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Sudan eyes economic revival as US lifts sanctions

Khartoum, Sudan | AFP | Up until a few years ago, Sudanese engineer Ahmed Abdallah used to manage his family’s expenses on his $400 monthly salary but he has since had to take out loans to make ends meet.

With the US State Department’s announcement Friday of an end to some of its toughest economic and trade sanctions on Sudan, Abdallah and his fellow Sudanese are looking forward to a brighter future.

“We’ve been barely able to survive as my salary cannot cover even our essential needs,” the private sector employee told AFP at his home in an impoverished neighbourhood of Omdurman, the twin city of Sudan’s capital Khartoum.

“At times when several needs come together, it just becomes impossible,” he said as his four children played outside the family’s mud and brick house.

Economic conditions in Sudan have been mired in persistent fiscal deficits, high inflation and the trade embargo imposed by Washington in 1997 over Khartoum’s alleged support for Islamist militant groups.

On Friday, Washington announced that the embargo will be lifted from October 12, ending Sudan’s two decades of isolation from Western markets.

The financial sanctions had put restrictions on international banking transactions, exchange of technology and spare parts, and other cumbersome trade regulations have hampered economic growth.

Hundreds of factories have either closed or barely function, as importing equipment or machine parts directly from manufacturers is cumbersome given the restrictions on transferring funds overseas.

Sudan’s economy suffered a further body blow when the south split from the north in 2011 after a bitter civil war, taking with it the bulk of the country’s oil revenues.

President Omar al-Bashir summarised the situation last week when he said the US embargo had “weakened the state and its institutions”.

For millions of Sudanese like Abdallah, it has been a fight for survival as inflation soared to 35 percent — the result mainly of high energy prices — putting even basic food items out of reach for some.

– ‘Access to new technology’ –

Experts say the lifting of sanctions will help revive Sudan’s dilapidated economy.

“Sudan lost access to new technology, because although the sanctions were imposed by the United States, even Europe and some Asian and Arab countries followed them,” said Mohamed El Nair, professor of economics at Khartoum’s University of El Mughtaribeen.

“Removing sanctions will help Sudan access new technology and international banking, in turn helping better manage its imports and exports.”

Although details of Washington’s decision are awaited, its impact will be felt across several sectors but especially transport, education and healthcare, he said.

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