Rapid change afoot in Juba


South Sudanese returnee - Juba

Our Africa Advocacy Coordinator, Rob Rees, blogs from South Sudan:

Juba is an absolutely crazy place. New buildings, roads, traffic: the place has been transformed in recent years. However, the biggest transformation has probably been amongst the people.

Juba is the new Klondike – entrepreneurs from all over the region have come here, attracted by the opportunity of making a quick profit. The prospects of a new development frontier opening up in a region where government controls are virtually totally absent has drawn them like bees to a honey jar. The Kenyans were probably the first to arrive, opening up tented camps – the only accommodation for visitors as there were no hotels. Even government Ministers were living there – and £100 per night for a tent in a muddy field was no joke. Ugandans followed – they soon controlled the supply of fresh food into the town as the years of war had destroyed local production systems. Lebanese, Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis all followed and identified a niche that they have subsequently developed.

The entrepreneurial spirit that these natural businessmen and women have brought to the town has been good in that they have given a huge boost to economic regeneration, but the negative side is that the local population, the southern Sudanese, are being squeezed out. Years of war and lack of interest in investment by the central government in Khartoum has meant that they have been left out in the cold. There is a danger now, that unless their new government takes very careful measures, they will find that their economy is yet again in the hands of outsiders.

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