Sudan Economy: Rearranging Priorities

Sudan Economy: Rearranging Priorities

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamadok

By: Alsir Sidahmed

It is ironic that Brussels that hosts the European Union headquarters, and where Prime Minister Abdalla Hamadok is visiting looking for some support, is going through one of its crises that is putting to test its very existence and relevance. 

It was French President Emanuel Macron, who did not mince his words, when he told the Economist magazine in an interview last week that since the 1990s the EU has progressively lost its political purpose.

“Look at what is happening in the world. Things that were unthinkable five years ago,” the French president declares. “To be wearing ourselves out over Brexit, to have Europe finding it so difficult to move forward, to have an American ally turning its back on us so quickly on strategic issues; nobody would have believed this possible.” Europe is on “the edge of a precipice”, he says. “If we don’t wake up…there’s a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear geopolitically, or at least that we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply.”

However, Macron’s words are not the final verdict on the future of the EU. Already German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come up with a different view and handling Sudan case could be accommodated, but what is happening is an added reason for more caution in dealing with the international community.

In the very last days of October the EU sent a high-level delegation to Khartoum to assess the situation on ground and see how the EU can help given what it sees as a window of opportunity following the removal of the Ingaz regime and the set-up of the transitional authority and how to turn that success into something sustainable that can be, “a blueprint example for a wider region and indeed the whole of Africa,” read a summary report of the visit.

But equally that window of opportunity could be squandered as pressures are building from all direction: the deteriorating economic situation, which may lead to waning popular support that could be easily utilized by remnants of the deposed regime.

To face up to this situation, the EU is proposing that the international community mobilizes and coordinates its financial and political efforts to make a difference, but it was frank in admitting that it lacks the necessary fire power to meet these needs though it will take an active role in cooperation with the trio of the United States, Britain and Norway in crafting a new approach.

However, this frank admission of the EU’s limited ability coupled with what Macron has said about the union’s lost political role shows the need to lower expectations on what to expect from Hamadok’s visit or from the EU in particular and the international community in general.

Add to this is the growing domestic pressure especially on the economic front and the urgency to do something quickly. Finance Minister Ibrahim Elbadawi drew a clear picture of the economic situation in a Reuters interview where he said that Sudan urgently needs some $5 billion over the coming few weeks to cover vital imports. A looming crises in wheat and fuel shortage seems to be in the offing given the fact that the government has drawn more than half of the $3 billion offered by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a fact that requires a different approach.

The first step is to break the logjam of the vicious circle of chicken and egg. Any remarkable international help is conditioned on Sudan’s removal from the US list of countries supporting terrorism, but that delisting depends on measures taken by Sudan government to convince the Americans that should move along the path of delisting, which in itself a lengthy process and is time consuming that Sudan does not have the luxury to wait for.

And this endeavor is to make use of state of sympathy currently Sudan is enjoying and embark on a detailed plan with the help of the EU and other regional and international organizations that stipulates clearly the role of each side though the emphasis should be based on the domestic front: how to raise productivity and make use of highly successful rainy season and the international community can help in the short term kick-off that program.  

 

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