South Sudan gained its independence ten years ago, on July 9th 2011. This makes it the youngest nation in the world. Unfortunately, the vitality and promise of youth seem to be absent in the ten-year-old nation. Lamentably, there isn’t much to celebrate on this tenth anniversary to a point that President Salva Kiir himself has just referred to the last ten years as ‘a lost decade’.
Nearly half a million lives have been lost in the country’s unending civil war. Partly as a result of this state of affairs, one-fifth of South Sudan’s 11 million people are refugees in other countries, including Kenya. This is akin to having ten million Kenyans living outside the country as refugees. That would definitely cramp the nation. Out of those who have decided to brave it in their country, 8.3 million people are dependent on humanitarian aid. Among them are 4.5 million children. These dire statistics were revealed by UNICEF in a report that was released last week. The report further revealed that 2.8 million South Sudanese children are not in school. Consequently, Sudan has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest proportion of out-of-school children in the world. This paints a very bleak picture of the country’s future. In light of all these challenges, it’s no surprise that South Sudan is the second poorest country in the world, behind only Burundi.
Against this bleak backdrop, it’s no wonder that South Sudan ranks a dismal 186th in the World Bank’s ease of doing business ranking. This places it firmly in the unenviable position of being one of the fifth-worst countries in the world to do business.
Even oil, which is South Sudan’s strong point, is foundering. Oil currently accounts for 70% of South Sudan’s GDP and more than 90% of public revenues. Such oil dependence has had disastrous consequences in the past. Back in 2012, Sudan shut down South Sudan’s oil export pipelines. This was occasioned by a dispute between them. As a result of the oil pipes shutdown, South Sudan’s GDP declined by a staggering 50% during the one year that the pipes were not operating. Since then, unstable global oil prices have stripped away 40% of the government’s revenues.
LPG is both environmentally friendly and healthy because it emits less greenhouse gases than charcoal, wood or paraffin. Unfortunately, only ten percent of Kenyans use it because its cost remains prohibitive.
Through impact investment, South Sudan can be able to boost its service sector, which currently accounts for 6.1% of its GDP. Other contributors to the economy like agriculture can also benefit from impact investment.
However, investment hates conflict. The Council on Foreign Relations Think Tank estimates that the death toll from ethnic clashes could be as high as 383,000. Even if this number turned out to be ten times less, South Sudan would still be considered a conflict hotspot.
As long as deadly ethnic clashes remain a part of the South Sudan society, it will be difficult to attract or create a meaningful investment that can greatly aid in boosting revenue as it tackles pressing societal and environmental problems. One of these problems is healthcare.
In South Sudan, there is only one doctor for 65,574 citizens. This means that there is a need for healthcare investment that will drastically lower this dismal doctor-patient ratio. A substantial increase in doctors will generate more jobs in the healthcare value chain, which will primarily benefit the people of South Sudan.
Of course, one may rightfully ask if there are skilled South Sudanese personnel that can occupy such jobs. As a Lecturer at the Kenya Foreign Service Institute, I trained various South Sudan diplomats on matters of green investment. I know that my students are green ambassadors wherever they are and that such opportunities for education-oriented investment still exist.
Herein lies the power of impact investment — it treats every societal and environmental problem as an opportunity for investment that will solve such problems. Hence, we must think and act green!