South Sudan hopes planned port in Djibouti will increase market access and profits

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South Sudanese officials confirmed this month that they had purchased land on the coast of Djibouti to build a port. South Sudan says the port will be key for the export of the country’s crude oil, which currently passes through Sudan, as well as for the import of goods, most of which pass through Kenya’s port of Mombasa.

Puot Kang Chol, South Sudan’s petroleum minister, said last week that the land had been purchased to export crude oil.

“I would like to announce to all of you that as we have been pushing to make sure that we open all our ways because as we all know South Sudan is a landlocked country and so we have to do our best to get access in the market,” he said.

Two other African Great Lakes countries, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, recently said they would shift their port operations to Tanzania, leaving only Rwanda and Burundi still entirely dependent on the port of Mombasa.

Duncan Otieno, a Nairobi-based economist, said the move leaves Kenya in a tough spot as it feels the pinch of competition from the regional port of Dar es Salaam and now Djibouti.

“There is every reason to believe that the exit from South Sudan will affect the port of Mombasa as, with the existence of Uganda and taking into account the port of Dar es Salaam, it will probably affect operations in the port of Mombasa,” he said. said. “We have to ask ourselves what could have led the DRC and Uganda and now South Sudan to consider leaving the port of Mombasa out of the way.”

South Sudanese economist Abraham Mamer said the port of Djibouti will provide a cheaper route for South Sudanese exports and imports.

“In terms of economies of scale, we are better off than building another railway to connect to Sudan,” he said. “We are saving to directly import or export our oil from the eastern part of South Sudan via Djibouti, Ethiopia. So for us, we don’t lose, we win, South Sudan is not landlocked, it’s grounded, so that’s okay.

However, Otieno said Juba’s attempt to reduce reliance on Mombasa could have ramifications within the East African Community bloc, such as undermining the LAPSET project, a regional freight transport network beginning at the Kenyan port of Lamu.

“Each country is guided by its national interest, which changes from time to time,” he said. “But this also needs to be looked at within the geopolitics of the regional body, the EAC. This must be taken into account because it may affect the economy of this region.

Mamer, on the other hand, said that South Sudan’s acquisition of land for a port in Djibouti will have no impact on LAPSET.

He said South Sudan cannot afford to lose this project, which will link the country to Rwanda and Uganda.

“If we have several ways to import and export our goods, we are the best,” he said. We are going to build a refinery where we are going to import and export our finished product. Even though we have Djibouti, it’s a way to import and export, so we’re not losing, we’re maximizing our impact in the region.

South Sudan has oil deposits estimated at 3.5 billion barrels. This means that if the country could ever find a way to end its chronic state of conflict and increase oil production, the economic impact could be enormous no matter which port the country uses for its exports. .

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