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. Formal institutions are being built from a very low base and the capacity of government to formulate policy and implement programs is limited, but growing. South Sudan also has significant oil wealth, which if effectively used to drive development, could provide the basis for progress in the coming years.
Unfortunately, the nearly two-year long conflict, which broke out in in Juba on December 15, 2013 and later engulfed six of the 10 states of the country, deteriorated development gains achieved since independence and worsened the humanitarian situation. It is now expected that the Compromise Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in the Republic is South Sudan, signed by the President of the Republic of South Sudan and the Opposition in August 2015, will put in place the necessary framework for peace and security, and lead to longer-term development and prosperity.
Although South Sudan has vast and largely untapped natural resources, beyond a few oil enclaves, it remains relatively undeveloped, characterized by a subsistence economy. South Sudan is the most oil-dependent country in the world, with oil accounting for almost the totality of exports, and around 60% of its gross domestic product (GDP). On current reserve estimates, oil production is expected to reduce steadily in future years and to become negligible by 2035.
The country’s growth domestic product (GDP) per capita in 2014 was $1,111. 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%). Since late 2014, the decline in the oil price has further exacerbated the economic hardship of South Sudan.
It is estimated that the current conflict has cost up to 15% of the potential GDP in 2014. Military expenditure has increased, jeopardizing the availability of resources for service delivery and capital spending on much needed infrastructure. Oil production has fallen by around 20% due to the conflict, and is expected to remain at 165,000 barrel/day up to the end of FY2015/16. The recent decline in oil prices from $110 per barrel to less than $50 per barrel has further aggravated the losses of oil revenue, and has had a negative impact on macro-budgetary indicators, requiring painful fiscal adjustments. The current account has deteriorated considerably leading to depreciation of the parallel exchange rate and fueling inflation. The low level of foreign reserves can negatively affect food imports with further knock on effects on food intakes, notably during the “lean season,” which runs between April and October. The incidence of poverty has also worsened, from 44.7% in 2011 to more than 57.2% in 2015, with a corresponding increase in the depth of poverty.
The country is very young with two-thirds of the population under the age of 30. Almost 83% of South Sudanese resided in rural areas before the outbreak of the recent conflict, which has displaced more than 2 million people.
Only 27% of the population aged 15 years and above is literate, with significant gender disparities: 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. Around 38% of the population has to walk for more than 30 minutes one way to collect drinking water, and some 80% of South Sudanese do 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 have had deep economic and social consequences for a country where human development is already among the worst in the world.
Last Updated: Oct 01, 2015