South Sudan: A Country Is Born
What challenges will Africa’s newest country face following its independence referendum?
- The south possesses 75% of all the oil in Sudan, making it responsible for about 0.5% of global oil production in 2009. (BP Statistical Review)
- The south has been ravaged by secessionist wars for 39 of the 55 years since Sudan gained independence from Egypt and the United Kingdom. (Washington Post)
- Currently, oil revenues provide 98% of the budget of the autonomous government set up in the south in 2005. (Reuters)
- The south's infrastructure is in urgent need of development. There are only 38 miles of asphalt-covered road. (Reuters)
- South Sudan will be Africa's 54th state. (Financial Times)
After the resounding “yes” vote in its January 2011 independence referendum, South Sudan is set to become Africa’s newest country. While the referendum passed off relatively smoothly, the path ahead is fraught with danger. The new state will face tough challenges ranging from setting its borders to making itself economically viable. Our Globalist Factsheet explores South Sudan’s prospects.
How big is South Sudan?
South Sudan is roughly the size of Texas — and is bigger than Spain and Portugal combined. It comprises one-third of the territory of Sudan.
How does the emergence of South Sudan alter the map of Africa?
South Sudan will be Africa’s 54th state. The secession means that Sudan will no longer be Africa’s largest country.
When was the last time the continent’s map was altered?
In 1993, Eritrea seceded from Ethiopia following a 30-year war of independence.
How many people live in South Sudan?
There are roughly eight million South Sudanese — or one-fifth of the overall Sudanese population of 40 million.
(Wall Street Journal)
What is South Sudan’s capital?
The world’s newest capital is Juba, situated in the deep south, with a population of 250,000.
(Wall Street Journal)
Why are southerners seceding?
Ever since Sudan became independent in 1956, southerners felt alienated from the northern-dominated Sudanese government. South Sudanese are a mix of Christians and animists, in contrast to northerners, who are Arab Muslims.
How wealthy are they?
Like most of sub-Saharan Africans, South Sudanese are poor. The GDP per capita of all of Sudan, adjusted for purchasing power, was $2,465 in 2010 — ranking 137th out of 181 countries. Statistics specifically for South Sudan are not yet available.
What commodity will form the backbone of their economy?
The new government will rely heavily on oil revenues to fill its coffers. Currently, oil revenues provide 98% of the budget of the autonomous government set up in the south in 2005.
How much oil does South Sudan produce?
The south possesses 75% of all the oil in Sudan, making it responsible for about 0.5% of global oil production in 2009.
(BP Statistical Review)
Will northerners retain any hold over the south’s oil?
Most of Sudan’s oil infrastructure — such as pipelines, refineries and ports — is in the north. The north and south currently split oil revenues evenly between each other. The new government in the south will try to renegotiate this deal to get a bigger cut.
(Wall Street Journal)
How long will the oil keep flowing?
The oil is slated to run out in 20 to 30 years — meaning that the south will need to diversify.
What else could help sustain South Sudan’s economy?
Agriculture is a primary economic activity, with most southerners either nomadic pastoralists or sedentary farmers. The UN Food Program has said that South Sudan has the potential to grow enough food not only to be self-sufficient — but also a major exporter of fresh produce.
From what trauma is the south still recovering?
The south has been ravaged by secessionist wars for 39 of the 55 years since Sudan gained independence from Egypt and the United Kingdom. The most recent war, from 1983 to 2005, led to two million southerners being killed and 80% fleeing their homes.
How did the fighting end?
A peace agreement between the northern-dominated government and southern secessionist rebels was signed in 2005. The agreement, which followed years of internationally mediated negotiations, set the stage for the independence vote.
Is Darfur part of South Sudan?
No. Darfur is a region in northwest Sudan, with a population of seven million and a territory the size of France. Darfurians fought a war with the Sudanese government from 2003 to 2008 in which 400,000 Darfurians were killed.
How does the Sudanese government feel about the south’s secession?
The Sudanese government used to firmly oppose secession — but it now seems resigned to the split, with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir saying he will accept the referendum result.
What about other governments?
Most of its neighbors — including Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda — support the emergence of a new nation. The United States and European Union are supportive too — they provided funds and logistical support to hold the referendum.
What is left to do in the months ahead?
The south and north still have to agree on many issues for South Sudan’s independence to be formalized. These include demarcating the border, coming up with a new oil revenue-sharing formula and determining how closely their economies should be integrated.
Who governs South Sudan?
The Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and its military wing, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), are in control. Formed in 1983 by John Garang, the ex-rebel groups are already in charge of the south’s autonomous government.
What challenges does it face?
The south’s infrastructure is in urgent need of development. There are only 38 miles of asphalt-covered road, running water is scarce, there is no national electric grid and 80% of adults cannot read or write.
And finally, is secession likely to improve north-south relations?
Five years after Eritrea split from Ethiopia in 1993, they went to war over a border dispute, and 80,000 were killed in the subsequent two years of conflict. The challenge for northern and southern Sudanese is to forge a more peaceful path.