The Republic of South Sudan became the world’s newest nation and Africa’s 55th country on July 9, 2011, following a peaceful secession from the Sudan through a referendum in January 2011. As a new nation, South Sudan has the dual challenge of dealing with the legacy of more than 50 years of conflict and continued instability, along with huge development needs. South Sudan also has significant oil wealth, which if effectively used to drive development, could provide the basis for progress in the coming years. Core administrative structures and mechanisms of political representation were emerging, and the government was beginning to provide basic services to the population when conflict broke out in December 2013.
Although South Sudan has vast and largely untapped natural resources, beyond a few oil enclaves, it remains relatively undeveloped, characterized by subsistence economy. The country is sparsely populated with more than 200 ethnic. South Sudan is the most oil dependent country in the world, with oil accounting for almost the totality of exports, and for around 80% of gross domestic product (GDP). On current reserve estimates, oil production is expected to reduce steadily in future years and to become negligible by 2035. Prior to the oil shutdown in January 2012, 98% of fiscal revenue came from oil. The country’s GDP per capita in 2013 was $1085.
It is estimated that the current conflict will cost up to 15% of the potential GDP in 2014. Furthermore, oil production has fallen by 20% with the commensurate reduction in revenues from SSP 8.7 billion to SSP 6.8 billion in 2014. Military expenditure is also on the rise, jeopardizing the availability of resources for service delivery and capital spending on much needed infrastructure. A more prolonged conflict would also impact negatively on the 2014 harvest, further reducing non-oil GDP in 2015. The budget for 2014-2015 is SSP11 billion (nearly $4 billion).
Outside the oil sector, livelihoods are concentrated in low productive, unpaid agriculture and pastoralists work, accounting for around 15% of GDP. In fact, 85% of the working population is engaged in non-wage work, chiefly in agriculture (78%).
The current conflict has already increased poverty estimates in some states and is expected to drive inflation into 2015 as food and livestock production has been disrupted, putting millions at risk of hunger. Over half of the population was already below the poverty line before the conflict and the subsequent steep increase in prices of key products has increased poverty particularly in Jonglei, Unity, and Upper Nile states.
South Sudan, with an estimated population of 10.9 million and an area covering 644,329 sq. km, is roughly the size of France, but with just under one-third of the population, giving it a population density that is less than one tenth of neighboring Uganda. The country is very young, with 16% of the population under the age of five years, 32% under the age of 10-years-old, 51% under the age of 18-years-old and 72% under the age of 30.3 years old. Almost 83% resided in rural areas before the outbreak of the recent conflict which has displaced about 1.7 million people.
Only 27% of the population aged 15 years and above is literate. The literacy rate for males is 40% compared to 16% for females. The infant mortality rate is 105 (per 1,000 live births), maternal mortality rate is 2,054 (per 100,000 live births), and only 17% of children are fully immunized. Fifty-five percent of the population has access to improved sources of drinking water but 38% of the population has to walk for more than 30 minutes one way to collect drinking water. Some 80 % of the population does not have access to any toilet facility.
The government began earnestly working on the development of Southern Sudan (as it was then known) after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in July 2005, with the support of development partners. However, the task was extremely challenging with large parts of the country remaining isolated for up to six months of the year due to the rainy season and poor road conditions which made access close to impossible. Nevertheless, the country had begun to post improved results, particularly in health and primary education in the years following the 2005 CPA, and the resumption of oil flows in 2013 was expected to boost economic growth significantly. However, the impact of the conflict on the population and the breakdown in services has deep economic and social consequences for a country where human development is already among the worst in the world.
Last Updated: Oct 10, 2014