil, minerals and other products with the Sudan. Failing to do that will result in the Chinese example becoming a precedent for Russia, Brazil, India and other rising powers. The US will again be the loser that shot itself in the pocket and gave the impression of deep-seated islamophobia and anti-Arab prejudice. The British have already declared that they have no sanctions against the Sudan.
The investment arguments have taken a huge step forward with the Oslo Conference for Economic Cooperation between Norway and Africa on 12 October 2012. The Sudan was represented by Dr. Mustafa Osman Ismail, Investment Minister together with a top-level delegation from the Ministry of Energy and the Sudanese Business Association.
Dr. Mustafa O. Ismail chaired the Agriculture Session, made a long presentation and held several contacts with other delegations. Most of the African countries were there: Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Angola, Libya, Tunisia, Ghana, Morocco, South Africa and, not least South Sudan which was significantly place next to the Sudan desk. (Norway was once part of Sweden and seceded after a referendum in 1905; but the two are now very close allies and trade partners).
The Norwegian Ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation were the hosts of the annual conference (which the Sudan attended for the first time).
In his speech, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs underlined readiness to cooperate with African partners in agriculture, renewable energy, oil, gas, minerals and forestry.
Interest in the Sudan was genuine and persistent, especially in agriculture, minerals, fruits, cattle and tourism. The prospect of a follow-up event devoted to Sudanese-Norwegian cooperation was raised.
International Corporations were also present, led by Google that lauded the role of mobile phones in investment, indicating that the Sudan came second only to Kenya in mobile phone usage.
Dr. Mustafa O. Ismail told Sudan Vision that the significance of the Norwegian event is magnified by the fact that it was not isolated; but came as part of a pattern of Investment Conferences.
Mr. Ali Karti, Foreign Minister, led the Sudanese delegation in a similar 3-day International Conference (10-12 October ‘12) in Vienna, titled: “Sudan & Europe: Prospects of Cooperation for Regional Peace and Development”, where both he and South Sudanese ministers jointly assured investors that the two Sudans were peaceful and ready for investment.
Another investment conference with Malaysia will be convened in Khartoum. Next February a Saudi-Sudanese investment conference will be organized in Khartoum. Next March the Nile Valley investment conference (between Sudan and Egypt) will take place in Khartoum.
The Turkish authorities have started contacts for reorganizing the postponed International Investment Conference for the Sudan. The USA had requested postponement and promised to participate (together with her allies).
Dr. Mustafa O. Ismail added that the parliamentary ratification in both Khartoum and Juba of the Common Cooperation Agreements signed on 27 September by Presidents Al Bashir and Kiir has created an atmosphere that is conducive to business and investment in both countries.
By holding this successful conference, Norway, Henrik Ibsen’s country continues its policy of support for Africa and the Sudan. Norway continues to play its role as the third member of the Troika (that includes the US and UK) which has worked for years to bring about and consolidate peace and stability in the Sudan.