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Yes, South Sudan Can

Shanta Devarajan's picture

At the recent launch of the book, Yes Africa Can: Success Stories from a Dynamic Continent, someone asked whether there are any lessons for Africa’s newest country, South Sudan.  I can think of at least three.

1.It can be done.  Yes Africa Can documents a number of countries, such as Mozambique and Uganda, which emerged from civil conflict and sustained above-7-percent GDP growth for over a decade.  It also describes the well-known case of a mineral exporter, Botswana, that had the world’s fastest per-capita growth rate (7 percent) from 1966-99.   These case studies show that South Sudan, which is both a post-conflict country and an oil exporter, can also succeed.

2.Home-grown solutions.  Whether it’s Mali’s mangoes, Rwanda’s gorilla tourism or Kenya’s kickstart irrigation pumps, most of the case studies in the book describe interventions that were inspired, designed and promoted by the citizens of the country.  Perhaps the most extreme case is Somaliland where, in the absence of other aspects of a state, people have organized themselves to provide security to traders.  And the case of New Rice for Africa (NERICA) shows how, by having African farmers test and give feedback on new seed varieties as they were being developed, they were able to increase adoption rates and productivity from this agricultural innovation.  While welcoming the advice and support from the international community, South Sudan stands a greater chance of success if they can adapt this assistance to local conditions, listening to their people.

3.Technology.  Unlike other African countries, South Sudan is gaining independence in the digital technology era.  Meanwhile, the growth and spread of information and communications technology (ICT) in Africa has been a real success story.  And M-PESA, Kenya’s mobile payments system, is used by about half the adult population.  South Sudan, which is sparsely populated with poor transport infrastructure, has an opportunity to harness this technology to overcome some of the traditional barriers to development.  They have already started by collecting survey data with cell phones; they could go further with the use of mobile phones for health care and laptops for education.


Submitted by Maimbo on
To this list, I would add Political Leadership. I am yet to see a nation succeed without this critical ingredient. Yet there are many countries that have managed without many other ingredients. But in my conviction that leadership is central; I struggle with my preference for benovelent dictators. It is politically incorrect to denounce democracy. Yet, most countries that have 'done it' - Rwanda, Uganda and even Botswana, have had a dominant political figure that has led the country in its momentous steps to economic growth. Further afield, Singapore is well known example. Today, China's growth might be attributed to its lack of democracy (admittedly a simplistic stretch of the arguement here). So for all its potential and opportunities, and as polticially incorrect as my call might be, South Sudan needs a strong leader. A very strong visionary leader. Johan Garang was said to have been such a leader. But is no more. Is there another that will be South Sudan's Lee Kuan Yew?

Submitted by Anonymous on
I agree, a visionary leader is exactly what South Sudan needs. However, visionary leaders tend to be more political that economical and for S. Sudan to be truly achieve concrete development, they must find one that has an economical vision. There are many possibilities at the moment. Although, it currently seems that the independence nuance, turned former gorillas into soldiers and general. Who b/c of their "tittles" loot the country as payment for previous suffering endured during the civil war. Also, a strong/visionary leader would do away with and/or limit the often arduous and complicated political process of a democracy. Democracy has its pros and cons, just like any other system of government in the world. But when starting from scratch, it's not the best nor the quickest. What South Sudan desperately needs now is someone to set them in the right path. A visionary, who is able to imbed infrastructure plans, in preparation for the future economic aspirations. Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

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