South Sudan: UK Funds Project to Boost Economic Diversification

Juba — The Republic of South Sudan has launched a customs development and trade facilitation programme at its Nimule border, seeking to help the country diversify its economy, currently dependent oil, to non-oil resources.

TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) is implementing the project, under the country's chamber of commerce, trade and industry, with funds from the UK government.

A significant rise in custom revenue, officials say, has been realised since work to develop South Sudan's customs service started in 2011.

"Between July 2011 and July 2012, customs revenue increased by over 1600%, the UK embassy in Juba said in a statement.

"This work comes at a critical time, with government focussing on diversifying income away from oil revenues," it added.

South Sudan shut down its oil production in January last year, after a dispute emerged with neighbouring Sudan over transit fees. Prior to the shutdown, oil revenues accounted for 98% of the South Sudan budget.

It is widely believed that the new project will not only lead to the development of customs systems at South Sudan border locations, but also further reduce irregularities and boost trade and investments.

Deng Ajak Bol, a clearing agent in Nimule said such an initiative would also enhance South Sudan trade relations with neighbouring communities, who usually have trouble at border points.

"With such a system in place, am sure the irregularities and complains traders from other countries experience at our borders will be minimised," Bol told Sudan Tribune by phone Monday.

Both the private sector and civil society organisations will, as part of the programme, be able to positively influence trade policies, customs reform and trade facilitation, and the development of a trade integration strategy.

An estimated £7 million (about $11m) has been earmarked for the project over a three year period.

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