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.