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Sudan hopes economic rebound after lifting US sanctions

Ⓒ AFP – ASHRAF SHAZLY – | Sudanese engineer Ahmed Abdallah at home with his family in Omdurman, near Khartoum, on 2 October 2017

For some years Ahmed Abdallah, a Sudanese engineer, is struggling to support his family, the victim of a rampant inflation and an economy in crisis. Like him, the Sudanese hope that the lifting of the American sanctions will allow a thinning.

“We are struggling to survive and my salary (of 340 euros) is not even enough to cover our basic needs,” said the private sector engineer who lives in a disadvantaged neighborhood of Omdurman, a city close to the capital Khartoum.

To survive, he has to borrow regularly, says the father of four children who lives in a house made of brick and mud.

The Sudanese economy has been struggling for years, pulled down by repeated budget deficits, high inflation and economic sanctions imposed by Washington since 1997 for alleged support of Khartoum to Islamist groups.

On Friday, however, the United States announced that some of these sanctions will be lifted from October 12, ending Sudan’s isolation from international markets for two decades.

The US embargo “weakened the state and its institutions,” deplored Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir last week.

The sanctions had in particular restricted international banking transactions but also trade in technology or trade in spare parts, seriously affecting growth.

Hundreds of factories have either completely closed or hardly functioning, importing equipment and machinery being very difficult because of restrictions on international transfers.

– ‘Fighting corruption’ –

In addition to the sanctions, Sudan also suffered a major setback with the secession of South Sudan in 2011, which severed it from most of its oil revenues.

Ⓒ AFP – ASHRAF SHAZLY – | Sudanese fruit vendors in Omdurman, Sudan, October 2, 2017

Before the secession of South Sudan, the country received about $ 5 billion of foreign investment per year, but this figure fell to less than $ 2 billion, with growth of 3.5% in 2016.

With rising energy prices, inflation continued to climb, reaching 35% and putting some basic food products out of reach for families such as Ahmed Abdallah.

For many experts, lifting US sanctions will help revitalize the local economy, even if it is not sufficient in itself.

“The lifting of these sanctions will help Sudan to access new technologies and the international financial market, which will enable it to better manage its imports and exports,” said Mohamed El Nair, a professor of economics at El Mughtaribeen University in Khartoum.

According to him, the impact of this lifting of sanctions should be general, although it should first be visible in sectors such as transport, education and health.

Ⓒ AFP – ASHRAF SHAZLY – | In a butcher shop in Omdurman, Sudan, October 2, 2017

The airline industry should benefit directly from this development, for example, Airbus and Boeing have always refused to sell new aircraft to Sudanese companies, or to supply spare parts for aircraft already owned by them.

But by itself this lifting of sanctions will not be enough to revive the economy of the country, insists El Nair, specifying that Khartoum will also have to take measures: the government “must reduce its spending, fight corruption and improve the” general business environment in the country, “insists the professor.

– ‘I will be happy’ –

The International Monetary Fund, for its part, called for “bold economic reforms” to boost growth: “More must be done to reverse the trend towards macroeconomic stability and wider growth,” said the IMF in a recent report.

The merchants of Khartoum are hoping that their business will resume: “Our turnover tumbled after the 45% increase in the price of meat compared to last year,” said Tareq Diab, an industrial slaughter in the capital.

Ⓒ AFP – ASHRAF SHAZLY – | Sudanese cooking at home in Omdurman, Sudan, October 2, 2017

Even sectors such as meat production will benefit from the lifting of sanctions, he said, as new technologies are needed, as well as better livestock species: “With the meat sector, is agriculture and livestock that will benefit “.

For Ahmed Abdallah, the lifting of sanctions could also mean working for tens of thousands of unemployed young people: “New companies from France or America will come to Sudan, which means new jobs, new investments” , he hopes.

“It will also increase my salary. I’ll be happy,” he smiled.

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