JUBA - When independence became a reality a year ago, the country’s leadership set out to attract foreign investors and encourage local people to invest.
A number of investment promotion activities have been held within and outside the country; including the first ever investment summit in South Sudan held in Juba in March and attended by over 400 investors.
The topics discussed included petroleum, agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, gas, minerals, construction, utilities, tourism, water, security, health, education and logistics.
The minister of Investment, Garang Diing, told participants that the summit was to highlight to the world the abundant opportunities in South Sudan.
He called for more investors while acknowledging the already existing investments, such as oil production, mobile networks operating companies, hospitality, banking sector, industrial development and airlines.
The minister assured investors that the Government has put in place a solid legal and institutional framework to support the private sector and that their rights are guaranteed under the South Sudan Investment Promotion Act.
“South Sudan is now open for business and we are soon moving towards integrating into the economic world,” Diing said.
In order to streamline and simplify procedures to set up a business, the ministry opened a one-stop-shop in Juba.
The Undersecretary for Investment, Elizabeth Majok, said they hope the centre will address investor complaints of having to run around different offices and sometimes dealing with the wrong people.
“This is one of the things that made the cost of doing business high. Now an investor can walk into the One-Stop-Shop and walk away with all the information he requires,” she said.
Majok called the changes that have taken place in the country over the last twelve months impressive.
“It may not look like America but people who are coming from outside the country for a visit sometimes don’t want to go back; they feel at home,” she said.
She also observed that a lot of construction works were taking place in Juba and other towns of South Sudan.
Majok, who is also a member of the newly established South Sudan Roads Authority (SSRA), said plans are underway to link all the ten states through one road network.
It will connect Juba to Western Equatoia, Western Bahr el Ghazal and the Upper Nile region.
The road between Juba and Nimule at the border with Uganda has been tarmacked and now serves as the major transit route for goods and travelers, she said.
“In addition, 21 laws have been simplified, published and distributed across the country to enable investors understand the legal framework within which to do business,” Majok said.
The passing of enabling laws will come as a relief to investors who have been frustrated by the absence of a legal environment, especially for mineral prospecting and mining.
Recently the deputy Minister of Mining and Petroleum, Elizabeth Bol, said that because of lack of enabling laws, more than 20 investors were waiting for licences to start mining.
Studies have shown that the country has a lot of other valuable mineral deposits like gold and limestone in Kapoeta in Eastern Equatoria.
“Opportunities to invest in cement production remains open to any serious investor,” Bol said.
The past one year has also seen the Government shift emphasis to agriculture, which was once the back bone of the south before the oil discovery in the 1970s.
Majok explained that the shutdown of oil production in February has accelerated the need to diversify the economy, with agriculture the primary focus.
She said that at least 50% of South Sudan’s land is suitable for agricultural production.
Government efforts have thus been increasingly directed towards attracting investors in agro-business, with cereal production being seen as one of the key areas.
“Cereals, high value fruits and vegetables are among the areas the Government is setting its eyes on,” she said.
Majok also announced that the Government wants to reopen some of the factories that were ruined during the two decade long war.
A company called Adroit International has been contracted to do the feasibility study on the defunct Yirol oil factory in Lakes state and plans are underway to rehabilitate the factory.
There are also plans to have the sugarcane plant at Mangala reopened, she explained.
The other area already identified for possible investment is the livestock sector, which would put the millions of cattle in the country into productive use.
“We have to change our people’s mindset to start looking at the commercial value of the animals we have in the country,” she observed.
By investing in animal resources, the Government wants to reduce livestock imports for meat, generate revenue from hides and skins and export meat.
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