While the world grappled with the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, war-torn Sudan had yet another catastrophe to contend with: a devastating flood that swept across the country in July 2020. One of the worst in over three decades, the torrential downpours triggered landslides that claimed more than 100 lives, destroyed more than 110,000 homes and damaged large tracts of farmland, leading the Sudanese government to declare a three-month national state of emergency in September.
The destruction of farms, in particular, compounded the country’s food security issues as prices of basic commodities like bread and sugar soared. Political and border disputes have further added to the volatility in a country where nearly 47 percent of the population live below the poverty line, and public debt in 2019 stood at €60 billion, more than double the size of the country’s economy.
Opening up to recovery
The twin challenge of a flood during a pandemic may delay Sudan’s plans for growth – but a peace deal, local partnerships, and increased connectivity with the world are helping the war-torn nation get back on its feet.
Adding impetus to these favorable developments is the momentous lifting of sanctions in 2020, when Sudan was finally removed from the United States’ State Sponsors of Terrorism list – opening up access to desperately-needed debt relief and foreign financing.
This has had an immediate positive impact on the country’s investments: foreign direct investments (FDI) grew by US$190.7 million (€157 million) in September 2020, compared to an increase of US$116.3 million (€95.8 million) in the previous quarter. This upward momentum is expected to continue, with FDI predicted to reach US$253.16 million (€208.5 million) this year.
“Aging infrastructure and the lack of investment have slowed development, but the government has been doing more to improve the country’s connectivity with the wider world, especially now with the sanctions lifted,” explains Adel Moustafa, Country Manager, DHL Express and DHL Global Forwarding Sudan.
DHL, who has been actively providing delivery, logistic and relief services in the region for decades, and works alongside aid relief agencies to handle and transport relief supplies such medicine, food and water, recently released the latest DHL Global Connectedness Index (GCI), which shows that international flows helped cushion the blow of economic distress between 2017 and 2019. Sudan’s GDP shrank significantly over that period, but imports and other inward flows held up comparatively well.
The GCI measures the development of trade, capital, information, and people flows at the global, regional, and national levels – and ranked Sudan among the top 10 countries with the largest gains in their connectedness score. Sudan and Uzbekistan showed the highest score increase of +10 from the previous index in 2017.
More recent data highlight positive growth of Sudan’s imports, which was up 11.9 percent year-on-year in September 2020. Additionally, trading volumes in Sudan’s stock market have been growing in recent years.
While Sudan’s political, economic and humanitarian status remains fragile, the country’s prospects remain positive, boosted by the International Monetary Fund’s March 5 approval of the first review of Sudan’s Staff-Monitored Program (SMP). SMP is an informal agreement between country authorities and IMF staff to monitor the implementation of the authorities’ economic program.
Also of significance is the February 2019 deal that saw US$300 million set aside for a 10-year plan to develop Port Sudan’s facilities, while a new Chinese-built seaport for shipping livestock in Haidob, south of Port Sudan, is nearing completion.
This, along with the new African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), bodes well for future trade in the region. “With its strategic location, Sudan also carries the potential of being a leading logistical hub in the region. The country is well-positioned to facilitate the distribution of goods to neighbouring landlocked countries including Chad, Mali, and Central African Republic for instance,” explained Hennie Heymans, CEO of DHL Express Sub Saharan Africa.
Pulling through the pandemic
However, for the country to fulfil its potential, they first need to pull out all stops to contain the pandemic.
In early March, Sudan began inoculating frontline healthcare workers against coronavirus after receiving its first batch of 828,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine a week earlier.
This, say health officials, will cover 414,000 frontline health care workers across the country.
In preparation, DHL Express and DHL Global Forwarding Sudan have provided consultation to the local government on the key procedures and frameworks involved in delivering the vaccines. This includes advice on handling techniques, logistical plans, and efficient delivery solutions to support vaccine distribution across the country.
“In Sudan, DHL does more than just deliver; we are in the business of saving lives, and we have established strong relationships across government and all related industry sectors, to ensure smooth and safe delivery of all shipped goods, including medical supplies during the pandemic,” said Moustafa. “Having close collaboration with our global logistics network and establishing the right partnerships with our local partners on the ground will play a key role in driving the country forward, especially in dire times like these.”
Sudan’s strategic location allows for further opportunities for the region to improve its connectedness and act as a major distribution hub for neighboring landlocked regions, adds Heymans.
“Both geographically and culturally, we’re confident that Sudan has what it takes to succeed in its critical transition. As a network business, DHL remains ready to lend all the support required to Sudan to embark on this path of recovery and growth,” Heymans said.