The largest country in Africa and also one of the poorest, Sudan has traditionally been reliant on Egypt, which controls the mouth of the River Nile. In ancient times, the region that became Sudan, then known as Nubia, helped provide a workforce for Egypt and also supplies of grain. Europeans started exploring it in search of the source of the River Nile, but there was little economic interaction, although a small cotton industry was developed. When the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium was established in 1899, the government of what was called the AngloEgyptian Sudan helped introduce cotton gins to help the industry, and also built mills for oilseed pressing. They were also able to improve the irrigation system and communications by extending the railway line that covered a large part of central Sudan, linking that area to the capital Khartoum, to Egypt, and to the Red Sea.
Under the British, a number of agency houses operated, one of the major ones being Cotts, Drake & Co. Ltd., which was part of the British Mitchell Cotts Group of companies. They advertised themselves as “importers and exporters of general merchandise and Sudan produce,” also being agents for General Motors, Michelin Tires and Tubes, and other companies. Other firms that operated in Sudan at the time included the Imperial Chemical Industries, Imperial Typewriter Service, and other British companies.
Sudan gained its independence from Egypt and Great Britain in 1956, but it was not until 1960 that the government of President Ibrahim Abboud started to revitalize the economy and introduced a national development plan. The first of these was the Ten-Year Plan, which started in late 1960, was formally adopted in September 1962, and lasted until 1970. However, the goals were ambitious and the private sector did not provide enough of the capital, with the result that some of the projects were abandoned. However, there were some successes with the Khashm al Qirbah and the Manaqil irrigation projects, and the Al Junayd Irrigation Project, as well as the building of a new sugar factory. The per capita income of the country also rose from US$86 in 1960 to US$104 by 1969.
The government soon faced problems implementing reforms; some of this came from the south of the country, which during the 1960s led to the outbreak of a civil war. In 1967 the implementation of the Ten-Year Plan was finally abandoned and few countries would consider investing in Sudan or lending money. A new plan was drawn up, but this was discarded after General Gaafar al-Nimeiri seized power in a coup d’état in May 1969. He drew up and started implementing the Five-Year Plan of Economic and Social Development, which was expected to run from 1970 to 1974. It benefited much from Soviet technical advisers with the aim of establishing a socialist economy and this led to a steady increase in prosperity. It faced many problems, including those over the failure to improve the transportation system in the country. This hurt the agricultural sector, and schemes were then drawn up to lengthen the implementation process in the FiveYear Plan. Furthermore, income from government companies fell far short of the projected figures, leaving the government seriously short of money.
A Six-Year Plan of Economic and Social Development from 1977 until 1982 was then drawn up, and in October 1983, the government decided to introduce a three-year public investment program. By this time, the government was extremely unpopular with many people in the country, a situation exacerbated by an austerity program that was introduced after the ousting of General Nimeiri in 1985. The new government sought help from the International Monetary Fund, but was unable to push through the most rigorous of reforms. As a result, many countries stopped providing financial aid, although nongovernmental organizations did continue to provide food relief during periods of hunger and famine.
With corruption rife in the country and widespread embezzlement of government monies and assets, few investors wanted to risk their money in Sudan. However, there were profits to be made, and with the discovery of oil in Sudan—450,000 barrels of oil being piped daily by 2004—there has been much renewed interest in the country. However, the apportioning of the oil wealth was one of the factors that have kept the civil war in the country going, bringing heavy criticism internationally of the Sudanese government’s actions and inactions in Darfur. This has served to isolate Sudan further from the world economy. Some 64 percent of Sudan’s exports (overwhelmingly oil) goes to China, with Japan and Saudi Arabia also taking some of the oil. Saudi Arabia and China each make up about 11 percent of the imports entering Sudan.
- Martin E. Adams and John Howell, “Developing the Traditional Sector in the Sudan,” Economic Development and Cultural Change (v.27/3, 1979);
- Ahmed and John Adams, Technology Transfer in Sudan (Napier University, 2000);
- Tony Barrett and Abbas Abdelkarim, Sudan, State, Capital and Transformation (Croom Helm, 1988);
- Coalition for International Justice, Soil and Oil: Dirty Business in Sudan (Coalition for International Justice, 2006);
- The Europa Year Book (Europa Publications, 2008);
- Ali Mohamed el-Hassan, An Introduction to the Sudan Economy (Khartoum University Press, 1976);
- Badr-el-din A. Ibrahim, Poverty Alleviation Via Islamic Banking Finance to MicroEnterprises (MEs) in Sudan: Some Lessons for Poor Countries (University of Bremen, 2003);
- Pablo Idahosa, “Business Ethics and Development in Conflict (Zones): The Case of Talisman Oil,” Journal of Business Ethics (v.39/3, 2002);
- International Business Publications, Sudan: Starting Business (Incorporating) in Sudan Guide (International Business Publications USA, 2008);
- Leif O. Manger, ed., Trade and Traders in the Sudan (University of Bergen, 1984).
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