Sudan is looking to harness its rich natural resources to make it a hub for investment and turn it into one of the African region’s top business destinations. H.E. Dr Mudathir Abdulghani A. Hassan, (MA) Sudan’s Federal Minister of Investment, talks to us about recent laws, plans and strategies to this end
LE: What needs to be communicated to the international business community about ‘brand Sudan’ in terms of expanding opportunities for investment?
MA: Sudan’s resources are still fresh and, for many reasons, largely untapped. Factors that have hindered Sudan in this sense include the economic embargo imposed on the country and the distortion of the image of Sudan by international media. That image needs to be corrected.
There has been a real improvement in Sudan’s regional and international relations, in parallel with profound shifts in the global economy. Sudan is suddenly being seen as a logical solution to worldwide issues like food shortages and decreasing farmland (the result of climate change) and this is leading towards a shift in outside attitudes towards the country.
Sudan is a much more attractive playground for foreign investment, and Arab and Asian countries have been the first to sign many investment agreements with us. This in turn creates a positive domino effect, attracting more foreign investments and stimulating the development of the national economy.
LE: What is the government doing to actively encourage and maintain a steady flow of investment in Sudan?
MA: The government is working to pursue new policies that aim to remove all of the many obstacles previously faced by foreign investors. It has established various mechanisms to listen to investors, solve their problems, assess projects, and eventually attract more investments.
LE: How about the new investment laws that have been passed to enhance the investment atmosphere and create a one-stop-shop policy to attract greater capital inflows?
MA: The national vision for investment is based on having an excellent awareness of developments in the global economy, wider trends, and of the economic and human potential capabilities of the country. We want to see how they can be developed in order to achieve maximum benefits, and to dedicate great efforts to resolving impediments towards investment. Sudan wants to promote an attractive climate and to enact laws that are in line with global trends. The Ministry has been granted broad powers via laws which have passed different stages and which have come about to the tune of the economic development of the country.
The 2013 Act came as a conclusion of those laws, and part of it has sought to align foreign and national investors and create parity in terms of privileges and facilities. It allows for the import of capital and operating components needed for projects and the granting of land at promotional prices. This law also offers additional and preferential features for projects which focus their investments on lesser-developed regions and which contribute to the development of agricultural export and the creation of jobs. It offers guidance, too, for re-investing profit, and guarantees customs exemptions to those investing in agriculture.
LE: Can you tell us about the diversification plan?
MA: The government is committed to maintaining macroeconomic stability and as such has presented a diversification plan to promote the non-minerals sector. Foreign Direct Investment inflows have totalled $37 billion (US), thanks largely to the development of infrastructure, including airports, seaports, road networks and energy projects. There is great potential for Port Sudan axis development ‘free zone’ projects, which offer very promising opportunities for investment and trade.
LE: How about the five-year economic plan? What is at the heart of that?
MA: The five-year economic plan aims to stabilise the economy of Sudan through several axes, including stimulating investment movements across the country and homing in on the major areas of investment such as energy, mining, petroleum and agriculture.
We are also working on the development of infrastructure and the creation of free zones that will allow investors freedom of movement and facilitate the movement of trade. This is very important given the happy advantages offered by Sudan’s location. These infrastructural moves are all cogs in the wheel of a clear strategy to accommodate investment needs and to use sophisticated and integrated actions in order to remove obstacles. We want great political stability and investment-oriented policies.
LE: How much foreign investment will be enough for Sudan? Or is there no limit?
MA: In spite of the size of foreign investment and its clear developments over the past ten years, it is still weak when compared to the potential and the wealth of the country. And so the state is in the midst of a major political shift to exploit Sudan’s resources to optimum levels through foreign investments. There are obvious sectors harbouring great investment opportunities and economic feasibility for the investor; agriculture perhaps being the most obvious. Such sectors are completely exempt from customs and tax.