WASHINGTON, September 23, 2010—Sudan—a country at war with itself for more than three quarters of its existence—is experiencing a critical period in its history. In April 2010, five years after the end of a brutal 20-year war between the North and the South, Africa’s largest country held its first national elections since 1986.
The 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) mandates that an independence referendum be held no later than January 2011, giving Southerners the opportunity to vote for unity within Sudan or separation.
In August, Obiageli Ezekwesili, the World Bank’s Africa Region Vice President, met with government and stakeholders in North and South Sudan to discuss the achievements and future of Bank-managed trust funds, and to reaffirm the Bank’s commitment to staying engaged after the referendum.
“We are pleased with the vice president’s visit and building hopes that it will result in further cooperation with the Bank and help to stimulate the country’s stagnating economy,” said Ali Mahmoud, Sudan’s Minister of Finance.
Sudan has vast potential, but faces enormous challenges: 46 percent of the population in the North and 85 percent in the South live below the poverty line. Large parts of Sudan are isolated and underdeveloped, with minimal access to basic services. The country needs major infrastructure rehabilitation and development, agricultural reform and improved social services.
Depending on its response in the months ahead, Sudan could witness a new era of peace and prosperity—or more violence.
The World Bank’s engagement in Sudan
The Bank’s re-engagement in Sudan since 2006 is focused on addressing the country’s extraordinary development needs.
In the absence of lending from the International Development Association (IDA), the main tool for assisting Sudan has been two multi-donor trust funds specified by the CPA to coordinate external donor financing of Sudan’s reconstruction and development.
The US$265 million fund for the government of National Unity (MDTF-N) aims to consolidate peace and support recovery in war-affected areas of the North. The US$524 million fund for the government of Southern Sudan (MDTF‑SS) supports reconstruction and recovery in the South.
Improved quality of life in the North
The MDTF-N has made important contributions to improving the quality of life in the North. It facilitated the rehabilitation of a rail line between the North and the South that had been disrupted for over 25 years. More than 240 schools were reconstructed and 23,000 teachers trained. As a result, enrollment in basic education in targeted communities increased by 27 percent. The construction of 180 health facilities and training of more than 1,900 health professionals helped to increase the percentage of births attended by skilled health staff by 30 percent. In addition, 332 water points were rehabilitated and now provide access to safe drinking water for nearly 500,000 people across war-affected states. And more than 1,100 technical and managerial staff have been trained at the federal, state and local levels of government.
“To sustain stability and long-term economic growth, Sudan needs to ensure that the benefits from oil-led growth are widely shared by all parts of the population, and other non-oil sources of growth are harnessed,” Ezekwesili said during her meetings in Khartoum. The meetings underscored the need for continued Bank support to intensify the debate on policy choices and provide capacity building and technical assistance.
Promising results in the South
In Southern Sudan, the MDTF-SS has been instrumental in putting the region back on a path of recovery. It has provided almost 250,000 people with safe drinking water; helped 2.5 million people access medical supplies; delivered school supplies to 1.7 million students; provided community-based training for better sanitation and hygiene; rehabilitated and built roads; and built capacity in government ministries that were previously nonexistent.
David Deng Athorbei, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in Juba, acknowledged the fund’s difficult beginning, when expectations were high and capacity had yet to be built, but, Deng says he is satisfied with the outcomes and believes the experience has enabled the region to implement future programs more effectively.
“As the trust fund overcomes some initial setbacks, the social and financial impact is becoming more and more visible,” said Ian Bannon, World Bank Acting Country Director for Sudan.
“I’m pleased to see the considerable progress that has been made in recent years,” she said. “The poorest people in Sudan deserve a chance to contribute and to share in the benefits of development that so many other countries have already realized, and we are ready to continue assisting Sudan towards this goal.”