NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 8 – Two months after South Sudan became the world’s youngest state, its government in partnership with the private sector is aggressively trying to attract investments into the country.
One of the strategies that it has adopted is to organise trade fairs to encourage investors to set up their operations there and assist in its reconstruction efforts.
A Sudanese firm Blue Spring International in partnership with its country’s Ministry of Trade has organised the first South Sudan Investment Conference and Trade Fair which the firm’s Project Advisor Kuanyin Angelo Bol said on Wednesday would provide a platform for showcasing the opportunities that need to be exploited.
“The government of South Sudan is attracting international investors and will (in the first conference) be requesting the business community to take up the opportunities and help it in the challenges that lay ahead,” Mr Bol emphasised.
The fair, slated for October 6 to 8 in Juba will also be designed as a ‘one-stop shop’ where the participants will be able to access all the information they need to invest in South Sudan.
The government is currently preparing a three-year development plan which will outline the set of priorities that it intends to undertake as it seeks to open a new leaf in the history of the state.
However, it is aware that enormous investment opportunities abound although there are some companies particularly from Kenya such as Equity Bank, Kenya Commercial Bank Group and others that have been reaping from being in that market for a couple of years now.
Some 150 exhibitors drawn from the construction, manufacturing, dairy and agricultural sectors are expected to showcase their products and services as they angle for a share of the pie.
It is hoped that this exhibition will complement the government’s efforts to formulate business friendly regulations and procedures in order to promote investments in the vast country endowed with natural resources.
The new nation has made great stride towards this end with the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business in Juba 2011’ report giving it favourable reviews.
For instance, the report documents that it takes 15 days for a start-up business to begin operating there compared to the developed world’s average of 13.8 days.
The government anticipates attaining political, social and economic development in the few decades and has already announced an intention to move its capital city from Juba to a central and bigger location.
Although the relocation to the largely uninhabited Ramciel is not immediate, there have been some fears that small traders from the neighbouring countries like Kenya and Uganda operating in Juba might lose out due to the increased distance.
However, there are some business people such as South Sudan Business Conference and Trade Fair Marketing Coordinator Maurice Odhiambo who feel that the opposite will happen.
“It (the move) will not affect Kenya but in fact add value because we are going to a new capital city whose planning is in the process and so it will be a plus to the investing community,” he reckoned.
And in a sharp contrast to Juba where land is communal, the new state is working on land ownership regulations that will make it possible for foreign investors to own or lease land for setting up their businesses.