Sudan Vision | 22 September, 2014
Private sector spearheads realization of Arab food security
By Alawia al-Khalifa
KHARTOUM - The President of the Sudanese Businessmen Union, Saud Al-Birair, has suggested that the Arab and Islamic chambers of commerce, industry and agriculture establish partnerships with the Sudanese Businessmen Union for carrying out two projects- one in the field of agricultural and another in the mineral resources- as a model of joint cooperation for creating a quality development in the Sudan.
Al-Birair made the suggestion during a forum on the prospects of investment in the food security and mineral resources which was organized last week by the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture for Arab Countries (GUCCIAAC) in association with the Sudanese Businessmen Union in the Khartoum Rotana Hotel.
He stressed that Sudan is rich in almost untapped natural resources, vast cultivable lands, abundant waters and political will-power for achieving the food security underlining his Union’s preparedness for originating a true economic development with assistance of the Arab financial institutions.
The forum was in response to an initiative by President Omar al-Beshir in the Arab economic Summit that was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, last year. It was approved by the Arab League as an Arab initiative to contribute to attaining the Arab food security, bearing in mind that the Arab world is passing through a decisive phase in the economic and social domains in light of a report recently issued by the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development which indicated that some 144 billion dollars will be required for investment up to 2030 for fulfilling the food security demands.
Addressing the opening session of the forum, Second Vice President Hassabo Mohamed Abdul Rahman declared his government’s readiness for making more arrangements and efforts for creating an attractive environment for the Arab investors to contribute to achievement of the Arab food security in the Sudan, calling upon the Arab unions to bring Beshir initiative on the ground after it was approved by the Arab League, granting it the needed Arab will-power.
Abdul Rahman appreciated the role of the Arab private sector and its contribution to the development effort, describing it as the most appropriate and efficient actor for implementing the Arab food security initiative. He indicated steps taken by the Sudanese government for quitting the economic field and leaving it to the Sudanese private sector.
Abdul Rahman indicated as a sign of optimism the Arab-Muslim solidarity as manifested by more than 22 Arab-Islamic delegations in the forum, urging the delegates to demonstrate Islamic values in the financial transaction so that God may bless their investments.
Dr. Adnan al-Gassar, the GUCCIAAC’s Honorary President, underscored the efforts being exerted by the government of Sudan for creating an investment environment and commended the recent construction development in the Sudan. He called for speeding up completion of the infrastructures and facilitation of the financial transactions to make the atmosphere of investment in the Sudan more attractive to the Arab investors, particularly as the Sudan is described as the cradle of food security and a source of mineral resources reserve. He called for a joint action and for a special session for discussion on investment in the mineral resources beside enhancement of the added value of the animal resources.
Sudanese Minister of Investment Mustafa Osman Ismail acknowledged the existence of problems of investment in the Sudan, despite efforts being made by the state in the field legislations and facilitation of procedures. He reaffirmed his Ministry’s readiness for removing all the obstacles which face the investors. Dr. Ismail indicated a deficit in the Arab food security estimated at 40 billion dollars in 2013, expecting this deficit would go up each year due to the rising food prices worldwide. He underlined availability of the factors of success for the food security initiative as manifested in the seriousness of the Sudanese government, the availability of more than 150 million feddans (acres) of cultivable lands other than the presently cultivates areas in addition to the abundant water and heavy rainfall and diverse climates for growing different kinds of crops.
He has reaffirmed recovery of the Sudanese economy from the setback that was caused by the secession of the South as, he added, the rate of growth rose from 2% in 2012 to 3.6% in 2013 and is expected to go up further this year.
He appealed to the Arab financing funds to assist in financing infrastructural projects of electricity, roads and means of transport, announcing that they have put forth an agricultural crops free-zones project for funding.
Dr. Ismail revealed a plan for setting up during this year a tribunal, a police unit and a prosecution section for the protection of investors. He made reference to a new lands law and to the existence of a separate lands department which will coordinate between the center and the states. The Minister stressed commitment by the commercial bank and the Bank of Sudan, in particular, to provision of guarantees for transference of capitals and profits of the investors in foreign currencies.
Ustaz Masa’ad Mohamed Ahmed, Chairman of the Sudanese Banks association, called upon the unions of the Arab chambers of commerce taking part in the forum to join the Arab efforts and to revitalize relations with the Sudan and help in for lifting the sanctions imposed on it. He stressed the need for transforming President Al Bashir’s food security initiative into a reality, bearing in mind that the Sudan is qualified to fill the food gap in the Arab countries, in terms of edible oils, sugar and other food items, in addition to the fact that the Sudan possesses a tremendous mineral wealth that opens up opportunities of investment.
Ahmed indicated the technological progress of the Sudanese banks which he said have now reached 37 in number with a substantial increase in the banking deposits which made the banks capable of providing the best services and funding for all productive sectors.
Sheikh Salih Abdullah al-Kamil, President of the Islamic Chambers of Commerce, called upon the participants in the forum to reconsider the policies of the Arab and Muslim countries since colonization. He said those policies played a major part in introducing negative practices such as terrorism and fundamentalism into the Muslim region and distancing it from the economic unity. Kamil said a return should therefore be made to the principles of the Holy Koran and to the legacy of Mohammad the Prophet (PBUH) who, according to Kamil, was the pioneer of development, so that the Arab and Muslim countries can achieve the domestic Arab food security. He wondered how the Arab food security can be achieved while most of the Arab raw products are exported to the countries of the West to be manufactured and are brought back for high prices. Sheikh Kamil said among the erroneous policies in the Arab and Muslim countries is regarding taxation as a means for raising money rather than a tool for planning of rehabilitation “like what our wise ancestors have done.”
He said the rising taxes must be imposed on parasitic profits, rather than on the volume of the profits, calling for changing the social contract between the ruler and the subjects with regards to rights and duties.
Arab League representative Ula al-Bedry underlined the importance of finding Arab economic blocs for confrontation of such challenges facing the Arab countries poverty, unemployment, money migration and economic shrinkage. She made reference to a call by the Arab League for redoubling efforts for the success of the Arab food security initiative, making the Arab market more attractive and encouragement of the private investment. Dr. Bedry also called upon the Arab countries for boosting the economic cooperation for reaching the aspired goals and for investment of the Arab capitals within the Arab region for fighting off poverty and unemployment in addition to development of the inter-Arab trade as well as development of the agricultural sector for reaching the Arab agricultural integration.
Dr. Salah Abdul Gadir, an economist of the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD), explained the AOAD vision on implementation of President Beshir’s initiative aimed at narrowing the Arab food gap and improving the Arab food security by investment and sustained utilization of the agricultural and fish resources in the Sudan.
He said his organization focused in its vision on the Sudan’s crops and other commodities of a relatively high advantage, including oil seeds (ground-nuts and sun-flower), sorghum and sugar-producing crops beside animal products and fish production.
The AOAD economist added that the first part of the vision provides for establishment of productive, manufacturing and marketing projects (projects of flora and fishery production and calf fattening) beside (processing and marketing fish and marketing livestock and fodder), processing of meat, oils, concentrated fodder, projects of producing agricultural inputs, manufacturing packing materials.
The economist said the second part of the AOAD vision provided for establishment of supportive projects which include provision of agricultural services (services of mechanized farming, crop protection and animal health), funding services, electric-power, irrigation, transportation and storage.
He said the AOAD vision bases implementation of the initiative on establishment of projects covering an area of 1.5 million feddans (acres) which the Sudan has approved and has issued the required certificates.
Dr. Jaafer Ahmed Abdullah, the Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation, reviewed the available opportunities of investment in the irrigated and rain-fed agricultural sectors in the Sudan. He said his Ministry encourages the investments which bring in modern technologies, train the farmers and develop the traditional sector as well as the serious investors who are willing to engage in agricultural investment.
He said that lands put forth for agricultural investment have the advantages of infrastructures availability and closeness to the markets and ports, adding that the partnerships the Sudan established with a number of countries including Brazil, Italy, UAE, Pakistan and Australia led to an increase in the production of oil and food seeds and a number of vegetables and fruits.
The state minister said there is a ceiling for investment in the irrigated sector, which is 5,000 feddans (acres) and the rain-fed sector, which is 30,000 feddans which can be expanded, depending on the success of the project.