Amid COVID-19, South Sudan shows the world it is open for business and committed to economic prosperity and inclusive growth; South Sudan hosted a webinar organized by the African Energy Chamber and Africa Oil and Power that focused on economic impacts, sanctions and economic/developmental progress; Africa Oil & Power also launched the Africa Energy Series Special Report: South Sudan 2020, which highlights the country’s drive to increase oil production as well as regional synergies and local content.
South Sudan, set to capitalize on renewed peace, has pegged 2020 as a year of stability and economic growth, underpinned by the country’s revived oil and gas sector. Despite COVID-19 sending the global energy sector into turmoil, South Sudan has made a commitment to economic progress, exploration and exploitation of energy potential throughout the country. This and more was unpacked by the African Energy Chamber and Africa Oil and Power in a webinar on Monday. Under the theme ‘Preserving Economic Progress in the Face of COVID-19,’ the webinar brought together top executives from the country’s energy and finance sectors. Panelists included Robert Mdeza, Chief Executive Officer, Trinity Energy; Makear Michael Dot, Chief Executive Officer, Nile Petroleum Services; Jacob Manyuon Deng, Director General for Planning and Projects, South Sudan Electricity Corporation and Felix Ataro, Corporate Banking Head, Stanbic Bank Kenya.
The webinar provided insight into how COVID-19 is affecting the country’s economic progress. According to Makear Michael Dot, “COVID-19 has [had an extreme] effect on the entire globe and South Sudan is a part of it because we are not isolated from the whole world. Since South Sudan is a landlocked country, we depend on our neighbouring regional countries for our gateway into the global market for the logistics and delivery of different services. Despite that we are a young nation that has been independent since 2011, so we are in need of a lot of expertise to come especially from South East Asia where the [pandemic] started.”
However, despite these implications, South Sudan Makear Michael Dot noted that the country maintains the need to progress with existing plans and projects. According to Jacob Manyuon Deng, “We were in a situation where we had a lot of plans to develop. People in South Sudan are in dire need of electricity. COVID-19 has impacted the economy, especially the energy sector, but we must keep on developing the plans. Even though there is an impact, we must work very hard to ensure the economy is surviving.”
Robert Mdeza provided insight into the accessibility of funds for organizations, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have taken a medium to long-term view about our projects in the country. We work with Stanbic and other banks locally, for our local needs. We have taken a long-term commitment to the country. But we basically work with everybody because of the nature of our transactions. For us to handle the flows we have to have many connecting places.”
Additional information concerning investment project attraction was provided by Felix Ataro: “Attracting investments into the country is quite important, however, from a commercial banking point of view, I wouldn’t say there is much that has gone into that. The kind of organizations that will be better at that would be the Developmental Financial Institutions (DFI’s) because they have mechanisms to be able to manage that. Infrastructure at the moment has come from DFI’s. Banks have to think beyond the commercial type of interest that [they] would earn money and look at the other elements like being part of a community. Each bank is coming up with its own strategy.”
The discussion also touched on the issue of sanctions for the country, which Felix Ataro explained has increasingly become a headache for financial institutions. “Especially for us to be able to guarantee safe transfer funds for our clients in and out of the country. It is increasingly becoming quite a bit of a pain on a daily basis with international correspondents, banking partners and financial institutions. Again, we should not just be commercially oriented, we should also look at how do we contribute to development because that’s about community,” he said.
Final words from Makear Michael Dot underlined that local content is the only way to compete with international companies and achieve development in the country. “The government, the private sector, the companies and the financial institutions are getting improved. For the environment, we would like to encourage all technologies to be implemented in order to produce oil in various ways.”
Meanwhile, the Africa Energy Series Special Report: South Sudan 2020 was also launched on Monday, and highlights the country’s drive to increase oil production, major power projects to light up the capital Juba and increase coverage in rural areas, as well as regional synergies and local content.
The publication is the country’s sole report covering the entire value chain, ranging from upstream oil and gas to power, downstream and finance, among others.