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As of July 9, 2011, South Sudan will become Africa’s newest nation in Africa. Not that its problems will be over, they will be just starting, projects Seifulaziz Milas (samilas02@yahoo.com), a private consultant on peace and security matters in the Horn, and employed by UN agencies in the past.

Horn of Africa Trio’s Chance to Flourish, if in Sync

 

As a 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 neighbouring countries.

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 social.

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 countries.

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 conflicts.

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.

By Seifulaziz Milas , a private consultant on peace and security matters in the Horn

Seifulaziz Milas, (samilas02@yahoo.com) is a private consultant on peace and security matters in the Horn
 
 
   
   
   
 
 
 

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