South Sudan – Post independence trade relations with the north may be necessary

(Vermont, USA) – Now that we have voted for independence and the divorce process is getting wrapped up, it is a fair game to think of an environment where the South and the North might need each other as trading partners.

I am thinking about how this might be so hard to comprehend given the suffering Southerners went through in the hands of successive oppressive regimes in the North. But an empirical analysis by two economists, Jeffrey Frankel and Andrew Rose, comes to mind. The two analyzed the data on what they referred to as “gravity theory of trade flows” and what they concluded about the trade between two states or economic blocs came down to the following empirical results:

1. Access to ocean increases trade flows by 50%;

2. Common border increases trade flows by 80%;

3. Common language increases trade flows by 200%;

4. Common regional trading bloc  increases trade flows by 330%;

5. Colony-colonizer relationship increases trade flows by 900%;

6. Common polity increases trade flows by 300%;

7. And common currency increases trade flows by 340%.

Those are the results from an empirical research by two renowned world  economists and thinking about those numbers in light of our current separation could mean the inevitable divorce may not be the end of an economic interdependence between the soon to be independent states of North and South Sudan. Putting those numbers into perspective, they all point to one deduction that both North and South Sudan may be economically dependent on each other for quite a while even as much as we (South Sudanese) do not like anything to do with the North right now.

As a matter of fact, we will have a common border with the North forever, and as much as I hate Arabic —and I do not write a single word in Arabic—it is going to remain essentially a common language spoken by many in the South. Moreover, we had a common colonizer (Great Britain) and probably the North may qualify as a Post-UK colonizer for South Sudan in the past 50 years. Further more, we currently have a common currency (obviously, it will end in July) as well as a common polity (which will end in July as well).  And even as much as we want to export our oil through the Port of Mombasa, Kenya, it is easier said than done and in that regard, we may end up relying on Port Sudan as our access to the ocean for a long time. And therefore, we should approach such a debate from an objective and empirical standpoint.

We have gained our freedom and our independence but the issues of international trade are as given and they dictate what nation states do and it is in our best interest to devise and unveil our economic policies in the way that uses the North to the benefit of South Sudan. We need a prosperous state with a booming economy that supports the growth, development and aspirations of its citizens. And if the numbers are what they are for international trade flows, then let us not dismiss the North as our future trading partner.

Lest my piece be misconstrued, I am approaching this issue from the standpoint of the advice we always get from our elders that we must take the best of the western world and bring it back home to develop South Sudan. On the same token, let us take the best of North Sudan (there is a legitimate question about whether or not there is anything good about the North and I get it). In any case, let’s take what is good and use it to develop South Sudan. In this case, trade relations might be the only good thing we can use the North for to benefit our upcoming independent state of South Sudan.

*Akol Aguek Ngong is Assistant Director of Admissions at the University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont, USA

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