Why South Sudan has great potential

Guest Op-Ed– According to the Southern Sudan Centre for Statistics, Census and Evaluation, Africa’s newest State has a spread of 644, 329 square kilometres. This is bigger than the size of Kenya, which stands at 582, 646 square kilometres. Some 80 per cent of South Sudan is arable land. Kenya’s arable land is barely 20 per cent.the_sudd

From the 2008 Census, the population of Southern Sudan was stated to be 8.3 million. But the figure could be higher. This is though just about 20 per cent of Kenya’s population which stood at 38.6 million in 2009. And Southern Sudan has oil.

Quick thinking reveals that a country bigger than Kenya in size, with vast arable land, a sparse population and with oil deposits bespeaks great economic potential. Much as our neighbour Uganda recently discovered oil deposits and is well endowed with agricultural land, South Sudan, if well managed, packs the potential to quickly emerge as the economic powerhouse of Eastern Africa. Sadly, South Sudan is landlocked; sandwiched between Sudan to the North, Ethiopia and Somalia to the East, Kenya and Uganda to the South and the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the West.

South Sudan must therefore optimise on the shortest and most effective communication routes for its global trade. This calls for good planning. To fully harness its potential, the new State must in addition ensure that physical infrastructure, which unlocks rural and urban development, receives primary attention.

Road and rail links within and beyond national borders will need expansion. Power, water and sewer services will need to be improved. Telephone and internet services will also be required for global connectivity. Planning and construction of physical facilities to accommodate State and private agencies will be required too. All these are preserve for infrastructure professionals.

Foremost are land surveyors, a.k.a geomatic or geospatial engineers nowadays, who will ensure the mapping of South Sudan at various scales to facilitate planning. Sound planning cannot proceed without a good map base. These professionals will be required to support the setting out of utility services like roads, power, water, sewer and telecommunication lines too.

Highway, rail, electrical, telecommunications and water engineers have lots to do in the new State too. Then Architects and planners will be helpful in planning and construction. Luckily, Kenya is well endowed with most of the above skills. In fact, there has been an oversupply in some. South Sudan should exploit this.

On the other hand, infrastructure professionals from Kenya should take advantage of the excellent bilateral relationship between Kenya and South Sudan to move ahead of the global community in servicing the new nation.

Kenyan professionals are not only favoured by geographical proximity but will easily understand the cultural mindsets of the citizenry in South Sudan after years of fraternizing with many of its nationals to whom Kenya played host.

For sustainability, South Sudan could consider short-term apprentice courses for its nationals in some of these critical disciplines. Arrangements with firms and institutions in Nairobi could be made to take small groups of trainees through basic technical skills necessary to support infrastructural service provision.

What’s obvious is that Kenya’s advantage in this regard won’t last long. Global giants like the US, UK, Germany, China and Japan are working hard to bridge this obvious capacity gap. It is therefore incumbent upon Kenyan infrastructure professionals to harness the narrow window of opportunity while it lasts.

*This opinion piece first appeared in the Business Daily.  \n This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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