External Relations Secretary, South Sudan Businessmen Association (SSBA)

By: Mohammed Osman

KHARTOUM, Nov 27 (Sudanow)—The importance of an interview with Dr. Tony Ghagha, the External Relations Secretary of the South Sudan Businessmen Association (SSBA), emanates from the common interests, and history and the fraternal ties between the peoples of Sudan and South Sudan. Added to this are plans for economic and commercial integration, the opening of the border crossing corridors to facilitate movement of the two peoples and surpassing the state of tension and dispute between the sisterly countries.

Dr. Tony told sudanow.info.sd in the interview that they consider the Sudan as the parent country from which they benefited in the training of qualified personnel, including more than 120 diplomats who underwent training in the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, some of them served as ambassadors and representatives in foreign countries. While thousands of the South Sudanese students graduated in Sudanese universities, there are now about 25,000 students presently following studies in the Sudan, said SSBA official.

This demonstrates a willingness for carrying on with building the good-neighbor relations and for peaceful coexistence of the two peoples, said Dr. Tony, noting that the South Sudanese prefer the Sudanese commodities to the commodities imported from other neighbouring because, he said, the latter are incompatible to standards and meteorology.

The interview, which centered on aspects of cooperation between the two countries, ran as follows:

Sudanow: At the outset, would you please explain the importance of convening the first businessmen forum in South Sudan?

Dr. Tony: The conference to be organized by South Sudan on December 4-5 will be the first investment gathering after gaining our independence from the Sudan. It was decided on as a result of thorough meditation, taking into consideration the natural, mineral, animal and fish resources the country possesses. Of course, the country has begun from scratch and we have to build a firm infrastructure for constructing a modern nation in central Africa. This was the idea of the forthcoming conference.

SUDANOW:Could you please name the participants in that conference?

Dr. TONY: The participants include the national private sector as well as the private sector of several friendly and sisterly countries represented by companies and business investments.

SUDANOW:Which countries and companies that have been invited for participation?

Dr. TONY: The High and Organizing committees have established an internet website on which the information is transmitted direct. Numerous countries have sent the names of their companies which will take part in the conference and the numbers of those prospective participants are growing round the clock. According to the information available to us, many of those companies are from the Sudan, including companies for investment in the fields of petroleum, roads and dams. South Sudan is lacking in electricity and still uses generators which are costly and therefore the government seeks investment in dams for generation of the hydro-electric power.

We are also contemplating activation of investment in tourism, making use of the touristic nature of the country which is rich in wild animals and birds that are rarely found in eastern and central Africa. There are also opportunities for investment in hotels and in health and education facilities.

SUDANOW:In your capacity as a businessman and an economist, would you explain the importance of opening of the border crossing corridors between the Sudan and South Sudan?

Dr. TONY: The opening of those corridors is provided for in the agreements the two countries concluded in July 2012. Moreover, South Sudan has expressed its desire in establishing cordial relations through which trade exchange and economic integration can be made for the interest of the two peoples. The agreements also provided for establishing the (four) freedoms. We used to live in one country and some circumstances have arisen that made us separate from each other, but, still, there must be good-neighborliness relations. The opening of the four border-crossing corridors will bring about gains for the two countries. While the South is still a consumer, rather than an exporter, the Sudan has long been active in the industrial and agricultural fields and there are about 172 commodities that can be imported from the Sudan for marketing in South Sudan. In the meantime, close relations can be established between the traders of the two countries and the trade ties can help build the two countries.

Sudanow:To what extent do you think the desire in economic integration will surpass the state of tension between the two countries?

Dr. TONY: A country, upon getting its independence, usually hands over the old flag to the President of the country from which it gained independence, but, as I witnessed during the independence day ceremony, President Salva Kiir and his aides were wise enough to declare that they would keep the Sudanese flag because it belongs to a parent country from which we have separated.

President Salva Kiir Mayardit has always referred to President Omar Al-Beshir as his elder brother and until now, he addressed him in joint meetings as “my elder brother”. This clearly shows that the Sudan is the parent country from which we have benefitted in educating and training qualified personnel and more than 120 of our diplomats have undergone training in the Sudanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, some of them have become our ambassadors and representatives to other countries. Thousands of students have graduated in Sudanese universities and about 25,000 of our students are now following studies in the Sudan. All this indicates willingness for continuing to establish good-neighbor relations as it is high time for the two peoples to lead a state of peaceful coexistence. We do not want to be an “action film” for the west to enjoy watching; we want to prove to Africa and the world that we love peace. President Salva Kiir has always called for peace and has pardoned the militias who were fighting his government and has urged them to join with the peace process and with the efforts for constructing the South Sudan as an advanced and powerful state

SUDANOW:Dr Tony, would you brief us on your investments in the Sudan?

Dr. TONY: The national private sector has investments in the fields of aviation, hotels, etc. One businessman has donated the state a fleet of planes for external flights the first of which was from Juba to Khartoum. We have an air route to Entebbe and we are running flights to Egypt, Kenya and Ethiopia and will shortly fly to the United Arab Emirates. These flights are run in accordance with the recognized aviation treaties. We urge the businessmen to embark on investment in the air, road and river transport activities for connecting the South Sudanese states together.

SUDANOW:What are the relative advantages of the Sudanese commodities compared to those from other neighboring countries?

Dr. TONY: There are factories and companies in the neighbouring countries but we have of late found out that their measurements are not compatible with the standards; for instance, we buy a bag of sugar on which it is written that its weight is 50 kilograms but later we discover that its weight is only 35 kilograms. This case applies to rice and other goods. The South imports sugar and chicken from Brazil while the Sudan is close by. The cement we import is sometimes fabricated and incompatible with the quality compared with the Sudanese commodities. The opening of the border corridors will therefore be much better.

SUDANOW:What legal procedures are needed for scaling up the rates of the inter-nation cooperation in the commercial and economic fields?

Dr. TONY: The two countries have, of course, formulated the legal and political frameworks as embodied in formation of joint committees and banking committees concerned with establishing bank branches and opening bank accounts for the citizens in the two countries to facilitate the transfers in order to encourage investors. Moreover, the security on the common border has been maintained while the process of demarcation of the demilitarized zone has been expedited to pave the way for opening the 10 corridors for collecting customs proceeds for the interest of both Sudan and South Sudan. In addition, the role of the joint economic committee of representatives of the ministries of Finance and Trade, the central banks and the private sectors of the two countries must be vitalized.

Sudanow is the longest serving English speaking magazine in the Sudan. It is chartarized by its high quality professional journalism, focusing on political, social, economic, cultural and sport developments in the Sudan. Sudanow provides in depth analysis of these developments by academia, highly ...


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