A blog on strategies, policies, operations and pitfalls of current events around the world with a focus on “smart power.”
South Sudan has many bottlenecks. Literacy is at meager 36.7% and consequently national capacity is extremely limited. Violence challenges the country’s stability recurrently. The administrative engine is incipient and has to start running the new country from scratch. Basic healthcare, which is largely provided by international agencies and NGOs, does not reach all.
And then there is infrastructure.
The historical neglect by authorities was worsened by the long years of war, leaving the new nation with little to no infrastructure. Unfortunately, socioeconomic development can only get to reachable areas. In other words, health, education and jobs require roads, electricity and more. Strong international involvement is helping change this reality.
The United States has demonstrated its willingness to play an active role in South Sudan, and is also present in the infrastructure sector. USAID, a major partner, is active in several areas. It supported the construction of several kilometers of roads, making the distribution of aid possible. It also financed three energy projects in Kapoeta, Maridi and Yei. The Maridiand Kapoeta plants were inaugurated in February 2011, while the plant in Yei was inaugurated in 2008.
While South Sudan seems to be making the most of its partnership with the United States - USAID is present in virtually every sector in the country - it should also consider increasing efforts to do the same with China.
Even though China is already active in the Southern infrastructure sector and seems to be willing to expand its involvement, not much is said about how much will be invested and where exactly. For this very reason, the partnership can – and should - be explored by South Sudan, regardless of China’s close ties to the North. Pragmatism should lead the negotiations because strengthening relations could yield South Sudan long-term benefits. By crafting a deal in which China expands investments in much needed infrastructure in the country, South Sudan would assure that its nationals enjoy the profits from the oil industry long after its oil reserves dry up.