South Sudan plans to invite investors to revamp about eight food, cement and textile plants shut down during a decades-long civil war, in a push to create jobs and reduce dependence on imports, said an investment official.
South Sudan declared independence in July and is eager to draw in foreign investors to help build an economy devastated during one of Africa’s longest and deadliest conflicts.
It also wants to diversify its economy away from oil, which provides some 98 percent of state revenues, and reduce its heavy dependence on goods shipped in from abroad, particularly from its former civil war enemy, Sudan, Reuters reports.
Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Investment Undersecretary Elizabeth Manoa Majok said the country aimed to seek bids on the first factory, an edible oils plant in the country’s Lakes state, in the first quarter of next year.
“We are receiving a report (on the factory) at the end of this year, so the first quarter of the year we want to engage the potential investors in that area,” she told Reuters in an interview, adding it may be tendered as a public-private partnership.
The factory dates back to 1948, British colonial rule in Sudan, and covered about 56,000 square metres, information provided by the ministry said.
Civil war waged for all but a few years since 1955 has left South Sudan with an almost complete lack of infrastructure and industry, aside from oil. The country has few paved roads outside the capital, Juba, and large parts become inaccessible by ground transport during the rainy season.
Often described as one of the world’s least-developed nations, it has high levels of poverty, illiteracy and maternal mortality rates. Hospitals and schools are scarce.
Majok said South Sudan had seen a surge of investor interest since independence, although a lack of infrastructure, dependence on imports, a lack of local training and other issues still posed deep challenges.
“That is why we are tackling the defunct factories. If they are to come onto the scene, it will reduce a lot of imports. We are actually channeling a lot of our hard currency outside,” she said.
Majok said she was unable to give an indication of amount of investment the country was looking for, or the number of jobs it hoped to create, until the completion of assessments by external consultants.
After the edible oils factory, the government plans to develop a cement factory in Eastern Equatoria state, aiming to find an investor within 10 months.
Two textile factories would follow, and the remainder — which include sugar and canning — would be assessed afterwards.
South Sudan split off into a separate country after voting for independence from Sudan in a January referendum promised in a 2005 peace deal that ended the civil war.
One of the main motivations for the former rebel movement was the complaint they had been economically marginalised by Khartoum.
“It (independence) will allow us to decide our own destiny, it will allow us to control our resources. Because the resources of the south were being used to develop the north. That was a fact,” Majok said.