The said projects are mainly in agriculture, and were established over two decades by the Sudan government, to respond to claims by the southern part of the country that was threatening to break away at that time, but they were never implemented.
South Sudan has invited Ugandan investors to help implement the investment projects that were put in place by the Khartoum government but were never actualized before the south seceded.
The said projects are mainly in agriculture, and the government says they were created over two decades by the Sudan government as a way of responding to the allegations by the southern part of the country that was threatening to break away at that time.
However, by 2006, it had become clear that the south was determined to get its independence, which happened in 2011. These projects, which include vast lands for growing the targeted crops, as well as processing equipment have been lying idle and the government in Juba says the country has not financial and technical capacity to operationalize them.
The crops include sugar cane, tea, coffee, cotton, and fruits and vegetables as well as livestock farms. Speaking at the launch of the South Sudan-Uganda Business Forum due next month in Juba, the country’s ambassador to Uganda, Simon Duku Michael, said some of these idle facilities were destroyed in the war with the north, but they are now seeking help to rebuild and revive them.
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Other areas where Uganda’s private sector is needed include tourism and mining, where the South Sudan government says it is willing to help any investor who intends to develop them. South Sudan has 72 gazetted wildlife and other protected areas viable for tourism.
The Business Forum will be the first ever for the two countries. Ambassador Simon Duku admitted that there are challenges between the two countries especially arising from security, as well as the mistrust between the people, which have seen counter-accusations of theft.
Duku for example noted that in both countries there are people who have extorted money or cheated their partners out of business, but that these are issues that can be avoided. Duku said the two countries have spent too much time trying to resolve the security question, but that it is time to move on to trade.
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The Business Forum is aimed at bringing the private sectors of the two countries together to identify areas of investments, sources of finance, and well as business partnerships, among others. Ugandans and other foreigners doing business in South Sudan have always faced other challenges, away from insecurity and extortion, which are state-inspired.
These include demand for unexplained unofficial charges on businesspeople and travelers, numerous roadblocks and impromptu blockade of travelers along the country’s highways. Duku says these are some of the issues that the Business Forum will help answer.
Uganda’s Ambassador to Juba, Brig. Ronnie Balya agreed that there are too many non-tariff barriers, on top of infrastructure issues like bad roads. He says the long-term plans include helping the country improve its roads, constructing a railway line from Gulu to Juba, and extension of electricity from Karuma.
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This development comes at a time when many Ugandans are still demanding compensation for goods and cash lost when war broke out between rival south Sudanese groups between 2008 and 2010. When Juba indicated it did not have the money at hand to pay, the government of Uganda accepted to release the money on the understanding that Juba would reimburse it when it was solvent enough.
However, only 10 companies were initially listed for compensation, and later in 2018, another 23 were verified. However, since 2019, the compensation is yet to be completed, with the Ministry of Finance saying there is not enough money to handle all at ago.
On the other traders who say they have not been included in the two verification exercises, Ambassador Balya says the verification exercise is still ongoing and that whoever is cleared will be compensated.
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Balya says the exercise has partly been delayed by the Uganda traders who connive with their South Sudan counterparts and officials there to forge undue claims.
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Vincent Bagiire, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that despite the challenges that the two countries have faced trading with each other, South Sudan has remained a major market for Uganda.
Trade between them ranged between 300 and 400 million dollars per year, and PS Bagiire says the Business forum will grow this to higher volumes, especially if the security situation of South Sudan continues to improve.