Peter Tibber

Ambassador to Colombia

Part of UK in Sudan

28th February 2013

Doing Business in Sudan

Any Sudanese you talk to, whether in Government or on the streets, will tell you that the economy is one of the biggest problems facing the country: high inflation, especially in food items, big public deficit, no foreign currency, little investment.

Of course even the strongest of economies would suffer after the kind of dislocation Sudan has suffered with the separation of South Sudan and the loss of a third of Government income and 75% of export earnings.

That is why implementation of the Addis agreements with South Sudan is so important. Quite apart from the security guarantees and the peace and stability that the agreements would bring they would also pave the way for the re-opening of the trading routes with South Sudan, for the oil (and the revenues it brings) to flow, for a financial package of support for Sudan to be mobilised, and would transform the international trading context for Sudan. The outside world wants to do business with Sudan. It is often and truly said that Sudan is a country of great potential.  For example, 57% of total land in Sudan is suitable for agricultural development, but only 8.5% is currently being cultivated – this is a stark statistic at a time when global demand for food is rising, yet land is scarce.   The loss of oil may be a blessing in disguise, for it will force the country to focus on developing its own economic strengths: agriculture, minerals and the provision of services to its rapidly urbanising population.

We know that these talks and the economy is of central importance to Sudan and so we are doing what we can. We have provided all documents and historical information to the African Union to facilitate progress in the talks and implementation of agreements. We, the UK, have led the way to help Sudan get full forgiveness of its debt, and are looking at ways to support Sudan’s economic diversification. We are now supporting Young Sudanese Entrepreneurs with training, linking them with entrepreneurs in the UK, and we have even delivered training for Sudanese investment lawyers to aid Foreign Direct Investment to Sudan.

But it’s hard to do business with Sudan in the current environment. Sanctions make a difference. But even without sanctions, investing or trading with a country with such a conflicted relationship with its neighbour and with serious internal conflicts unresolved is a risky business. And it is businesses, not governments, which take these decisions. Even setting aside conflict, the business environment is tough. The World Bank ranks Sudan as one of the most difficult countries in the world to do business. The new investment law is good, but not effectively implemented. And the financial and legal environments are opaque. So many companies stay away.

But not all. A number of British companies are active here, or are attracted by the potential. Some of them have long-standing historical links. Others are approaching Sudan for the first time. It is sometimes said that British companies have walked away from Sudan, as though that it is the fault of the UK. Of course our trading relationships are not what they were 50 years ago. The world (and Sudan and the UK) have changed. But the EU collectively is Sudan’s 3rd largest trading partner and the UK accounts for around 20% of that business. We do more trade with Sudan than with many African countries. We will offer support and advice to any British company interested in Sudan. But if in the event they go elsewhere, that’s not because the UK has “walked away”. It’s because in a competitive global market the Sudan offer is not sufficiently attractive.

We recognise the importance of the private sector to Sudan. It is the private sector here, as elsewhere that is the most effective driver of prosperity. Historically countries only thrive, politically as well as economically, where there is a strong private sector which can create more economic opportunities for people. So we are exploring ways of working with business here and with local government to help develop the supply chains to enable small producers and companies to grow and prosper in a way that benefits the poorest.

7 comments on “Doing Business in Sudan

  1. Hi everyone. I just want to know if Sudan is good for investors. The reason is I’m going to join a company that will invest in Sudan its a big community development and I want to know if this will be feasible. I will take the risk to take this job but I want to investigate first. thank you!

  2. I am from Botswana and our company is manufacturing furniture of high quality.i would like to work with the sudan people to manufacture furniture in sudan.what can i do to get potantial parners who knows the market better.

  3. I am small business owner in Sudan field of Information technology , looking for business partner from out side of Sudan to share with.
    But i prefer to be from UK.
    My Required is web server for hosting services & online payment method.

  4. I am British and have loads of land in sudan I am planing to use it for agriculture. What I would like to know is how I can move money in sudan and out and if there is any type of licence I need and if there is a way to move money in and out which UK or EU banks. I know some french banks do have branches in sudan.

  5. We are a British company manufacturing and working on an Agrucultrial Irrigation project and are very happy working with the Sudan people. Getting funds in and out of Sudan to build up the Irrigation units for the Sudan people to grow flacks and create a new oil revenue. I would like to know is there a way were funds can be transfered in and out of Sudan

  6. Your Excellency, thanks for you sincere concern about the economic situation in Sudan, its true that Sudan had lost 75% of its oil revenues and one third of its population and land, but the government paid these expensive concessions as a dowry for lasting peace, nevertheless it has been punished by the international community instead of being rewarded. The president who ended 55 years of war was indicted by ICC three years later. It was quite obvious that South Sudan does not have the political will to fulfil its commitments under the various agreement that was signed since July 2011 including 27 September and 5 th of January. I think the security arrangements has the priority over the economic relations without security the economic relations will not sustain for long. We need to finalise boarder demarcation and to specify the demilitarized zone a head of any economic engagement. It worth mentioning that, its written on the wall that, the government of the south is using SPLM-N for a proxy war to weakens Sudan position on the negotiation table and unfortunately, some countries are a ware and supportive of this plot.
    Excellency, unless sudan and s-sudan are treated equally by supper powers this conflict might live for long.

  7. It is always a pleasure to read this blog Yr excellency
    British business interest in the Sudan is appreciated,especially in the context of suffocating sanctions.
    You are right in pointing out that investors are not likely to to rush to our country while there are conflicts.Chevron pulled out of the Sudan of its own accord in the 1980s when SPLA forces attacked one of its drilling sites.;but others have stepped in leading to massive Chinese involvement.The world has changed and no country can be held hostage to the whims of a declining Superpower.
    Conflicts in South Kordofan and the Blue Nile are not OUR choice.They were planned since refusal of the SPLM to implement DDR. They harboured the desire to continue fighting and consider the CPA a mere ceasefire(as the Small Arms Survey reports have documented).The situation will probably improve after the SPLM/A convention ,if the delgates adopted a new policy based on 2 sovereign states and amended their documents to reflect that.President Salva Kiir made a significant speech last month which gives hope that the convention will create new beginnings.
    British and US help to transform both the SPLA and SPLM are vey important.Until they succeed ,at least partially,we should brace ourselves for more unpredictable and trigger happy policies(like rejecting the results of the census, accusing The Sudan of aggression,shutting down the oil wells and occupying Heglig).War mentality and mindset CAN be overcome eventually,that’s why it is inportant to negotiate patiently.But the mentors of the new state(including the UK,but above all the US) should be more than concerned advisers and show it tough love—-not openly of course.

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About Peter Tibber

Dr Tibber joined the FCO in 1984 after completing a doctorate in medieval history at Oxford University. He has been posted to France, Turkey, Mexico, Germany and Pakistan. He was…

Dr Tibber joined the FCO in 1984 after completing a doctorate in medieval history at Oxford University. He has been posted to France, Turkey, Mexico, Germany and Pakistan. He was a member of the Senior Management Team of UKTI. He was ambassador to Sudan August 2011 to August 2015.

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