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Optimism, Fear As South Sudan Makes 100 Days

Exactly 100 days after South Sudan became an independent state, Ugandan business people are having a positive outlook about new opportunities.
Exactly 100 days after South Sudan became an independent state, Ugandan business people are having a positive outlook about new opportunities.

 

Baker Kakondah, an Arua-based businessman, told Uganda Radio Network that ever since South Sudan became independent on July 9th this year, many Ugandans are eager to explore business opportunities in the country.

 

Kakondah said business with South Sudan is now getting more structured and needs lots of planning, organization and strategy than during the five-year semi-autonomous period from 2005.

 

He said then the Khartoum government had a controlling stake and there were a lot of charges and other incidentals which cut back profits.

 

Kakondah said there is a need for South Sudan government to boost entry into the country by lowering the visa charges. A three-month multiple entry visa is 250 dollars while a single entry for the same period is 100 dollars.

 

But that has not stopped Ugandans from traveling to South Sudan for business ventures.

 

The most number of buses leaving Arua and Nebbi parks in Kampala are no longer destined for West Nile as before but South Sudan. Daily, about 20 buses leave for Juba, the South Sudan capital, with a corresponding number heading to Kampala.

 

Bob Okwai, a transport agent, said unlike the West Nile bound buses that sometimes go half-empty, all buses to and from Juba are fully booked. Traffic on the Kampala-Gulu-Juba highway has also increased with more long haul trucks.

 

Okwai said most South Sudan business people now prefer to procure goods and services in Kampala personally instead of using Ugandan agents, a situation that has badly impacted on local middlemen.

 

He noted that unlike their Ugandan counterparts, Sudanese business people come with so much money that bargaining to them is taboo, partly explaining the ever escalating prices of essential goods like sugar, rice and soap.

 

Unlike in the past when mainly blue-color Ugandans rushed to South Sudan, with independence more highly educated Ugandans are flocking to South Sudan in search of greener pastures.

 

Akim Mugisa, a Ugandan journalist working as an editor with a newspaper in Juba, said although some progress is being made especially in infrastructure, South Sudan’s biggest problem remains corruption.

 

Mugisa says another habit that may curtail South Sudan’s progress is lavish expenditure, pointing out that sport utility vehicles like Hummers are sold literally on the streets and there are many buyers.

 

He said while many Ugandans are establishing themselves in South Sudan and working hard to make money, the South Sudanese tend to relax a lot.

 

Mugisa said in Juba there are many areas that are being dominated by Ugandans and despite many doing menial work, the rewards are great. He added that it is commonplace to find a Ugandan water vendor lining up at a Western Union point in Juba and sending back home 500 dollars every three weeks.

Although the volume of remittances from and balance of trade with South Sudan is not readily available, many believe it is huge and growing.

 

Since it got her independence, South Sudan has a new national anthem, a new currency the South Sudanese Pound and a new country dialing code +211.

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