South Sudan, Saudi Arabia set to ink cooperation agreement

By Yiep Joseph

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Mayiik Ayii Deng has jetted off to Saudi Arabia to sign the first-ever Cooperation Agreement to ‘advance in trade and investment’ between the Western Asian Kingdom and South Sudan.

The Minister travelled to Riyadh with a number of senior officials including the Director-General of Multilateral Affairs and Director of Middle East Affairs, among others.

According to the Official Facebook Page of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the agreement would bring closer cooperation between the two countries and advance trade-in critical areas of investments. 

“The minister and his counterpart are expected to sign a general cooperation agreement between the Republic of South Sudan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the agreement is expected to bring the two countries into closer cooperation and advance in trade more especially in key critical areas of investment,” part of the document read.

 While in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia the delegation is expected to tour and meet with various Saudi investment groups in order to explore investment opportunities in South Sudan.

“The minister is expected to commence his three days working visits today January 24th 2022 with bilateral meetings with Saudi Arabia as well as with other senior officials and discuss matters of mutual interest between the two countries,” the document further stated.

On 14 December 2020, Saudi King, Salman bin Abdulaziz received a message from President Salva Kiir Mayardit. The massage was about the need for cooperation among the two countries in areas of investment and other related areas of development, according to Asharq Al-awsat news.

The message was delivered to Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan bin Abdullah by President Kiir’s security affairs advisor, Tut Gatlauk Manime.

The meeting between Prince Faisal and the presidential aide was attended by Saudi State Minister for African Affairs Ahmad Kattan.

Talks focused on bilateral relations and cooperation and regional and international developments.

In response to the 2020 message of cooperation from South Sudan, King Salman bin Abdulaziz in 2021, sent a message directly to President Salva Kiir Mayardit on developing ties. 

King Salman’s message was delivered to Kiir by Saudi Arabia’s non-resident ambassador to South Sudan, Ali bin Hassan Jaafar during a meeting with the president in Juba.

Kiir had received a written message from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz tackling the bilateral ties between the Kingdom and South Sudan and ways of bolstering them in various fields.

Kiir underscored Saudi Arabia’s influential role in the region and international arenas and its initiatives towards the people of the region.

President Salva Kiir expressed his keenness to Saudi Arabia and the developing relations that can pathway for the country.

In June 2021 The Saudi Arabian Minister of State for African Affairs, Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Qattan, hands over a gift to President Salva Kiir during a one-day visit. in the same visit, Saudi Arabia has asked South Sudan to present it with a list of projects that require investment, according to a local news outlet.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is requesting South Sudan to present investment projects that will be put into consideration by the Kingdom,” said Beatrice Khamisa, South Sudan’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The development was expected to help South Sudan tackle its long-running economic crisis.

The two countries agreed to sign a cooperation agreement that will facilitate economic and bilateral relations.

Still in 2021 still, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for African Affairs, Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Qattan met with President Salva Kiir to discuss his country’s interest in South Sudan.

The largest Arab nation showed particular interest in the construction of schools and health facilities, roads, agriculture, among others.

“I talked to the president about the initiative of Crown Prince in which he announced about allocations of 1 billion-dollar investment for Africa at the recent Paris conference,” Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Qattan told reporters in Juba after the meeting.

“We will soon receive [list] of investment projects that the two countries can undertake and develop regulations that will protect investors both in the private and public sectors.” He added.

Recently, Saudi Arabia committed to investing $3 billion in a joint fund for investments in neighbouring Sudan.

After South Sudan gained independence in 2011, investors from the region and globe flocked to the country seeking virgin business opportunities.

But the 2013 and later 2016 conflicts among the country’s political leaders sent many potential investors packing due to insecurity and economic downturn.

With the signing of the 2018 revitalized peace agreement and subsequent formation of a unity government in 2020, the government says the environment is now ripe for investments.

The country has also got a positive review by the 2020 Investment Environment report by the US Department of State.

The report said the trade and investment conditions in South Sudan have slightly improved in the past year, but added that many challenges remain.

It cited reported unfair practices that have included effective expropriation of assets, inconsistent taxation policies, harassment by security services, extortion attempts, and a general perception that foreigners are not afforded fair results in court proceedings or labour disputes.

The report further said the legal framework governing investment and private enterprises remained underdeveloped as of April 2020.

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