South Sudan

By Rodney Dixon

In recent weeks the United Nations has made public eyewitness accounts of foreign aid workers trapped in South Sudan in July as fighting resumed. They reveal how swiftly the country’s unity government pulled apart and returned to war, and how a ten thousand-strong United Nations peacekeeping force failed to prevent this happening. Their testimony indicates both local and intergovernmental shortcomings contributed to the crisis.

Yet today the global community, led by the US and UK, propose a way forward that is primarily international. They call for UN peacekeepers to be increased by one third, and for the establishment of an internationalised criminal tribunal, the “Hybrid Court for South Sudan”. Read more

South Sudan marked its fifth anniversary as a state this month not with celebrations but with rival armed factions shooting at each other in the streets of the capital. Several hundred people were killed in less than a week, tens of thousands displaced, and even sacrosanct UN camps protecting civilians were attacked. South Sudan ceased to perform even the minimal functions and responsibilities of a sovereign state long ago, and today the likelihood of a larger pogrom and escalating civil war is high.

A power-sharing agreement to end a conflict that started in December 2013 was centred around two people – President Salva Kiir and opposition leader First Vice President Riek Machar – who are irredeemably compromised among segments of the population, who view them as posing an existential threat to their communities. An African Union (AU) Commission of Inquiry found Kiir and Machar’s forces both responsible for killings that constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity. Sharing power between them has now failed disastrously on two separate occasions, and further attempts can only be expected to produce more of the same: immense human suffering and regional instability. Read more

Four years after independence there is very little to celebrate in South Sudan. Border and land disputes continue to strain ties, and given other high-visibility emergencies the civil war is not the subject of much attention from international media. However, there is a small good news story amid all the conflict in the form of new investment in agriculture as a means of providing livelihoods and promoting peace. It turns out that sustainable agriculture, particularly coffee, can be an important building block for peace and development in Africa. Read more

As South Sudan’s war drags into the beginning of its second year, campaigners are warning of the economic risks of a prolonged conflict, hoping to press the region into action during the African Union meetings at the end of January after months of failed peace talks.

According to a study by Frontier Economics, a UK-based consultancy, the war could cost $158bn over two decades, even if oil production comes back at full capacity 10 years from now. Humanitarians also say they need $1.8bn to reach more than 4m people in 2015 alone. Two million people have already fled the fighting, which has killed tens of thousands. Read more

As if South Sudan hasn’t enough to contend with, now it has the reprove of the usually buttoned-up IMF. Following a review of the oil-dependent economy, the IMF outlines the “acute challenges” facing the new country, which started tearing itself apart in a civil war just three years after achieving hard-won independence from the Khartoum regime to the north.

In the first Article IV Consultation with South Sudan since the country became an IMF member in April 2012 – jargon for the IMF’s overarching macroeconomic assessment – the Fund paints a sorry state for the country with the highest per capita income in the region bar Kenya. Read more

Following a decade in which Chinese largesse has helped to transform Africa’s prospects – and challenged the supremacy that western companies once enjoyed over the continent’s natural resources – Beijing has sent word to Washington that the world’s two biggest economies might combine their efforts to generate some much-needed electricity in one of the poorest.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, an expanse the size of western Europe that perennially ranks among the worst countries in which to do business, has known little but conflict and penury for decades. World Bank-backed plans to build a third dam at Inga are part of a broader vision for a dam complex capable of generating 40,000MW – twice the size of the Three Gorges dam in China. Read more

Luanda: up go the costs

If you thought that London / HK / Mumbai / [enter your city here] was a bit on the expensive side, spare a thought for those in Luanda and Juba.

The capitals of Angola and South Sudan are the 1st and 3rd most pricey oil and gas towns in the world for expats, according to hydrocarbons news provider Rigzone. Sifting through the latest cost of living data produced by ECA and Mercer International, Rigzone reckons both capitals now beat Perth and Moscow, and are separated only by Norway’s Stavanger, when it comes to their power to lighten your wallet. Read more

Downtown NairobiLess than two years after independence, South Sudan is attracting the attention of insurance companies in east Africa. And it’s not the region’s only new frontier. CIC Insurance Group of Kenya is ready to expand in the country and into neighbouring Uganda.

Next year, CIC has its sights on Tanzania and Malawi, Joel Gatune, the insurer’s finance and investments manager, tells beyondbrics. “For us, we believe sustained growth is in micro-insurance,” he says. “We’ve come up with a micro-insurance blueprint.” Read more

When it comes to trade, sub-Sarahan Africa is highly exposed to the eurozone, isn’t it? You would think so, given the warnings from the IMF to that effect.

But park your assumptions for one minute. Yes, any eurozone slowdown hurts African trade. But not by as much as a slowdown from other parts of the world, and the eurozone dependency is falling. Read more

South Sudan’s secession just over a year ago was one of promise: The country had plently of oil, and boasted an on-paper GDP per capita double that of Kenya. But disputes over oil transit fees through Sudan, including a brief military occupation of a contested region, culminated in a decision by South Sudan’s government to shut down its production, estimated at around 350,000 barrels a day.

Donors and external advisers predicted calamity. However, investor interest in the country is undeterred, according to a government adviser. Cooler heads are prevailing. Read more

Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, the world’s third-biggest shipbuilder by sales kicked off the week with a $1.9bn order to build five production platforms for an unidentified African-based customer.

This is almost a quarter of  its revenue from offshore platform deals last year. The news of the contract, which ends in 2016, on Monday sent DSME’s share price up 1.8 per cent and left observers puzzling who might be the client. Read more

Just as South Sudan’s finances are running out and investors are thinking about packing up and leaving, an “ultra-modern” office block might seem the least viable investment going.

But try telling that to the developers behind the $17m project, UAP Holdings. The 12-storey Equatoria Tower is set to be the tallest building in Juba, the southern capital more famed for dust and containers that double as homes than high rises, or anything approaching modern. Read more

It’s not easy convincing investors that your brand-new country is worth backing. Last July, Riek Machar, South Sudan’s vice president, was in New York to mark his newly-independent country’s admission to the United Nations. As he did so as the oil wealth that provides 98 per cent of state revenue was flowing fast.

Today that oil flow is frozen due to a dispute with its neighbours in Sudan. So to reduce its vulnerability to such troubles Machar has been back to New York to fire up South Sudan’s search for American investment. But did anyone bite? Read more

Private equity in east Africa is punching below is weight. The region attracted nearly a third of the 66 private equity deals done in sub-Saharan Africa in 2011 – but their value was just $188m out of a total $3bn, or 6 per cent. Deals worth six times as much were done in west Africa. Read more

Sudan, which has gone through years of war and the break-away of oil-rich South Sudan, has decided to expand its tiny stock market in an effort to compensate for the loss of its all important oil revenues. Sudan is also going to, finally, turn the exchange electronic. Read more

scissorsTo cut or not to cut will be the crucial decision as South Africa’s monetary policy committee holds the first of its fourth quarter meetings this week in an environment of gloomy growth prospects and inflationary pressure.

The Reserve Bank, which is generally credited for its  prudence, has left interest rates unchanged at 5.5 per cent this yearRead more

Emerging markets have been good to carmakers and South Africa is no exception. At first glance August vehicle sales figures published on Friday support the story of an ongoing boom – with overall sales up 11.1 per cent year-on-year in August, from 10.5 per cent in July. But parsing the numbers, it’s not all positive news.

Specifically, passenger vehicle sales are beginning to slow, a reflection of increasingly cautious consumer confidence. Read more

Omar al-Bashir in BeijingWith South Sudan celebrating independence on Saturday, who is to blame for the flight of more than 200,000 people from border fighting – including aerial bombardments and reports of door-to-door killings that amount to attempted ethnic cleansing – and for failure to reach agreement on a string of issues from oil rights to borders?

Many southern Sudanese have no doubt: Omar al-Bashir, president of Sudan and indicted war criminal sitting up north in Khartoum. So it is perhaps surprising, as South Sudan emerges – poor, fragile but nevertheless triumphant – that among the guests of honour will be none other than the man himself. Read more