15th April 2024
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Govt explores road connectivity as economy plummets

Author: Charles Wote | Published: Sunday, March 3, 2024

Newly-built Juba-Terekeka road. (Photo: CES Press Unit).

The South Sudan government has disclosed 13 major priority highways, including transnational routes to enhance trade as some businessmen complain about lack of road connectivity in the country.

The country has lately been hit by economic hardships that have left the government struggling to pay civil servants salaries, as the public workforce goes for months without its dues.

South Sudan currency has weakened against the US dollar and commodity prices are shooting up – a situation, partly blamed on the impact of the war in Sudan and the Red Sea blockade on the country’s previous oil export.

According to the Minister of Roads and Bridges, Simon Mijok Mijak, the proposed highways will connect the country, making it easier to transport goods, and services and people.

“The national cabinet in one of its subsequent sittings made a resolution outlining the priority roads to be covered under the policy so we have Juba, Bor, Ayod, Malakal, Renk.” Mijak told delegates at the 2nd edition of Juba Economic Forum on Wed, 28th February 2024.

He said “Juba, Torit, Kapoeta, Nadapal, Juba, Yei Kaya, Juba Kajo-Keji, and Juba, Mundri, Yambio, Tambura, Wau” are also included.

Other highways identified as government priority, according to Minister Mijok, are the Rumbek, Mayendit, Bentiu, Giau and the Mundri, Rumbek, Tonj, Wau, and Wau Aweil highways.

This is in addition to the ongoing construction of the Juba – Bahr el Ghazal highway.

The Vice President of Infrastructure Cluster Taban Deng Gai said South Sudan is soon going to embark on the construction of the Pagak – Mathiang – Malakal Road.

“Right now, the Ethiopians are discussing with us two major projects one is what we call Pagak, Pagak is near Gambella, pagak – Mathiang – Malakal Road.” He said during an event organized by the Ethiopian Embassy in Juba on Friday.

According to Vice President Taban, the road will be built using a loan from the Ethiopian government.

In May 2023, the two countries signed an agreement to build the highway to boost trade and provide an alternative route for the export of South Sudan crude oil.

The highway links western Ethiopia and northeastern South Sudan.

“This road, we have already approved a proposal from the Ethiopian government in the council of ministers meeting. It is waiting presentation in the parliament so that we do that road.”

“That road is very important, very strategic it is going to connect us to Ethiopia, then to the Port of Djibouti also not many of you know that the northern part of South Sudan is much closer to Djibouti even more than port Sudan leave alone Mombasa so that road is very strategic we are going to build it very soon,” Taban added.

Meanwhile, some delegates at the just-concluded Juba Economic Forum demanded that South Sudan improve its internal road network to attract investment and enhance businesses.

Hon. Joy Kwaje Eluzai, Member of Parliament, representing Juba West at the reconstituted TNLA said the government needs to prioritize road networks.

According to her, the government needs to pay equal attention to infrastructure and also ensure that existing roads are in good condition.

“During the struggle our hero used to say that when we look for priority of this country our priority is road, so road is very important because it links us to development,” said the lawmaker.

“Road is very important because Road brings the agricultural, food, whatever to the market. Road is very important because it gives access to everybody to access whether it is the health whether it is development whether access to all the things that one lives in life.”

“So, we are saying all the roads must be given equal attention because when we give equal attention, then we are sure that the whole country is connected.” She told Eye Radio on the sideline of Juba Economic Forum.

Hon. Joy Kwaje further said: “Right now we are experiencing economic crisis, the dollar is rising and the market is becoming very expensive and we are in a situation where even we have gone three, four, five months without salaries.”

“But this will not have been an issue if agricultural products from Western Equatoria from Yei, from Magwi can access the markets in Juba because it would reduce the cost and it would make it accessible to anybody and that is our cry.”

“We are not saying we want tarmac roads immediately if that is not possible let us have all good roads that can bring the agricultural foods to town and can take money back to the rural areas where family is doing that.”

For his part, Henry Rays Logonda, the Managing Director of PG3 Logistics, a Juba-based company supporting and purchasing farm produce from farmers in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Western, and Eastern Equatoria States said farmers are producing enough food that can feed the whole country.

Mr. Logonda believe that access to the market remains a major challenge for many farmers in rural parts of South Sudan.

“Statistically, I could mention Western Equatoria that is Ezo, Nzara, Maridi, Yambio, they raise up the total of over 2,600 metric tons of maize grains but the challenge is they are facing access to the market and the challenge is how they can access the market because feeder road is the biggest problem because they have no tracks, they have no logistics support.”

“They use bicycle, Raksha so, road is a big challenge and the same case applied to Magwi county. Magwi is one of the biggest foods backet, Magwi farmers produce massive last season alone they raise around 1,800 that is what we bought from them.”

Mr Logonda called on the government to empower the South Sudan National Bureau of Standards to enable them to certify South Sudanese products to compete in the regional market.

“National Bureau of Standard of South Sudan has to be supported by the government or by well-wishers, International Community.”

“The farmers are producing a lot of commodities, but they are not competitive in the regional market because of inspection, certification because National Bureau Standard has no this equipment.”

“My appeal is National Bureau of Standard should be supported by all actors of this sector of Agriculture being a food it’s life. So, it needs proper inspection testing and certification.”

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of the Western Equatoria State Chamber of Commerce agrees.

Armstrong Emmanuel Bangbe said if Western Equatoria road is prioritized, this will reduce dependence on importing food commodities from neighboring countries.

“As we all know that Western Equatoria state is one of the states that is producing food in the country but the food that is produced cannot be consumed all by the residents of Western Equatoria State.” Bangbe told Eye Radio during the interview.

“Getting market for the food has been very difficult thing because there are no roads most special the road of Juba-Yambio Road it is very bad and there is a lot of checkpoints on this road. So, things have been very difficult to get market for the produce that is being done in Western Equatoria state.”

“So, I believe that if these roads are worked on and prioritized there will be a lot of impact because the capital of South Sudan is depending on food from a neighboring country. So, we will be able to supply the city with food from our own state if the road is worked on.” He stressed.

Responding to the concern, the national Minister of Roads and Bridges admits that South Sudan needs road network connections.

Simon Mijok Mijak adds that the government has signed different contracts with private companies for the construction of the identified priority roads.

“Every citizen in South Sudan I admit wants road if I had power to make it, I can pave like a carpet overnight but it need money, it need priorities and we came from one Sudan how many highways established since 1956?” Mijok partly asked.

“It was very difficult so bear with me. Compare yourself with another region where there is no road. The region of Upper Nile, they have missed a chance the longest road should have been Renk, Malakal, Sobat, 350km but because of insecurity we lost it.”

“The contract was signed by Sudan attractive Unity, so it was our creation, the people of Upper Nile so all these contracts are against TFA.” He said during his presentation at Juba Economic Forum.

Minister Simon Mijok went on to say that the government is working to ensure that some of the existing highways, such as Juba – Nimule, are maintained.

He also directed the State Ministers of Roads and Bridges to construct feeder roads connecting counties and payams to the highways.

“The ministry of Roads, we must create the road maintenance fund and road investment fund, these are all under the road Authority so that to attract investors.”

“The last belong to the state authorities, the State Ministries for roads and bridges I think when something happened on the road in Juba, I am being pulled by the necktie what is happening? So, the state Ministries should prioritize the construction of feeder roads to link the production areas to the main trunk roads.”

– Public and private sectors’ investment –

Speaking exclusively to Eye Radio, John Bosco Kalisa, the Executive Director of the East Africa Business Council, suggested the need for the government to create a conducive environment for investment.

According to Bosco, this should include addressing barriers that hinder the business sector, such as roadblocks.

“We need to have a step by the political environment, two, we need a strong engagement between local as well as the regional investors to work together.” Bosco said.

“Three, we need to address some of emerging nontariff barriers including roadblocks and other issue that are impeding or hinder investment coming to this country.”

“Those are some of the recommendations we have highlighted but again, our emphasis is that public and private sector need to work together to enhance the relationship or to achieve when a win-win situation for this country.”

For his part, Dr. Henry Emejuo, the Chief Executive Director of the Pan African Association of Small and Medium Industries, suggests that the South Sudan government cut its expenditures.

Emejuo adds that there is a need to diversify the economy and promote industries in the country for economic growth.

“The total revenue of the government 90% is from oil so the government need to diversify and then endeavor diversification, industrialization is key so we can add value to our natural resources.”

“Mining is another way to go and then government need to cut down expenditures and then to make sure that they make investment in quick time infrastructure and if they go this way, I am sure in 5 years, 10 years this country will match stronger and stronger and in what we believe.”

In a similar note, Yei River County Commissioner Aggry Cyrus said “in order to improve the economic productivity of the area and to increase and to increase agriculture production, we need another backup I would encourage that investors come and invest in mineral sector.”

“We have cement in Yei, we have other minerals we have the potentials of these resources in Yei River County.”





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