Sudan: It's business time in Juba

Radio Netherlands | 14 October 2011
"South Sudan is a virgin for investors," says South Sudanese Agriculture Minister Betty Achan (Photo: Arne Doornebal)

Arne Doornebal

A group of twenty Dutch companies visited Juba this week, looking for business opportunities. In the South Sudanese capital they bumped into a 50-member strong delegation from Japan, who was there for exactly the same purpose. Meanwhile, the Indians are on their way.
It has already been dubbed 'the scramble for South Sudan.' Investors from all over the world are flocking into the three-month old country, looking for investment opportunities in several sectors of the economy of the 193rd member of the United Nations. More than twenty Dutch companies visited Juba this week in a mission organized by the Netherlands-African Business Council (NABC).

"South Sudan is like a clean sheet for investors," says Anne Itto, a high profile politician and farmer from South Sudan. "We have 640 thousand square kilometers of land which is mostly arable. The agricultural sector can flourish here."

Changing the mentality

Agriculture, energy, transport and construction are the main areas of interest of the Dutch trade mission. "This is a very important moment for Dutch companies to invest in South Sudan," says former Dutch Minister for Development Cooperation Agnes van Ardenne, who leads the Dutch delegation. "After twenty years of war this country needs to develop its economy. It is time for us to change the mentality of development aid to a business approach."

Matchmaking instead of PowerPoint presentations
While the Dutch delegation was in a meeting with South Sudanese businessmen in one of Juba's hotels, the room next door was reserved for a Japanese delegation. And a trade mission from India is expected in Juba shortly. "Since independence, many people came to South Sudan for business. But I am not afraid that we will be looted; our government will see to it that that won't happen," says Anne Itto.

"In our approach we like to work together with the local business people," says Van Ardenne, who knows South Sudan well from her ministerial days. "We prefer 'matchmaking events' over giving glossy PowerPoint presentations to the government, although we acknowledge that they are crucial in setting the business climate."

Virgin for investors

"Almost all fruit and vegetables in Juba are being imported from Uganda," says Ed Swier of the Dutch seed company Bakker Brothers, while inspecting Juba's Konyo Konyo market, where most traders are Ugandans. Swier sees a good opportunity here to sell seeds to local farmers. "I expect to start working with our local partner and bring our seeds on the market here very soon," Swier says.

Delegation leader Van Ardenne has another success story to report - a renewable energy project: "Two of our companies have found a local partner who was looking for the suitable knowledge. Together they will set up a small facility."

Big Dutch companies trading in cars, lorries and buses also take part in the trade mission. South Sudan seems to be interested in any kind of business, since many areas of the economy need to be developed. In the words of the South Sudanese Agriculture Minister Betty Achan: "South Sudan is a virgin for investors."
Original source: RNW

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