一路走下去，穿过喀土穆市区，直观印象这是一片“沉睡”的土地，因为道路、建筑、市区都有那么很大的改善空间。其实，“沉睡”这个词并不准确。在2011年南苏丹独立出去之前，苏丹经济发展迅速，国家建设充满活力。 但是，南苏丹带走了75% 的石油资源，苏丹经济遭受重大挫折。
苏丹自然资源依然非常丰富，发展潜力不容小觑。除已知的石油、天然气之外，苏丹还拥有铁、 银、铬、铜、锰、金、铝、铅、铀、锌、钨、石棉、石膏、云母、滑石、钻石 和木材等丰富的自然资源。这个国家也有着可供农业、林业、牧业和渔业开发的自然资源和条 件，如沃土、森林、草原、水源和阳光等。
Xu Chengzhi, China Investment
● Sudan: land for investment
●Agriculture: an arable land equivalent to Mexico
●Minerals: a new frontier attracting investment
● Tourism: an area crying for investment
● Challenges: to be overcome
When we get off the plane, we immediately felt the "enthusiasm" of Sudan. The average temperature in Khartoum in July is around 40 degrees Celsius. While we were waiting to go through the customs, the three Sudanese brothers who were to pick us up were already there. They waved at us with big smiles, and shook our hands. Although we don’t speak the same language, the friendship, enthusiasm and warmth could be fully felt.
Going all the way through the capital city of Khartoum, it is a visual impression that this is a “sleeping” land, because roads, buildings, and urban areas have a lot of room for improvement. However, the word "sleeping" is not accurate. Before the independence of South Sudan in 2011, Sudan’s economy enjoyed robust growth and the country’s construction was full of vitality. However, South Sudan has taken away 75% of its oil resources and the Sudanese economy has suffered major setbacks.
In October 2017, the United States announced the lifting of economic sanctions against Sudan, which lasted for some 20 years. Encouraged by this news, the Sudanese society is full of excitement and expects to be embraced by the international community, hoping to regain development opportunities. Locals expect that Sudan will be able to return to the international financial system with the removal of financial restrictions. Overseas investment will come in and the economy will better off. The heat wave in Khartoum is matched with enthusiasm and optimism.
Sudan: land for investment
“The name Sudan is used to describe the southern part of the African desert that continues to the eastern part of the Atlantic Ocean and extends to the Red Sea and the western part of the Indian Ocean. Today, it refers to the southern part of Egypt and the central part of the Nile.” The Sudanese describe their country as such in their official brochure. It is said that the country’s English name "Sudan" is a plural form of Greek word meaning black. Located between the Arab world and Africa, Sudan is dominated by Arabs and the people are mostly Muslims.
The natural resources of Sudan are very rich and the development potential cannot be underestimated. In addition to known resources such as oil and natural gas, Sudan also boasts of rich natural minerals such as iron, silver, chromium, copper, manganese, gold, aluminum, lead, uranium, zinc, tungsten, asbestos, gypsum, mica, talc, diamonds and wood. The country also has the necessary natural resources and conditions for agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and fisheries development, such as fertile soil, forests, grasslands, water and sunlight.
In the past few decades, Sudan struggled, on the political side, to deal with civil war between the north and the south, as well as challenges in Darfur. Sudan was also subject to sanctions and pressure from the West, which created a harsh external environment for national development. Today, when African countries are increasingly committed to industrialization and economic growth, we decide to focus on Sudan and re-examine the resources, potential opportunities and challenges of this country.
Agriculture: an arable land equivalent to Mexico
Sudan is located at the intersection of the Sahara Desert and the Middle East and is rich in agricultural resources. Although the northern part of the country is mostly covered by the desert, it has about 20 million hectares of arable land, equivalent to the size of Mexico. At present, only 15% of such land has been reclaimed and utilized, and its development potential is huge.
The climate varies greatly between the north and the south in Sudan. The northern part is hot with desert, the central part has a tropical dry and wet climate, the south has a tropical climate with both a dry and rainy season respectively, and the southernmost border area is a tropical rain forest climate. The diverse climate provides natural conditions for growing a variety of crops. Agriculture is the mainstay of the Sudanese economy, accounting for 45% of GDP and creating 53% of jobs.
The Nile, Blue Nile and White Nile rivers and tributaries flow through the entire territory of the Sudan, bringing a lot of water to its land. Sufficient water resources are essential for agricultural production and can provide convenient irrigation water for agricultural production. Figures show that, Sudan has used only 10% of the water quota for the Nile in its territory. Therefore, with the necessary equipment and investment, there is potential for irrigated agricultural development.
The main crops in Sudan include sorghum, corn and wheat, and the main economic crops are cotton, sesame, gum arabic and peanuts. Among them, cotton is the main agricultural product of Sudan, and its long-staple cotton production is second only to Egypt in the whole world. It is also the main product of export of Sudan. The production of gum arabic is the highest in the world, accounting for 60% to 80% of global production.
The Sudanese government attaches great importance to agricultural development and even regards agriculture as the “permanent oil” of Sudan, because agriculture is not only related to national food security issue, but also an important area for providing employment. Sudan has a population of around 45 million, of which 80% work in the agricultural sector.
Minerals: a new frontier attracting investment
According to World Bank statistics, Sudan’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 was 118.9 billion U.S. dollars, exceeding most African countries, such as Kenya, which is regarded as more open to the outside world. In comparison, Kenya has a GDP of less than $80 billion and a population larger than that of Sudan.
Much of this achievement is due to Sudan’s once rich oil resources. Sudan began exporting oil in 1999, and soon oil became the country's main commodity of export. Oil exports had driven Sudan’s economic growth, making it one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
In 2011, South Sudan announced its independence and Sudan’s oil revenues decreased significantly. In order to achieve economic recovery, the Sudanese government turned to develop a variety of minerals, including gold, as one of the priorities of economic growth. The economic transformation seems to have achieved some success. For example, the Sudanese Ministry of Minerals announced earlier this year that Sudan’s gold production in 2017 exceeded 100 tons, and gold production and exports were among the best in African countries.
In addition to oil and gold, Sudan's other mineral resources are also very rich, with a wide distribution and large reserves, including iron, silver, chromium, copper, manganese, gold, lead, zinc, nickel, tungsten and other metal minerals, marble, heavy crystal Non-metallic minerals such as stone, kyanite, cement limestone, gravel, wollastonite, gypsum, mica, salt and construction sand.
Sudanese mining resources have their own advantages. Sudan is considered to have good ore-forming conditions, large land area and great potential for prospecting. In terms of infrastructure, compared with most African countries, Sudan's land transportation, sea and airport construction, electricity, and communication networks are quite complete.
At the same time, Sudan actively seeks foreign investment and has introduced laws or regulations that encourage overseas investment. According to the provisions of the National Investment Encouragement Act of 2013, as long as the mining project meets the conditions of national strategic investment, investors can enjoy preferential treatment for exemption of corporate income tax and tariffs on imported products for at least 10 years. There are also corresponding reductions and exemptions for personal income tax.
Tourism: an area crying for investment
Before the independence of South Sudan, Sudan was the largest country in Africa and its tourism resources were abundant. According to the Ministry of Tourism, Antiquities and Wildlife of Sudan, Sudan is considered to be one of the ten countries with diverse and unique tourist attractions in the world.
An important geographical feature of Sudan is that the Nile runs through the north and south. The Blue and White Nile rivers meet each other through Sudan in Khartoum. In the evening, young men and women, in two or three, will have fun on the Nile bridge, either staring at the river, watching the sunset, or spotting the boats and tourists on the water. On the banks of the Nile are lively local food stalls with Sudanese snacks, coffee or tea. The confluence of the Blue and White Nile River, a blue color and a white color, is a wonder of nature.
In addition to the natural landscape, Sudan is also rich in historical and cultural resources, from the ruins of the Kingdom of Napta to the Kingdom of Meroe, from the Christian Nubia to the Islamized Sudan, a long history that allows people to time travel to those dynasties. Among these ancient ruins, the most famous may be Sudan’s Pyramids.
Sudan’s Pyramids are not as tall or grand as those in Egypt, nor as famous. There’s clearly a need to further promote the historical remains. As a result, visitors often find it a “quiet” tourist attraction, with no crowds, only sunshine, sand dunes and heavy history. And the northeastern part of Sudan is close to the Red Sea, whose coastline stretches for nearly 700 kilometers with quality beaches. The Red Sea waters in Sudan are still unexplored, clear and translucent, and are an ideal place to dive. Sudan has abundant tourism resources but few developments and lack of management. With investment, there’ll be renovation, better management and the supply of necessary service facilities. That investment is likely to bring about handsome returns, and will also help contribute to the local economic development and create more jobs for the local people.
Challenges: to be overcome
Where there are opportunities, there are often challenges. After 20 years of sanctions, coupled with the secession of South Sudan, the Sudanese economy has been hit hard and even looks weak. This "unhealthy" state is shown in many ways. In 2017, there were rounds of oil shortages in Sudan. Earlier this year, the shortage was severe and almost paralyzed the nation's transportation, with people queuing for hours at the gas stations.
The stability of power supply also leads to concerns, many production units have to prepare their own generators. However, this situation is expected to improve in the near future. Sudan recently signed a cooperation agreement with northern neighbor Egypt to establish a power transmission system worth tens of millions of dollars. According to the plan, Egypt can supply 300 megawatts of electricity to Sudan in the next two months, and will increase to 600 megawatts in the next stage until it reaches 3,000 megawatts. Unit 1 of the Sultan Upper Atbara and Setit Dam Hydropower project, which was built by Chinese companies, was successfully connected to the grid on June 11. At this point, all four units of the power station have been put into operation, which is expected to greatly alleviate the power shortage in Sudan.
Despite the lifting of economic sanctions by the United States, the Sudanese economy has not improved as quickly as expected. The inflation rate continues to rise and the Sudanese pound continues to depreciate against the US dollar. Investors may be advised to pay attention to the changes. In extreme cases, the sharp depreciation of the Sudanese pound could wipe out the investors' profits. In Khartoum, some high-end hotels insist on receiving in US dollars in cash while rejecting the local currency.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in a report last year that by the end of 2016, Sudan’s external debt reached 52.4 billion US dollars, accounting for 111% of GDP. The IMF stressed the need to remove Sudan from the U.S. list of "sate sponsors of terrorism," so that Sudan can benefit from debt relief. At present, the United States still hasn’t shown any intention to remove Sudan from such a list.
Due to US sanctions, a large number of Western companies that trade with Sudan have also been affected. In 2014, BNP Paribas was forced to pay the U.S. $8.97 billion in fines for alleged Sudanese operations. This has left many financial institutions very cautious to resume services in Sudan, even if the U.S. sanctions are gone.
However, the prospect of change seems to be in the air. South Sudan and Sudan has recently agreed to strengthen cooperation to increase oil production, which is an encouraging win-win decision. Although oil resources and production are mainly in South Sudan, oil pipelines are located in Sudan. If all goes well, South Sudan will benefit from restarting oil production, and Sudan will also gain from a $25 pipeline transit fee per barrel. Considering that oil revenue is the main source of hard currency for the two countries, this will bring great relief to Sudan's economic pressure.