South Sudan became an independent nation in July, and it’s looking for business. An international conference in Washington Wednesday and Thursday is focusing on the new country in Africa and featuring speeches from President Salva Kiir and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. But a South Sudanese American living in Washington says there’s much more to be done before economic development succeeds.
The South Sudanese president greeted Washington, wearing his trademark American cowboy hat. International investors welcomed him as a celebrity.
“I want to invite you today to come with me to South Sudan after this conference to help develop our potential in oil, gas and mineral resources,” Kiir stated.
The oil is a boon for the world’s newest country, but it’s also a strain. South Sudan ended up with 70 percent of the oilfields in its independence break up. But South Sudan is landlocked. So it relies on Sudan to the north for pipelines.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said oil can lift South Sudan out of poverty. But she warned of the prospect of poor management.
“You will fall prey to the natural resource curse which will enrich a small elite, outside interests, corporations, and countries and leave your people hardly better off than when you started,” Clinton said.
South Sudan became a new country after decades of war. Continuing border violence has displaced hundreds of thousands. The Sudan People’s Liberation Army fought for the south’s independence. Angelos Agok was one of them. Now, he’s an American citizen,
He’s proud he helped South Sudan win its freedom. And proud of his old boss who became president. Still, he’s worried about how international companies do business in South Sudan.
“These companies bring these people from their country and employ them 100 percent. I will tell you, including those who clean the floor are not South Sudanese. And so, it doesn’t create any economy,” Agok noted. “And doesn’t create job security for the people whom we fought for.”
To the South Sudanese, independence means more than a separate country, separate government. Agok says his countrymen have basic needs like food and jobs. And, only then will they have true peace.