Thursday,20 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1403, (26 July - 1 August 2018)
Thursday,20 September, 2018
Issue 1403, (26 July - 1 August 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Building bridges with Sudan

Aisha Ghoneimy writes on the long-term benefits of strengthening economic cooperation between Cairo and Khartoum

 

Building bridges with Sudan
Building bridges with Sudan

The fifth visit of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi to Sudan achieved significant progress in promoting bilateral economic relations between Egypt and Sudan. The visit came after Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir’s visit to Egypt in March 2018 to attend the Al-Usra Al-Masrya ceremony (the Egyptian family), demonstrating the close relations and political will to resolve any problems between the two countries. 

Sudan is the third-largest country in Africa and is rich in the natural resources that will render it an engine of development in the long run. The geographical location of Egypt and Sudan on the African continent reflects their critical role in containing regional tensions and attaining prosperity for the African peoples. Moreover, Sudan and Egypt had historical links before and after Sudan’s independence in 1956, and they share a common border and culture.

On the economic level, Sudan’s economy has long depended mainly on agriculture. However, the structure of the Sudanese economy has changed over recent decades due to the discovery of oil and the resulting steady increase in the contribution of the industrial sector. Trade has contributed more to Sudan’s GDP in the last ten years compared to previous decades because of oil exports that have had positive implications for the country’s trade balance.

Sudan and Egypt were also founding members of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in 1982, and trade in the region saw a remarkable expansion after the establishment of the COMESA free-trade area in 2002. The volume of trade between Egypt and Sudan has now reached $1 billion, with food, building materials and textiles topping the list of Egyptian exports. Egypt mainly imports livestock from Sudan.

Further economic coordination and cooperation between the two neighbouring countries will lead to the removal of any remaining trade restrictions and the full liberalisation of goods and services as well as of capital between them. Both Egypt and Sudan are members of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) and the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) between COMESA, the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Egyptian investments in Sudan now amount to 273 projects representing $2.7 billion mainly in the fields of contracting, infrastructure, telecommunications and banking. Egypt has also established strategic projects for land reclamation in Sudan, including 100,000 feddans in Blue Nile State and a meat production project on an area of 40,000 acres in White Nile State. Egypt and Sudan have set up a joint shipping company between the ports of Aswan and Wadi Halfa to transport goods and individuals.

To build on such mutual economic benefits, the two countries have agreed to continue holding joint committees on a regular basis for projects including electricity generation and transmission, transportation, infrastructure and agriculture. Joints projects to improve infrastructure are also vitally necessary and can act as a main engine for promoting investment opportunities and facilitating trade movements that will contribute to sustaining the economic development of both countries.

Finally, it is crucial to emphasise that the mutual economic benefits enjoyed by Egypt and Sudan will foster strategic alliances in the region and boost relations between the Nile Basin States more generally as well as accelerate regional economic integration.

The writer is a lecturer at the Faculty of Economics and Political Science, Cairo University.

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