The potential for growth and profit

Andrew Kuong is Minister of Information and Communication, Unity State, Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS). Earlier this year, Mr Kuong sought to highlight the opportunities for business in Sudan. Issues addressed by the Minister include: the Sudanese political situation, with particular reference to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA); major projects in prospect and underway in Sudan; and opportunities for investment in the country.
Sudan is Africa’s largest country, at 2.5mn sq km (965,255sq miles). Sudan borders nine countries, and boasts a population of 35mn governed by 25 States. In the nation’s capital, Khartoum, a populace of 1.4mn, a microcosm of the nation, lives and works at the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile rivers.
Sudan is resource rich, with a vibrant economy. Its natural resources include reserves of oil, iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver, and gold. It boasts a strong agricultural sector, which produces cotton, groundnuts, sorghum, millet, wheat, gum arabic, sugar cane, cassava (tapioca), mangos, papaya, bananas, sweet potatoes, and sesame. There is also significant sheep and cattle farming in Sudanese lands. The nation’s industrial activity encompasses oil, cotton, textiles, cement, pharmaceuticals, armaments, and automobile assembly.
Export markets for the Sudanese include Japan (49.6 per cent), China 32 (per cent), Saudi Arabia 3.1 (per cent). Sudan imports goods and services from China (18.2 per cent), Saudi Arabia (9.2 per cent), the UAE (5.8 per cent), Egypt (5.3 per cent), Germany (5.2 per cent), India (4.6 per cent), and France (4.1 per cent) (Source: One World - Nations Online Project, 2006).


Working on connectivity
Sudatel part-owns an operation called Sudani, which provides telecommunications and Internet services in Sudan. Sudatel is charged, also, with the construction and maintenance of Sudan’s telecommunications infrastructure. Sudatel is a public-private-partnership, with ownership shared by the Sudanese government and private interests. Of particular interest, in terms of Sudanese development, are the projects Sudatel is involved with. Sudatel is expanding satellite earthlink facilities and building a fibre optic network. The company intends to become one of the most important points of transit for communication activity to the African continent, with Port Sudan becoming one of five points providing access to the Internet in Africa. The company’s fibre projects include:
• The Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System (EASSy), connecting South Africa’s telecom network with that of Sudatel; this cable will connect Port Sudan to the Cape of Good Hope. Alcatel-Lucent is involved, also, in this undertaking, which operates on a budget of approximately US$250mn.
• A fibre optics network, connecting the country’s Customs Authority headquarters with seven offices in Khartoum and three offices in Port Sudan.
Sudatel’s contribution to Sudanese infrastructure is extensive. Its social support programme accommodates health services throughout Sudan – including, notably, teaching hospitals in Khartoum, through investment in medical equipment. The company has invested in the nation’s education, also, providing Sudanese students with notebooks from the National Centre for Curriculums and Educational Research in Bakhat Alrida, in White Nile State; Sudatel supplied 8.5mn notebooks in 2008 and six million notebooks in 2007. In 2008 the company sponsored an ongoing Electronic Education Project, directed at using the Internet and various technologies for the benefit of students, researchers and computer developers.
Most recently, in January 2009 Sudatel inaugurated new premises in Mauritania, and a new corporate site in the Senegalese capital as part of its growing presence in the West African country. Its new premises were unveiled in the presence of the Senegalese Minister of Information and Communication Technology Abdul Aziz Sow and the ChargĂ© d’Affaires at the Sudanese Embassy in Dakar. Sudatel paid $200mn to start mobile phone services in Mauritania before winning the license for fixed-line and mobile services in Senegal - seeing off competition from Celtel, a subsidiary of Kuwait’s Zain. The company started its services in Mauritania under the brand name Expresso. In January 2009, Sudatel introduced the ‘Expresso’ brand to Senegal, utilising CDMA technology. Back in Sudan, Sudatel is not alone in improving connectivity. There is, also, Sidco Telecom, a satellite communication and information technology services company providing business solutions for clients in Sudan and beyond its borders. Sidco Telecom, as the official distributor for Thuraya and Inmarsat satellite services in Sudan, serves non-governmental organisations (NGOs), mining operations, oil producers, and other key concerns.
There is, also, Mazaya Telecommunications, which specialises in radio and satellite telecommunications technology for Sudan. Mazaya’s partners include Thuraya, Afro-Space, Telenor, Nera Systems, GT&T, and Vizada. And there is MTN, a global brand which entered the Sudanese telecommunications market in June 2007 with the purchase of Areeba. MTN Sudan is a strong performer, having increased its subscriber base by 96 per cent to 2.1mn, and its market share from 25 per cent to 28 per cent, in the highly competitive Sudanese market.
Key players in the Sudanese telecommunications market include Canar Telecommunication, which introduced a 3G network to Sudan in January 2007. Communications aside, the operator offers Canar Go, incorporating wireless broadband Internet, with backing from the Emirates Telecommunication Corporation (Etisalat). Notably, Canar deploys next generation network (NGN) and wireless local loop (WLL) technologies for its voice, data, Internet and multimedia services provision. In fact, Canar is noted as one of the first operators in Africa to use an NGN network core. There is Fono Telecoms, a privately-owned company which operates in telecommunications and information technology. Fono Telecoms is privately owned, and based in Khartoum, with agents in a number of Sudanese States. Fono’s also boasts clients in industry – specifically, in oil, non-governmental, governmental, transportation, financial, and manufacturing sectors.


A focus on Unity
Minister Kuong hails from Unity State, one of ten administrative districts in the autonomous region of Southern Sudan, which produces the major share of Sudan’s oil production.
During his presentation at the MEA, he highlighted the recent political and economic good news emanating from southern Sudan, and placed particular stress on the ways in which the CPA has served to facilitate progress and improve the country’s investment climate. The power sharing empowered by the CPA has enabled the world beyond Sudan to look at this country afresh, and see the potential benefits of involvement in exploiting its natural resources and industrial experience. Amongst the opportunities highlighted by Andrew Kuong are the oil and gas concessions stretching from Southern Sudan to Jonglei, crossing the Western Upper Nile. The Minister from Unity State spoke, also, of construction, in the form of increased investment in town planning, housing, hospitals and schools, hotels, and business centres. He spoke of transport, and of improving river-based facilities, airports and airstrips, and rail and road networks.

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