The Embassy of the Republic of South Sudan discussed investment opportunities in the country with diplomats and investors from around the world who are based in Addis Ababa.
The world’s newest state, which claims to endorse a liberal economic policy, accepts investors from all over the world without any discrimination, according to Arop Deng, the South Sudanese Ambassador to Ethiopia. “All investors are invited to come and look for opportunities and invest in accordance with their capabilities,” he said.
The country, with a generous Investment Policy, is starting from scratch. “Opportunities abound from manufacturing matches and needles to road construction and establishing industries. South Sudan is a land that doesn’t have any infrastructure. We don’t have electricity, cement and skilled human resources.”
He said the government was not in a position to point out every opportunity to every investor, but that entrepreneurs are welcome to find out in what areas they want to invest and work on. “I always pronounce that the government doesn’t know and deal with the specifics when it comes to business. It generally sees the bigger picture,” Deng said. “Therefore, the business community should take it upon itself to search and identify opportunities that suit their areas of expertise, while benefiting the country as a whole.” Of course, he said, as a country that aspires to grow, South Sudan has priority areas including agriculture, infrastructure and education. “There are no roads, schools and industries that can transform agricultural produce,” he said.
At the event organized by the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industries, the ambassador was asked to elaborate on several issues including Visa, land tenure, investment
policies, transportation, electric power and banking. He addressed these questions one by one.
Speaking about acquiring visas, he said the Embassy in Addis Ababa would issue visas, both for investors and visitors instantly when required and also mentioned the fact that people with permanent businesses in South Sudan will be issued a residential visa if they so desire. He admitted that the Ministry of Interior is working on policies regarding the issuance of visas and for the time being the period of stay granted for visitors and investors might be relatively short. “The reason why we are not issuing one year visas for the time being is because we don’t have policies in place right now to combat crimes and crime-related issues if such situations arise.” The ambassador noted that not all South Sudanese have ID cards. However, the draft of policies have reached parliament and the policies on such issues would be addressed and enacted soon.
The ambassador answered issues raised in regards to land tenure. He said land in South Sudan belongs to the community, but many people are buying land via lease agreements lasting 99 years. According to the ambassador, currently, the government was not in a position to address land issues until the enactment of laws.
“Electricity in South Sudan is almost non-existent,” the ambassador honestly explained. But this will not be a challenge forever as the country has a huge potential which will be developed in the near future and can provide electricity beyond its borders, he claimed. It has also developed a framework through the Ministry of Finance in which energy supply is of paramount importance. Furthermore, the government has signed an agreement with the Ethiopian government to buy electric power.
Speaking of the so-called “rumours” that are making the rounds about investors being required to provide up to 30 percent of shares to nationals, the ambassador said, “Shares in a company are determined by business people and the community or citizens they deal with – not by the government. But the government legalizes the ventures or companies after an agreement is made among the shareholders. If a citizen of South Sudan requests or demands 100 percent of the shares and you give them what they demanded and required, we don’t have a problem with that.” According to the ambassador the rest is just rumours.
One participant from Ethiopian Airlines hinted that his company is planning to commence operating cargo flights to Juba and the ambassador cheerfully stated that this was a long awaited request from the Ethiopian and South Sudanese business communities. “Many Ethiopians doing business in South Sudan are receiving their goods through Kenya, Djibouti, and direct cargo flights from Dubai. They have been asking Ethiopian Airlines to start operating cargo flights from and to Juba since 2005.” He stated his country’s interest in Ethiopian Airlines’ services but also voiced his concerns about the prices Ethiopian charges. “This is something we would be discussing with the airlines though,” he qualified. The ambassador also stated that the South Sudanese government is contemplating setting up its own national airline. “The Ministry of Transport has been discussing with Ethiopian Airlines on how to best establish this airline.”
According to the ambassador, most businesses in South Sudan are run by Ethiopians. “This is because South Sudanese are very happy with all the support provided by Ethiopians during the fight for independence,” the ambassador informed Capital. He added, “This wasn’t help from a distant country but from our brothers and neighbours and is highly appreciated by South Sudanese and that’s why today most of the businesses including hotels are owned and run by Ethiopians.”
Deng was also appreciative of the efforts expended by the Pan African Chamber of Commerce and Industry for conducting this event and said South Sudan will continue to do the promotion. Representatives from consultancy firms on education, electric power, health, construction, etc. approached the ambassador at the end of the event for further informal discussions on Tuesday night.