JUBA, June 29, 2021—A new World Bank report urges South Sudan to adjust public policies to support jobs, and calls for targeted donor investments to spur economic recovery.
The synthesis report, Jobs, Recovery and Peacebuilding in Urban South Sudan, shows how to support jobs and promote the extraordinary resilience of South Sudanese workers and businesses. It focuses on the self-employed and household business activities in agriculture and services that provide most jobs.
Poverty is pervasive, and the path to recovery remains difficult. The report found that nearly half of urban households have lost job activities to conflict and shocks, and in 2019, only two businesses out of 4,000 interviewed said that conflict had not affected them. Workers who run their own small activities, market traders, and businesses agree that poor access to funding, low consumer demand, and bad and dangerous roads are the principal problems that make it hard to make a living.
Yet, there are also opportunities for recovery. Thus, local crops still compete with imports in the markets, and that with the right support, farmers and traders could take more to market. Young workers have a more positive attitude toward available jobs than is often claimed. And while macroeconomic reform will take time, gradual improvements make a real difference. For instance, while elevated inflation in 2019 was a burden on workers and businesses, it did not have the same oppressive impact as the extremely high rates in earlier years.
“Agriculture is a big employer in towns, with high potential for more productivity and for linkages up and down the value chain – jobs like making tools, transporting goods, and processing crops. Providing inputs remains relevant to restoring production. As stability progresses, cash grants for farmers and processors make sense. Farmer cooperatives are potential partners, and aggregators deserve attention because they can re-link markets,” said Husam Abudagga, World Bank Country Manager for South Sudan.
The study pinpoints effective first steps to help recovery. Firstly, security must continue to improve. Secondly, among public policy actions, oil revenue must be better managed, and inflation kept in check. Efforts to reduce public salary arrears must progress to help market demand recover, and fees in markets and check points should decrease. Thirdly, donor investment in early recovery should offer some short-term employment, prioritize rural-urban feeder roads, provide cash support to household business activities, and seek to revive market demand and aggregator networks.
“Jobs are crucial in any peacebuilding process, and we can and need to do more to support them. Foreign investment will take time to recover. But smart investments by the Government and development partners can crowd-in small investments from households and small businesses. I am thinking about rural feeder roads and cash grants to restart and grow those household activities that account for so many of the jobs in South Sudan. At the same time, a sustainable recovery has to rest on security, and robust economic reforms, so that resources can be better deployed to build a new diversified economy,” Abuddaga said.
The synthesis report is published alongside four technical studies on jobs and draws on six different datasets and interviews with youth, farmers, and traders.