A recently signed peace deal provides opportunities for war-torn South Sudan to attract more trading partners and boost its presence in the global trade arena, a senior official government official said on Monday.
Stephen Doctor Matatia, director general of External Trade in the Ministry of Trade, Industry and East African Community (EAC) Affairs, said Juba hopes to negotiate trade agreements with several countries in a bid to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
“This time if peace is attained; there must be organized trade, authorized trade and legal trade. We will start with the neighboring countries and the countries of our interests and our choice. We will trade with any country in the world,” Matatia told Xinhua in a recent interview.
He said trade negotiations with several countries were halted after the east African nation plunged into civil war in 2013, but now the government is prepared to resume dynamic and prosperous trade with any country.
With South Sudan’s accession to the Continental Free Trade Area pact and its full membership in the regional trading bloc, the East African Community (EAC), Matatia said South Sudan is better placed to succeed in negotiating long-term trade agreements.
According to the World Bank, South Sudan is the most oil-dependent nation in the world, with oil accounting for almost the totality of exports, and around 60 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP).
But after the young nation descended into civil war in late 2013, oil production declined from 350,000 barrels in 2011 to less than 130,000 barrels per day in 2014 amid soaring inflation and economic crunch.
Outside the oil sector, the world’s youngest nation has high potential in agriculture which largely remains unexploited as only 4 per cent of South Sudan is currently under cultivation, according to a 2017 analysis by financial service provider KPMG.
Matatia said the government’s top priority is to invest in agriculture and road infrastructure in an effort to build an advanced and sustainable economy.