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Remaining Engaged to Help South Sudan Transition Out of Fragility

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Women selling dried fish at market. Photo: Gelila Woodeneh Women selling dried fish at market. Photo: Gelila Woodeneh

On my first visit to South Sudan – the world’s youngest nation - I am engaging with various stakeholders including the senior leadership, key government counterparts, development partners, the private sector, civil society, researchers, and most importantly the direct beneficiaries of development projects that the Bank is financing.  On this visit, I would like to understand how this country seeks to exit from its current transitional status and escape conditions of fragility. I am also eager to see firsthand how our Country Program is supporting South Sudan to address its short-term challenges and make progress on lasting peace and longer-term development. 

The signing of the 2018 Peace Agreement and the formation of a transitional unity government in February 2020—after five years of devastating conflict—ushered in a certain measure of stability and optimism among the South Sudanese people. In line with the provisions of the Peace Agreement, the South Sudanese government has been working on laying the foundations of its future state institutions and on undertaking critical economic and public financial management (PFM) reforms. This process has registered some achievements including the harmonization of exchange rates, the creation of greater budget transparency, and the establishment of the Public Procurement and Disposal of Assets Authority (PPDA).

The World Bank’s involvement in South Sudan stretches back decades, prior to the time of independence in 2011 when the country was still part of Sudan. After it realized its dream of self-determination, South Sudan joined the World Bank as a new shareholder and the development relationship began to intensify with the establishment of a larger World Bank Country Office in the capital city of Juba. After a period of significant slowdown in Bank-financed activities due to the 2013-2018 conflict, the Bank’s current Country Program now cuts across important development sectors including governance, health, social protection, agriculture, women’s empowerment, and community resilience.

Over the past few years, the World Bank has supported the government’s efforts in achieving the following results:

  • More than 2.8 million people (of which 1.6 million are women) accessed essential health, nutrition, and population services.
  • Nearly 50% of the country’s targeted population received COVID-19 vaccinations by early 2023 (one of the highest coverage rates in the region).
  • 65,045 poor and vulnerable households (nearly 423,051 individuals) were provided access to temporary income opportunities through direct income support and labor-intensive public works across 10 counties in the country (about 78% were women and 48% were youth).
  • 10,850 households (out of which 74% were headed by women) in Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC3+) counties were supported with agriculture assets and services.
  • 534,000 people (of which 50% are women) in 292 villages across 20 counties received improved access to basic services through the construction and rehabilitation of 282 community identified facilities.

Even with these development gains, South Sudan faces a grave humanitarian emergency with around 9.4 million people—76%of the population—in need of immediate emergency support. Out of this affected population, women and children are naturally the most impacted vulnerable group. Alongside episodes of violence, South Sudan has also been buffeted by climate-related shocks that have compounded the country’s humanitarian crises and undermined development efforts.

Looking ahead, it will be critically important for South Sudan to respond to its humanitarian emergencies and to begin turning the corner on its longer-term development aspirations. Successfully navigating the challenges of graduating from transitional status (including completing its permanent constitution-making process and holding a free, fair, and credible national election),  will be critical for providing the basis for durable peace and security that will allow the country to fully exploit its immense natural assets to accelerate economic growth, create gainful employment, provide basic services to all citizens and reduce high levels of poverty.

I remain optimistic that South Sudan can still realize its development dreams and promises. The Bank remains fully committed to supporting the people of South Sudan on this journey. 



Victoria Kwakwa

Vice President, Eastern and Southern Africa

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