Southern Sudan beckons ICT investors

LAGOS, NIGERIA – The government of Southern Sudan is reaching out to Commonwealth nations to convince investors to tap into opportunities in the nation’s ICT sector, in the wake of a peace in the war-torn country brokered by the African Union.

Southern Sudan is ready for business, according to Major General Gier Chuang Aluong, Southern Sudan’s minister of telecommunications and postal services. Aluong made the comments in an interview with the IDG News Service at the sixth annual Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization (CTO) forum last week in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. The CTO membership is made up of telecom representatives from Commonwealth nations.

The Sudanese government agreed to give autonomy to Southern Sudan in a comprehensive peace agreement. Southern Sudan is not yet issuing operating licenses for telecom operators for voice, but the government is open for those who can come and invest in the Internet, data and infrastructure, Aluong said. He added that the country would grant telecom licenses in the next three years after a proposed referendum.

The business vision for the new Sudan centers on the concept of decentralization. “With strategic deployment of ICTs, remote areas of Sudan can access information to open opportunities and improve all forms of service delivery,” Aluong said. Aluong pointed out that some of the challenges are daunting.

“Not only are equipment and technology resources costly, but as an emerging economy, Southern Sudan still lacks a lot including the resourced institutional arrangements, sufficiently trained and skilled personnel, adequate physical infrastructure, and an effective regulatory as well as policy framework,” he said.

Most operators now use their own gateways, but a government-owned international gateway is under construction, he said. Currently, telecom services provided in Southern Sudan include fixed telephony, Short Messaging Service (SMS), mobile roaming, Internet services and Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) satellite services.

“Given the early state of telecoms development, the variety, cost and quality of service is reasonable, yet there is significant room for improvement,” he said.

Opportunities in the region include huge energy potential, including hydro-power, and the area’s proximity to developing markets. These, he said, were particularly significant given that Sudan shares borders with nine countries and connects different regions of the continent of Africa.

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