Out of US sanctions, Sudan tries to lure back investors
LONDON - Reuters
Sudan’s president is wanted for crimes against humanity, the economy has lost much of its oil output and the government is in arrears with the IMF. And yet Osama Faisal’s target of boosting foreign investment tenfold is not quite as daunting as it seems.
Faisal, who is Sudanese state minister for investment, is touring destinations from Germany to Bahrain to drum up interest - and finding businesses ready to listen since the United States lifted two-decade old economic sanctions on his country in October.
“The margins of profit in Sudan are more than the margins of profits in the region or elsewhere in the world, simply because the demand is so huge,” he said this week during the London stop on his global roadshow.
Faisal’s aim is to attract foreign direct investment inflows of $10 billion a year, compared with United Nations’ estimates of $1 billion in 2016. He says he has already seen a surge in interest in Sudan’s agricultural, energy and mining sectors, as well as power generation projects.
Sudan is one of the newest countries to come onto the radar of “frontier market” investors, who scour the world for opportunities in places which are only just opening up to foreign capital.
Not long ago the country was riven by civil war and is still accused in the West of backing terrorist groups. But now Washington has lifted a trade embargo, unfrozen Sudanese assets and abolished financial restrictions on its economy.
The World Bank estimates annual economic output at $96 billion. That is considerably higher than two African countries more open to foreign investors, Kenya and Ethiopia, which both have GDPs of about $70 billion despite larger populations.
Faisal said the first big projects are already on the horizon, with plans to sign mining concessions with European, Canadian and Russian companies. Oil concessions are also being discussed withTurkish companies and a big Norwegian group was in talks over a renewable energy project, he added, although he did not wish to disclose any names.
His London appearance at least got would-be investors through the door.
“The sanctions are gone, so here we are,” said Maria Stratonova, project director at Aldwych International Ltd, a London-based company that develops and operates power generation, transmission and distribution projects in Africa.