Juba, March 14, 2012 – The nascent country of South Sudan will receive its first World Bank grant to help create jobs and increase access to finance for entrepreneurs, especially youth and women. The grant agreement of US$9 million was signed today by the National Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Hon. Kosti Manibe Ngai, and Laura Kullenberg, Country Manager for the World Bank in South Sudan.
This landmark agreement is the first World Bank grant that South Sudan is receiving as a sovereign State. It seeks to deliver critical interventions to help improve the lives of the poor in quicker and practical ways. The grant will help scale up the successful components of a previous multi-donor trust funded private sector development project. The new project aims to provide i) at least 50,000 people with access to finance through targeted Microfinance Institutions (MFIs); ii) about 100 entrepreneurs with access to finance through a Business Plan Competition (BPC), iii) and to generate at least 250 jobs by enterprises supported by the BPC . It also plans to complete a regulatory framework for mobile banking and payments.
The generation of jobs by the private sector is important in South Sudan where the government is currently the only major employer. South Sudan has one of the youngest populations in the world, but with hardly any sustained employment opportunities for the youth. The World Bank Group has played an important role in Sudan’s development since 2005, and plans to partner in the development of South Sudan for the long term.
Hon. Ngai, described the grant as a timely intervention by the World Bank to support the development effort of the newly independent country. “This intervention supports the much needed economic diversification of the economy by promoting private sector development in the non-oil sector,” said Hon. Ngai, emphasizing the relevance of the grant to the development policies of the country.
According to Kullenberg, this World Bank initiative will provide access to finance for South Sudanese entrepreneurs to turn their businesses ideas into reality. “The development of the private sector is crucial to provide economic opportunities and improve the livelihoods of unemployed youth and returnees, as well as women, who face higher unemployment rates than men,” she said.
The Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment, Hon. Garang Diing Akuong, expressed his gratitude to the World Bank for supporting the development program of the Ministry. Remarking on the important role of showcasing the potential for investment in South Sudan, Hon. Akuong said, “the Ministry is looking forward to implementing the project and providing entrepreneurs with opportunities that can generate a multiplier effect and lead to further investment into South Sudan’s economy.”
This grant is part of a larger trust fund totaling $75 million, which the Bank is using to provide early assistance to South Sudan given the urgency of challenges faced by the new state, as it emerges from over two decades of civil war and embarks on the long journey towards nation building.