A discussion of the issues facing South Sudan one year after independence, addressing questions nationhood, oil security and development
A discussion of the issues facing South Sudan one year after independence. It addresses questions around sporting symbols of nationhood, oil security and development, and the role of superpowers such as China. This builds on our previous article: "Hello South Sudan".
The world’s youngest nation celebrated its first birthday in July 2012. However, the event was marked with a "somber mood", South Sudanese citizens being all too aware of ongoing border disputes, internal violence and unstable oil production (The Telegraph, 9 July 2012).
In 2005, a peace accord was signed as an agreement to end a civil war of almost half a century between the Muslim north and largely Christian south (Bloomberg, 18 July 2012). This laid the foundations for South Sudan to gain independence – a move that offered "an opportunity to embark on the path of much-needed economic development and political democratization" (BBC, 26 June 2012).
Sporting symbols of nationhood
Oil, security and development
The role of China
Following a referendum, South Sudan officially declared independence from Sudan on 9 July 2011 – a move that 98% of voters had sided with. The decision marked an end to the civil war, however it will take more than a newly found independence to rectify "half a century of marginalization" (The Guardian, 8 July 2012).
South Sudan, one of the less developed nations in Africa, was founded on a premise of hope – the hope that with "control of their own budget and resources, development might happen at last," the BBC explains. "But there's little to show for that after a year" (BBC, 1 July 2012).
South Sudan has a GDP of just $1,546 per capital, with over 50 per cent of the population living below the poverty line. Only 27 per cent of the population of South Sudan are literate, 28 per cent own a radio and 1 per cent own a computer (The Guardian, 9 July 2012).
There are a number of factors which may hinder South Sudan’s development, such as a lack of infrastructure, relatively low levels of inward investment, high levels of illiteracy, alongside corruption and political instability. "The dream is fading fast," says one South Sudanese national (The Guardian, 10 July 2012).
Sport can often play an important role in uniting a country, acting as a symbol of nationhood and South Sudan has already formed its first football team. On 10 July 2012, South Sudan played their first official international game (BBC, 10 July 2012). The Fifa-approved match against bordering Uganda was a fitting celebration of the nation’s first anniversary.
In July 2012 the nation supported their first representatives at the East and Central African championship, held in Tanzania (BBC reports, 12 July 2012).
"The government, citizens and youth are happy to see their players playing," said team coach Sebit Bol Chol. "We are happy that it is Salaam [the Arabic word for ‘peace’] here to represent South Sudan. We are grateful for this opportunity."
However, South Sudanese athletes with their eyes on the Olympic Games were unlikely to compete under their countries flag at the London 2012 Games (Reuters, 2 July 2012). The newly independent nation had yet to establish enough national sports federations to register a legitimate National Olympic committee and therefore be officially recognised by the IOC.
However, it was possible for South Sudanese athletes to take part as independent competitors under the Olympic flag (The Telegraph, 21 July 2012).
Sovereignty is defined as having the power to rule decisively over a geographic area. For example, a government usually holds sovereignty over its country, which allows it to clearly mark out its borders and enforce its laws within that space.
However, the making of a nation is about more than having a legitimate government. According to Benedict Anderson’s (1983) seminal book, a nation can be defined "an imagined political community." It is imagined in the sense that the members of a country will not all meet each other face-to-face, however they can still hold in their heads an idea of community – a close affinity with their fellow citizens.
In order to attract global investment, a nation should be political stable and faith should be placed in the government’s sovereignty. If a country is susceptible to conflict, a Transnational Corporation (TNC) might be put off investing because their economic activity could be disrupted.
However, some nations may struggle to enforce their borders or maintain control over the space inside their borders. We take for granted the fact that the United Kingdom exists and is commanded by the government. However, in attempting to create a new nation, South Sudan shows us that it is no easy task.
Point for discussion
Many conflicts arise because of marginalisation and underdevelopment. However, without security, development will struggle to move forwards. How could a government’s sovereignty be enforced to reduce conflict and foster development?
When South Sudan gained independence, it claimed 75 per cent of Sudan’s oil production and the South Sudanese government now relies on oil for 98 per cent of its revenue (Bloomberg, 18 July 2012). This natural resource, sourced predominantly in the South but transported for sale in the North, has been at the heart of dispute between the north and south and is also of wider geopolitical concern.
In January 2012, South Sudan switched off the oil supply to the north amid a dispute about transit fees - the money to pay for pipelines and ports to transport oil. "The shutdown has crippled both economies" (The Economist, 14 July 2012).
Inflation has reached 80% in South Sudan and employers working in the country such as the United Nations have resorted to paying their staff in US dollars – a more stable and dependable currency than the South Sudanese Pound.
With relatively little industry in the country and few trading opportunities outside its oil reserves, many of South Sudan’s nine million people are reliant on international aid. More than half the country’s population is in need of food aid, however some foreign donors are increasingly unwilling to provide aid money due to reports of government and army corruption (The Economist, 14 July 2012).
South Sudan's President Salva Kiir is aware of the need to become independent through strong and stable trade, rather than relying on international aid. "We still depend on others. Our liberty today is incomplete," he said (Reuters, 10 July 2012). "We must be more than liberated. We have to be independent economically."
Aid Vs trade
There are different strategies to reduce the development gap. Aid and trade are the two main approaches to help a country develop.
Development aid or assistance refers to money or resources provided as a gift but it almost always comes with a series of required commitments. However, the effectiveness of aid is often brought into question and some people suggest it creates a cycle of dependency, whereby developing countries continually rely on aid and the dignity of people can become undermined.
Global trade is therefore often favoured as a long-term strategy since it can foster investment and economic growth in a previously marginalised area. Some previously underdeveloped areas (for example, China and India) have used trade to dramatically develop in recent years. However, trade is does not always close the development gap and can lead to exploitation.
There are different types of aid and trade, each with a different relationship between investor and recipient:
Bilateral aid: From one country to another. May be tied up with political interests of the donor government, which gives the aid. For example, it may be given to military allies
Multilateral aid: Funded by more than one donor but delivered through international agencies such as the World Bank or European Union. Viewed as less politically strategic as recipients are not directly accountable to individual donor governments
Humanitarian/emergency aid: Provided in times of natural or man-made crises. It is often provided as short term relief in the form of food, health care, sanitation and shelter
Foreign direct investment: A TNC sets up a production plant in a country, which can provide jobs in an area. However, the TNCs are often driven by profit rather than the need to develop of an area
Fair trade: Ethically-motivated trade that pays developing countries a greater price for their products. Aims to reduce the exploitation of workers
Weighing up the options available, what do you think is the most effective way for South Sudan to develop? Remember, a country is can take part in many (if not all) form of development assistance.
China, the world’s newest superpower, also has an interest in the world’s newest nation as part of its developing financial interests in Africa. "China’s aid to Africa has expanded rapidly in the last decade," The New York Times (20 July 2012) explains.
Sudan and South Sudan provide a notable source of oil for China. So when the flow of oil stopped in January 2012 as part of a dispute between the north and south, China attempted to help resolve part of the dispute by buying oil at above-market prices. However, the superpower, which trades with both Sudan and South Sudan, would lose out economically in the event of a longer running conflict (The Economist, 14 July 2012).
The Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Forac) met in Beijing in 2012 to discuss issues such as peace and security in Africa. The conference asked "what political and diplomatic measure China can take to de-escalate crises and prevent conflict," according to The Guardian (13 July 2012). This focused on long-term strategies over short-term responses.
However, China’s investment in the extraction industries and heavy infrastructure in Africa has been brought into question at times. Critics ask whether this is an appropriate form of development, especially when such aid is being offered "without conditioning it on human rights performance or governance," the New York Times (20 July 2012) explains.
However, China is keen to address such negative perceptions, emphasising the role of emerging African markets in the new global economy. "As China's economy transitions, shifting labour intensive industry to regions outside of China offers production opportunities," Zhong Jianhua, China's special envoy to Africa, told Reuters (18 July 2012). "African countries should seize this opportunity. They can step into a track that China has taken in the past to develop their own industry."
Ideas about development and the role of superpowers are undergoing change and many Africans remain cautious about China’s increased involvement in their continent. However, South Sudan needs to bridge the development gap and a partnership with Chinese industry may provide a chance to do so.
The role of BRICs in Africa
The increased economic and political influence of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) has led to them providing development assistance for the world’s poorest nations. This represents shift in global aid flows, since they once received aid themselves.
Their provision of development assistance doesn’t necessarily match with traditional models of aid. For example, China’s involvement in South Sudan may not strictly be classified as bilateral aid. Instead, nationalised Chinese companies are investing in heavy infrastructure and extraction, which both countries can benefit from.
Although China is not acting with overt political interest, some people have raised concerns about whether their assistance is truly benefiting the South Sudanese. This shift in global interest in development marks a reworking of traditional flows of aid and trade. A new approach may be emerging through business-government partnership (Institute of Development Studies, 16 May 2012).
From its involvement in Africa so far, China has contributed to:
Food security through labour intensive agriculture and appropriate technologies
The financing of large infrastructure projects, such as the construction of dams
The construction of training colleges and provision of relevant equipment
Extractive industries, such as the mining of copper and other minerals
Trade concessions and provision of commercial loans to companies
China’s selected financial assistance to Ethiopia, 2000-2008
2001 Interest-free loan in support of construction of ring-road (phase 1) and low-cost housing project ($12 million)
2005 Interest-free loan in support of construction of ring-road (phase 2) ($15 million)
2007 Donation to assist people affected by HIV-AIDS ($250,000)
2007 Commercial loan to finance new power generation and expand a cement factory ($208 million)
Source: Centre for Chinese Studies, prepared for Department for International Development (February, 2008)
Considering China’s support for the development of heavy infrastructure in Africa, what potentially adverse environmental and social consequences need to be considered? How might you take care to avoid any negative effects of development?
To learn more about prospects for development in Africa, listen to the RGS-IBG 21st Century Challenge debate featuring Sir Bob Geldof and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
You can also see our Ask the expert interview with Gemma Hay, an aid worker who worked in South Sudan.
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