land-locked country, located in a very fragile
region, but endowed with huge oil resources, South
Sudan will face a wide array of challenges,
including the problem of ensuring sustainable and
economically viable access to sea ports.
It may take some time for the Government of South
Sudan (GoSS) to be able to establish security
throughout its territory, address various internal
disputes, and border problems. On the other hand,
there is considerable hope in the form of the level
and focus of the attention being given to the
situation in South Sudan by the international
community, including regional organisations such as
IGAD, the intergovernmental body for political,
economic, trade and security cooperation in the
Horn, the African Union (AU), and the United Nations
(UN), all of whom are committed to peace and
reconstruction of South Sudan.
The economic integration of South Sudan in the
context of the Horn of Africa may not be easy. The
new state will be in the midst of mainly fragile,
fragmented, unstable, and poor countries. Despite
its considerable natural resource endowment, its
level of development is among the lowest in the
region. Economically, the fragmentation of the
region into many small sovereign nations has
impaired the region’s ability to attract investment,
expand markets, and reduce poverty.
The region’s severe shortage of physical
infrastructure is exacerbated by its fragmentation.
The little infrastructure that exists was designed
by the former colonial powers to serve their own
interests. It, therefore, tended to end at the
colonial borders, which became national borders,
rather than connecting with the infrastructure of
neighboring countries. Contributing to the shortage
of quality infrastructure is its high capital cost
that small and fragmented economies could not
afford, even in small quantities.
Since lack of connectivity often makes trade and
commerce uncompetitive due to high transport and
service costs, the region is at a severe
disadvantage. As a result, the economies of the Horn
are marked by unreliable supply chains, delayed
deliveries and a host of other problems ranging from
low productivity to high transaction costs.
The paucity of physical infrastructure has
constrained what would have been a potentially
rewarding development of natural resources in the
Horn. National differences in infrastructure density
being narrow, the problems seem to be similar in all
the countries of the Horn from South Sudan to
Ethiopia, and from Djibouti to Kenya, but
particularly in South Sudan, and between South Sudan
and its neighbours.
The commonality of the problem, however, could unite
countries like South Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti in
looking for the most effective ways of addressing
them. In this context, the role of South Sudan in
contributing to economic integration in the Horn of
Africa could be crucial. Aside from fitting into the
plans of the international donors,
infrastructure-driven economic integration would
benefit the people of South Sudan as well as its
It would also be in line with the strategies of
NePAD, the World Bank, and the UN agencies.
The role of IGAD in facilitating the regional
integration, would be equally important.
The role of infrastructure-driven economic
integration is of immense importance for the
countries of the Horn. Whereas economic integration
is important for regional peace and security, its
role in reducing tensions and inducing collaboration
should not be overlooked. The enormous demand for
transport, energy, trade and communications
infrastructure of these three countries of the Horn
- South Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti - would help
them join hands in addressing their shared problems.
The reason for them to act in tandem for joint
action would range from economic to political and
For South Sudan finding reliable and well-developed
ports will be imperative to driving its
resource-dependent economy. Both of the options that
it has - Port Sudan and Mombasa - are problematic.
The former being tenuous and hostile, as a result of
the edgy relationship with the North, while the
latter is distant, congested and costly.
This would, then, make the Port of Djibouti an
attractive seaport for South Sudan.
Aside from linking the two economies, however, this
option would include the bridging country, Ethiopia,
in perspective, creating a regional economic belt
stretching from Juba to Djibouti through the
highways of Ethiopia. Ethiopia’s recent plans to
extend its railway lines could also help to
facilitate infrastructural and economic integration.
That would be a win-win scenario for all the three
For South Sudan, its viability as a nation will
highly depend on its ability to connect to regional
and global markets in a less costly and sustainable
way. Given the geo-political situation in the
region, Djibouti can win the bid to provide reliable
access to the sea for South Sudan. Ethiopia would
connect the two by providing reliable in-land
infrastructure. For all the three, the
interconnection would be a way forward to
cooperation, development, peace and security.
The close relationship between economic development,
and regional peace and security makes regional
economic integration in the Horn a politically
viable step. On the one hand, infrastructure-driven
economic integration would bring economic growth and
employment creation in the region. On the other, it
would help to facilitate security cooperation, avoid
inter-state conflict and minimise internal
Thus, the political implications of regional
economic integration in terms of creating congruent
“security community” and consensual conflict
resolution in the Horn are colossal.
Not least, though, the social benefits of the
economic integration vary from improved human
development to enhanced productivity and better
standards of living. The social impact of this all
would be tremendous as it would be shared with the
over 90 million people of the three countries.
The realisation of an infrastructure-driven economic
community in the Horn would coincide with the
interests expressed by strategic partners of the
region such as the European Union (EU). Donors like
the World Bank and UN agencies also lay out
strategies to initiate and support infrastructure
networks that facilitate interconnectivity and
economic integration. Hence, they would support the
Horn’s initiative, specially the effort of Southern
Sudan, to be a functioning nation-state playing its
vital roles in the region.