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From Mango Trees to Ministries—Partnering in Southern Sudan’s Development

December 16, 2010

  • Since 2005, the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba has seen a major turnaround in infrastructure development
  • A Referendum, scheduled for January 2011, could make Juba the capital of the world’s newest nation
  • The World Bank is set to continue its partnership with Southern Sudan as it seeks to fight poverty and build its economy

UBA, December 16, 2010—When the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) first established its capital in Juba in 2005, there were no buildings in which its employees could work. But there were numerous wild mango trees, which provided shade from the blazing sun. This was where World Bank staff regularly met with their counterparts in the newly formed GoSS, to forge a new path after decades of conflict and neglect.

A New Capital?

That was five years ago. Today, Juba is almost unrecognizable with bustling markets, two-lane paved roads upon which SUVs and Hummers sit in traffic—a plague of more developed cities, and an unfathomable concept in 2005. Government ministry buildings dot the cityscape where there were none before. The population has exploded with returning refugees, entrepreneurs looking for business opportunities in a burgeoning economy, and humanitarian workers. And come next month, Juba could be on track to become the capital of the world’s newest nation.

On January 9, 2011, Southern Sudan is scheduled to hold a Referendum, as specified in the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which ended 21 years of civil war. The agreement—between Sudan’s central government and the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A)—brought a formal end to a devastating civil war, which left around two million people dead and four million displaced from their homes.

Besides a semi-autonomous government, the improvements that agreement has brought include the return of a large number of refugees to their homes, and expanded local markets. It also called for the creation of two multi-donor trust funds, which the World Bank was subsequently asked to administer—one for the North (MDTF-N), administered from Khartoum; and one for the South (MDTF-SS); administered from Juba.

Results and Challenges

Despite the challenges the Bank has faced in the course of managing these trust funds, there have been major accomplishments on the ground.  MDTF-SS, which is funded by a total of 14 donors including the Bank, will have spent $400 million of just over $500 million paid in by donors by the end of December.  It  has financed expanding food production in food deficit areas; increased access to clean and safe drinking water for almost 250,000 people; increased access to medical supplies for more than 2.5 million people; delivered textbooks and other school supplies to 1.7 million students; ushered in a new currency and nationwide census (the first all-inclusive census for Southern Sudan since 1956); and rehabilitated and rebuilt roads, including a critical transportation route between the north and south of the state.

"We very much appreciate the progress made in recent months under the MDTF for Southern Sudan, and the substantial results it has delivered,” said Mr. Aggrey Tisa Sabuni, Undersecretary in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in the GOSS. “It provides a strong basis on which to expand our collaboration on Southern Sudan's future development agenda.”

The Bank also has an expanding program of analytic and advisory activities, including spearheading an on-going, countrywide infrastructure diagnostic, conducting education and health status reports, as well as developing a Public Expenditure Review and a Country Economic Memorandum that charts a “Road Towards Sustainable and Broad–Based Growth.”

To drive forward this work, and plan for the future, World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region, Obiageli Ezekwesili, keeps firm oversight over the program.

“Success in Sudan matters,” Ezekwesili says. “Realizing Africa’s potential as an alternative pole of growth and global aggregate requires a stable and prosperous Sudan—the largest country on the continent. The World Bank needs to deliver timely and cutting edge support toward this goal.”

Despite the progress made, Southern Sudan remains a challenging environment in which to implement development programs. Add to that the capacity gaps that still need to be filled in the Southern Sudanese government, and a set of human development indicators that lag far behind acceptable standards, and it is clear that the path post Referendum will not be a bed of roses, whatever future the citizens of Southern Sudan vote for.

Moving Forward

Regardless of the outcome of the referendum, Sudan faces high levels of poverty and many development challenges, particularly those of inclusion.  As Ian Bannon, Acting Country Director for Sudan, says, “They need to use their short-term windfall from oil exports to lay the basis for a more diversified and open economy, built on their advantages in areas such as agriculture.  The Bank looks forward to helping all parts of Sudan implement this agenda.” Oil exports by Sudan in 2009 were worth about $7 billion.

 Should Southern Sudan become a new country, the Bank is also prepared to be a close partner in working towards a plan for comprehensive development, and will bring its vast technical expertise to the table. The Bank’s strong staff presence on the ground in Juba, and its critical experience working in post-conflict and fragile countries (including Afghanistan and Iraq) and in emerging  states (e.g. Timor-Leste) will also be a valuable asset. 

“The challenges for the South are profound,” according to Laurence Clarke, World Bank Manager for Southern Sudan.  “We are delighted to be working with other development partners to help GoSS set key priorities that balance the laying of foundations for a successful economy, with the delivery of quick and visible returns to the population.”

“This is a generational challenge,” Clarke added. “But that makes it all the more urgent to get cracking, irrespective of the outcome of the Referendum!”