Sudan: Sanctions Lifted, Now Development Is Imperative

Lawrence Freeman

October 24, 2017

            On October 12, the U.S. announced the long overdue, official removal of some sanctions on Sudan. Now, new and exciting potentials lie ahead for the future of Sudan and its people. This is not the time to delay; the government of Sudan should seize the moment to implement policies that will lead to the economic development of this vast nation, and the raising of the standard of living of its more than forty million citizens. 

According to U.S. government representatives, President Trump’s executive decision does not terminate President’s Clinton’s E.O. 13067, issued on November 3, 1997, but it removes those sanctions that had enforced an embargo on commercial transactions with Sudan.  Thus, now companies and individuals wishing to export, invest, and trade with Sudan can conduct business using the international banking system without fear of being penalized. However, targeted sanctions remain, and there are licensing requirements for agricultural and medical exports.

This milestone in U.S.-Sudan relations is, in large part, due to the relentless efforts by Foreign Minister Ibrahim Ghandour, especially his leadership over the last sixteen months. Professor Ghandour, who was appointed to head Sudan’s foreign office in June 2015, has successfully changed the dynamics of a detrimental and hostile U.S. attitude against his nation.  Nearly twenty years of sanctions have accomplished nothing except to cause greater suffering and hardship for the Sudanese people.  Finally, this suffocating policy has ended, allowing Sudan the opportunity to move forward. 

However, the U.S. now maintains a peculiar and contradictory policy towards Sudan: Lifting trade sanctions allows companies to conduct commercial activity in Sudan without penalty, but the U.S. cannot offer financial support to investors from any of its lending institutions, because Sudan remains on the U.S. State Department’s list of “states sponsoring terrorism” (SST).

Under the administration’s new executive order, Sudan is removed from a short list of nations under “comprehensive sanctions”: North Korea, Syria, Iran, and Cuba, and is placed on a broader list of nations subject to “targeted sanctions.” The government of Sudan intends to seek redress of its wrongful inclusion on the SST list. Removal from this list would allow Sudan to seek relief from its onerous forty-plus billions of dollars of debt, and make it eligible to receive favorable treatment from U.S. lending facilities. Unfortunately, removing Sudan from the SST list would require the approval of the U.S. Congress, which is still antagonistic towards Sudan.

Shaping a Better Future with China’s Belt and Road

Since Sudan’s liberation from colonialism, during which, the British Imperialists codified into law the artificial division between the so-called North and South, Sudan has never realized it full economic potential. This lack of development has been at the core of Sudan’s difficulties. This can now change.   

The spirit of China’s 21st Century Silk Road has created a new dynamic on the African continent that Sudan is well positioned to harness. Sudan’s neighbors in East Africa are already participating in a density of construction of new rail lines going East to West that have the potential to transform Africa, becoming the eastern leg of the long-awaited East-West railroad that would link the Atlantic to the Indian Oceans. Ethiopia has completed the first electrically driven railroad connecting the capital Addis Ababa to the Port of Djibouti, and has devised a strategy to connect to all its neighboring countries by rail. Kenya has completed the first phase of the standard-gauge railroad, from the Port of Mombasa to Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. This the first phase of a plan to connect the nations of the Horn of Arica to those of the Great Lakes Region. Tanzania has begun the first two stages of Dar es Salaam-Iska-Kagali/Keza-Musongati (DIKKM) rail project, a 1672-kilometer railroad connecting Kigali in Rwanda and Musongati in Burundi to Kenya’s Port of Dar Es Salaam. Most of these transportation infrastructure projects are being supported by China, both in funding and construction.

The Port of Sudan is officially on China’s Maritime Silk Road, and the Ports of Mombasa, Djibouti, and Dar es Salaam are there implicitly.

 Sudan is geographically positioned to become the nexus point for the East-West and North South trans-Africa rail-lines, possibly crossing in the city of Sennar on the Blue Nile. The Sudanese government has already prepared an ambitious multi-phase plan to connect all parts of its territory with its neighbors by rail. China has been a consistent economic partner of Sudan and is a likely candidate to collaborate on these rail projects.

Sudan is also in urgent need of more electricity to power its economy. The erection of the Merowe Dam, with a capacity of 1.2 gigawatts, was a significant accomplishment in 2009-2010, and there have been smaller hydropower projects in the eastern portion of the country. However, Sudan, like the rest of sub-Sharan Africa, is suffering from a huge deficit in electrical power that is now holding back, and will continue to retard economic growth until it is rectified. Sub-Saharan Africa needs over 1,000 gigawatts of power to begin to obtain the level of modern Afro-industrial societies  

Sudan Is Open for Business

Speaking in Washington, D.C. on October 16, at a forum sponsored by the Corporate Council of Africa, Sudanese Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr. Mohamed Othman Al-Rikabii outlined the areas of potential investments in Sudan’s resources, including; water, gold, oil, mining, livestock, gas, and tourism.  He emphasized the enormous potential for investment in agriculture in Sudan, with presently only 20% of its sixty million hectares of fertile land under cultivation.

For the first time in decades, Sudan has the opportunity to design polices that focus on the development of the nation. Productive employment must be created to provide hope for a better future for the Sudanese people, especially its youth, who are living in poverty. This will require immediate construction–shovels in the ground–of vitally needed infrastructure. China, in the “Spirit of the New Silk Road,” will undoubtedly be a willing partner to Sudan’s future economic growth. Whether the U.S., under President Trump, will be wise enough to contribute to Sudan’s development after twenty years of failed sanctions, remains to be seen.  As for the government of Sudan, there is no time to waste, and no acceptable delays.  Economic development is the agenda.

 

Sino-Sudanese Strategic Partnership Could Make the Sudan Great Again

 The historic and successful visit of the Chinese Vice- Premier of the State Council Zhang Gaoli to Khartoum, marked and emphasized the deep ties of friendship and cooperation between the two friendly countries, and shall give further impetus to their embedded mutual coordination in regional and international forums.

Submitting a message to President Al-Bashir form his Chinese counterpart, the senior Chinese official put it clearly that China’s selection of Sudan as strategic partner, was notva random or arbitrary decision, but rather an option carefully calculated and studied.

That is why the said visit was highly celebrated in Khartoum, both in form and substance, as the most important visit of a senior Chinese official, perhaps since the visit of the Chinese presidentHu Jintao to Sudan in 2007, which brought the long standing cooperation between the two countries to yet a new level.

From historical perspective, it goes down in history, that Sudan was the fourth country in the continent, to have established full diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China on 4th February 1959. Since then, China has continued to maintain good and exemplary relations with Khartoum to meritoriously culminate in the year 2015, into strategic partnership, when the Sudanese President Al- Bashir was accorded a red carpet treatment during the latter’s historic and landmark visit to Beijing.

The win-win formula was the impetus and the driving force behind Sino-Sudanese rapidly evolving relationship. As a matter of fact, If China’s contribution in the development of Sudan’s oil sector continues to be envisaged as highly significant to Khartoum, nevertheless, such engagement could not have easily streamlined without China’s own receptiveness to the prospect.

Likewise, Khartoum with its timely adoption of its Look East strategy at that time was at the right time of history; Sudan in particular was equally important to China’s efforts to develop its oil sector. No surprisingly, Sudan acted as China’s gateway to Africa.

In other words, China’s involvement in Sudan spans an important phase in the restructuring and expansion of china’s own national oil companies overseas; China’s aim at that time was to build internationally competitive firms and to enhance China’s security in regard to an energy supply.

Arguably, the most important characteristic of the historical relations between Sudan and China is that alongside the economic interactions, it was solidly based on mutual trust and respect. Hence, geographical dimension and the language barriers did not preclude the extension of the relationship on all cultural and social levels. In other words, Sino-Sudanese is a showcase for relationship based on the exchange of mutual interests and benefits and devoid of ulterior or hidden agendas.

What further features and signifies the visit of the senior Chinese official to Khartoum is the fact that it comes in the framework of China’s 900 billion dollar’s Silk Road Vision, which was recently kicked off by Chinese President Xi Jinping. It has been globally perceived as absolutely the most ambitious development and infrastructure project, with the aim of building a modern version of the ancient Silk Road.

In light of the pressing problems and challenges currently facing humankind almost all over the world, the Chinese “Belt and Road initiative, represents a glimmer of hope that will surly benefit the people all over the world, particularly the third world. The initiative firmly predicated that civilisations by and large, thrive with openness and nations prosper from trade exchange.

Not surprisingly, Sudan was among the first African countries which hailed and blessed such historic, extraordinary and momentous project. In fact,

Sudan has every reason to wholeheartedly support the Chinese initiative; taking into cognizance that Sudan historically, and due to its geographical location, was a link between the Arab world and Africa. Besides, perhaps since time immemorial, the ports in Eastern part of Sudan have been the meeting-point for convoys coming from China to Africa.

Sudan has always maintained its desire to encourage more African countries to strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation with China under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. In fact the package of projects planed in the womb of this initiative, represent the main starting point for the advancement of developing economies like the Sudan. Luckily enough, Sudan and China are currently putting the final touches and understandings to embark on a number of vital projects in the fields of transportation, energy and agriculture. To that effect, Mr. Zhang stressed the need to create synergy between the Belt and Road Initiative and Sudan’s development strategy and boost bilateral cooperation in some new areas such as agriculture, mining and port construction.

Perhaps the most ambitious developmental project in the initiative is the modernization of the railway network at the regional level; taking advantage of Chinese expertise and funding, China plans to finance and build a railway connecting Ethiopia to Sudan in the footsteps the Ethiopia-Djibouti recently constructed railway line, which besides providing Ethiopia with yet a new sea outlet for the Red Sea, shall further cement consolidate the already evolving Sudanese-Ethiopian bilateral ties in all fields of mutual benefits ..

By the same token, a similar giant project in the pipeline, is the railway line linking Sudan with Chad and Cameroon to the west, which will form the basis for the completion of the African ambitious dream of linking and connecting Africa by trains from South Africa to Egypt in the north, and from the Red Sea in the east to Senegal and the Atlantic Ocean in the west.

These promising projects shall heavily boost the Sudanese economy and multiply its innumerable investment opportunities. As a matter of fact and with regard to the energy projects, Sudan has already begun to benefit from the Belt and Road initiative, unleashing serious negotiation for the establishment of the first Sudanese nuclear plant for peaceful purposes in cooperation with Chinese companies. In the same context, Sudan is currently seeking to discuss opportunities for financing solar power stations as well as constructing more dams for irrigation and electricity projects.

As referred to in the beginning of this article, Sudan enjoys a long two – decades of cooperation with China in the exploration, production and export of Sudanese oil. During his recent visit, the Chinese senior official, Mr. Zhang reiterated that the two countries need to strengthen cooperation in oil and gas exploration and development, and work actively to explore new cooperation areas under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.

In agriculture, taking stock of Sudan’s huge natural resources, Sudan will be one of the largest beneficiaries from the Chinese initiative. Perhaps the giant strategic projects shall include inter-alia, the implementation of a big and exemplary slaughterhouse for the export of Sudanese meat, such promising and long awaited project, shall warrant the influx of additional hundreds of millions of dollars to the Sudanese treasury, in the form of added value of livestock and carcass waste.

Moreover making use of Chinese extended expertise and technology, the two old friends are currently engaged and planning to join hand in hand, to boost Sudan’s huge potential in cotton production, with the ultimate goal of making the Sudan great again in the field of textile industry, both regionally and internationally.

On the political level, the belt and road initiative is projected to play effective role in the establishment of further pillars of stability and peace in the Sudan; via its huge development projects, the initiative shall directly address the remnant root causes of poverty and conflicts in a country like the h the Sudan.

The initiative is anticipated to play a major role in promoting and consolidating the chances of peace and stability, taking into consideration that, the initiative-per se- can and can only succeed and flourish in a framework of love, coexistence and peace. Mr. Zhang reaffirmed in Khartoum that China will, as always, support Sudan’s efforts in safeguarding its sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as achieving domestic peace and stability.

Interview with Sudan Foreign Minister