ADDIS ABABA, February 14, 2011— Following an historic referendum in Southern Sudan, the World Bank offered advice to the leaders of the world’s soon-to-be newest independent nation to involve their citizens early on in devising development strategies.
“There is no silver bullet for building a newly-independent nation like Southern Sudan,” said World Bank Vice President for the Africa Region Obiageli Ezekwesili in an interview with the BBC at the African Union summit earlier this month.
“However,” she added, “leaders or just the elite cannot determine the vision of the nation all on their own. They need to involve their citizens early on in devising any development strategy.”
Ezekwesili spoke to the BBC ahead of her planned visit to Khartoum and Juba, which was soon after postponed to an unnamed later date.
“There needs to be a clear and shared sense of joint investment in the future of a prosperous nation. There needs to be an analysis of the opportunities and weaknesses within society and a definition of roles for all actors, including the government, private sector and citizens,” Ezekwesili added.
She stressed the need to seek and take into consideration the contributions of every stakeholder: the relatively small private sector, the budding civil society, the academia, media organizations, faith-based organizations, the opposition groups that may emerge, and community organizations such as those representing the interests of the most vulnerable groups including youth, women, the elderly, the physically challenged, Sudanese returnees or internally displaced and victims of war.
Southern Sudan is expected to achieve independence in July 2011 when the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the agreement that ended decades of armed conflict, expires.
Challenges for a new nation
The nation-in-waiting faces daunting challenges, including lack of basic capacity to undertake core functions of the state as well as low human capital. In addition, its economy not diversified, with about 98 percent of the economy is based on oil. In both the North and South, oil is the most important source of revenue.
“A diversification strategy is needed urgently in order to help move away from a mono-product economy towards opportunities presented by agriculture,” said Ezekwesili, adding: “This does not mean that you throw money at the problem, rather you simply have to do a strong diagnosis of what the issues are, for example irrigation; access to land, finance, technology and seeds; and feeder roads that enable farmers to move their products to the market.”
The government must then ensure that growth is not only robust enough to generate the millions of jobs desperately needed, but most importantly that it is inclusive, broad and shared.
“Shared and inclusive agricultural growth is key to ensuring equitable poverty reduction and social stability,” Ezekwesili said. “Uneven growth and increasing inequity leads to social unrest.” The government holds the responsibility of “ensuring even distribution through policies that can help identify new sources of opportunity for private sector investments,” Ezekwesili continued.
With challenges abound, Southern Sudan’s Minister of Finance David Deng told the World Bank Vice President during her most recent visit to Juba that considerable progress has been made since the Comprehensive Peace Accord was signed in 2005, though a lot remains to be done.
Beyond economic development, cementing the foundation of cooperation between North and South Sudan is crucial in resolving other issues. In the coming months, key issues will require swift and careful solutions. These include settling the overall border demarcation; resolving the status of Abyei as part of the North or South; and working out currency, debt burden and oil-sharing arrangements.
World Bank work in Southern Sudan
At the end of 2010, the trust fund for Southern Sudan managed by the World Bank on behalf of 14 donors had spent $400 million of a total $545 million, providing safe drinking water and medical supplies to 250,000 and 2.5 million people, respectively; delivering textbooks to 1.7 million students; ushering in a new currency; funding the first all-inclusive census since 1956; rehabilitating roads; and increasing food production.
Ezekwesili reaffirmed the availability of the World Bank to work for greater progress going forward, including helping Southern Sudan invest more of its own funds in basic services.