South Sudan - Economy

South Sudan faced serious economic challenges in 2017. Inflation and the depreciation of the South Sudan pound continue to undermine household purchasing power. For the twenty-third consecutive month, October 2017 registered triple-digit inflation, with the annual consumer price index increasing by 131.9 per cent. While food prices stabilized, basic services, including water, education, health and transport, showed significant price increases. Agricultural production continues to be hampered by insecurity and displacement, with the national output estimated to have declined by 6.3 per cent. The Government continued efforts at formulating a three-year national development strategy for the period from July 2018 to June 2021, aimed at consolidating peace and stabilizing the economy. In addition, consultations are ongoing with regard to the introduction of fuel subsidy reforms to ease fuel shortages and improve accountability.

By early 2017 the situation in South Sudan was worse than it had ever been. The famine in South Sudan is man-made. Parties to the conflict are parties to the famine – as are those not intervening to make the violence stop. More than 7.5 million people needed assistance, up by 1.4 million from in 2016. About 3.4 million people are displaced, of which almost 200,000 have fled South Sudan since January 2017 alone. A localized famine was declared for Leer and Mayendit [counties] on 20 February 2017, an area where violence and insecurity have compromised humanitarian access for years. More than one million children are estimated to be acutely malnourished across the country; including 270,000 children who face the imminent risk of death should they not be reached in time with assistance. Meanwhile, the cholera outbreak that began in June 2016 had spread to more locations.

In 2016, UN partners reached more than 5.1 million people with assistance. However, active hostilities, access denials and bureaucratic impediments continued to curtail their efforts to reach people who desperately need help. Aid workers have been killed; humanitarian compounds and supplies have been attacked, looted, and occupied by armed actors. Humanitarians had to leave one of the famine-affected counties because of fighting.

The people of South Sudan are among the world’s poorest, with more than half the population living on less than $1 per day. Fifty-one percent of the population lives below the poverty line, and 1% of households in have a bank account. The vast majority (83%) of South Sudan residents live in traditional grass roofed mud walled tukuls. For half the population, firewood and grass are the primary source of lighting; over a quarter of South Sudanese (27%) have no lighting source at all. OVer 96% depend on firewood or charcoal as their primary fuel for cooking.

While South Sudan has abundant natural resources, it is heavily dependent on oil. Agricultural development has the potential to not only diversify the economy, but also reduce poverty and food insecurity. While the vast majority of the population depends on agriculture, livestock, or forestry for their daily livelihoods, the sector provides less than 30 percent of gross domestic product. Large, fertile areas remain untouched by agricultural development. Lack of infrastructure and high transport costs make it difficult for farmers to compete in local markets.

outh Sudan’s economic outlook showed improvement in 2013. Oil revenues increased, albeit below projections, and would enable the Government to reduce and repay domestic and foreign loans of 4.8 billion South Sudanese pounds accumulated during the oil shutdown in 2012. Consumer prices began to fall following large increases in 2012. In August 2013, year-on-year inflation fell to minus 10 percent.

The country has received more than $4 billion in foreign aid since 2005, largely from the UK, US, Norway, and Netherlands. The country remains the recipient of large-scale international assistance. The Consolidated Appeal for 2013 is the second largest in the world after Somalia, seeking $1.16 billion. The first years of the post-independence period saw international partners once again reverting to predominantly humanitarian modes of operation in South Sudan. Owing to the long history of humanitarian-oriented responses, NGO implementing partners generally continued to operate with a ‘relief mentality’. This ‘relief mode’ persists among beneficiaries accustomed to many years of humanitarian aid, and an expectation among communities and local Government authorities of relief and handouts rather than development cooperation.

South Sudan produces nearly three-fourths of the former Sudan's total oil output of nearly a half million barrels per day. The government derives almost 98% of its budget revenues from oil. Oil is exported through two pipelines that run to refineries and shipping facilities at Port Sudan on the Red Sea. A 2005 oil-sharing agreement with Khartoum called for a 50-50 sharing of oil revenues between the two entities, but that arrangement expired on July 9, 2011 when South Sudan became an independent country. In early 2012 South Sudan suspended production of oil because of its dispute with Sudan over transshipment fees. This had a devastating impact on GDP, which declined by at least 55% in 2012.

The country depends heavily on imports of goods, services, and capital from Sudan, but disruptions in trade have occurred since independence due to blockades being imposed on goods and capital going to South Sudan. There are more than 7,000 formal businesses in South Sudan's 10 state capitals (84% of which are restaurants or shops).

Some factors inhibiting investment in South Sudan include limited physical infrastructure and a lack of both skilled and unskilled labor. South Sudan, roughly the size of France, has fewer than 400 kilometers of paved roads, and large parts of the country are inaccessible during the rainy season (April through October). Despite the existence of three power plants, none of which are working at full capacity, the country is almost completely reliant on diesel-run generators for electricity. According to the 2008 census, 94 percent of young persons enter the labor market with no qualifications. The majority of South Sudanese work in non-wage jobs, often in the agricultural sector.

Subsistence agriculture and animal husbandry provide a living for the vast majority of South Sudan's population. Over 90% of the population lives in rural areas, surviving on subsistence agriculture or cattle rearing.

  • In Western Equatoria households almost exclusively rely on agriculture to meet food needs. Wealth is determined by the size of land cultivated, assets owned and individual economic activities (petty trade, trade or major trade).
  • In Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap livestock and agriculture, supplemented by fish and wild foods, are the main food sources. Cattle determine wealth and status. Poor households have a small stock of cattle and rely more heavily on their own labor.
  • Jonglei is located in the arid/pastoral zone in the south (where households almost exclusively rely on livestock, with seasonal migration) and of the western flood plains in the north of the region (where livestock and agriculture, supplemented by fish and wild foods, are the main food sources). Wealth is determined by number of cattle owned and size of land cultivated by households.

Livelihoods in South Sudan are based on transhumant animal husbandry, agriculture, fishing, trade and gathering wild food. Transhumance is defined as 'seasonal moving of livestock to regions of different climate'. It is an integral part of livestock production in many parts of the world, notably South Sudan. In central Italy, transhumance, or seasonal grazing, is a husbandry practice that is over two thousand years old. Nomadic and transhumant livestock comprise the normative mode of production in the arid and semi-arid regions of Africa.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), estimates that with 11 million cows and 19 million goats and sheep, South Sudan has the fourth-largest [by other estimates sixth-largest] herd of livestock in Africa, and the largest per capita. In the world’s newest nation, the livelihoods of more than 80 percent of the population are based on livestock. Livestock are primary investment resources which generate food (meat, milk), cash income, fuel, clothing, employment and capital stock. In addition, livestock convert crop waste and by-product as well as forages - otherwise useless to man - into useful products. They provide manure and draught power for crop production. They are stores of wealth which provide a sense of security, prestige, social status and cultural value.

Currently the region supports 10-20 million head of cattle by various estimates - Ethiopia has the highest cattle population in Africa, at 52 million, including 10.5 million dairy cattle. Nuer and their associated subgroup, Atuot, are, after the Dinka, among the most numerous groups in southern Sudan. A Nilotic people, they are seasonally migrating pastoralists. Cattle are fundamental to the social structure: a profound measure of wealth, status and personal influence. Cattle are used to pay debts, fines and bride prices, although this latter practice is in decline, and are also central to religious and artistic culture.

Historically, Nuer, Dinka and Murle pastoralists in Jonglei State all participated in cyclical cattle raiding and child abduction. Cattle are central not only to all three communities’ livelihoods but also to their social and cultural systems. During the twentieth century, the proliferation of guns, the commercialisation of cattle and rising bride prices made cattle raiding more violent and more lucrative.

Cattle husbandry was conducted in an economic, cultural, and social context that had evolved over generations. This included an emphasis on increasing herd size as an investment for future family security. Small surpluses (usually bulls) were available for subsistence use, exchange, or sale for local consumption or export. Cattle were also used for marriage payments and among the Nilotes for rituals. Numbers of cattle also helped to establish or increase status and power in a social system in which cattle were the measure of wealth.

Traditional cultural forces brought about a steady increase in cattle numbers. The result was increasing overstocking and pasture depletion until the outbreak of civil war in 1983 and the devastating droughts of the 1980s and early 1990s decimated not only the Nilotic herds but livestock throughout Sudan. Many families and indeed whole ethnic groups who had traditionally survived on their cattle, sheep, goats, or camels, lost all of their herds and were forced to migrate in search of sustenance.

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