Conflict-ridden Sudan has received international attention regarding the widely-publicized humanitarian situation in Darfur. The country’s continual bouts with war, sanctions, poverty and hunger have increasingly received international attention.

The gravest situation affecting the country in the recent past has been its civil war, taking place mostly in the western region of the country.

The war has exacted a toll measured in hundreds of thousands of lives and millions of people displaced from their homes. While the conflict still threatens to flare up at any moment, despite a U.S. negotiated peace treaty, a glimmer of life beyond the tragedy is beginning to emerge in Sudan’s quickly accelerating economic resurgence in other regions of the country.

The country’s growth has been higher than predicted. Just two years ago, the annual growth rate was 5 percent. This year it is expected to reach 13 percent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Following a boom in oil prices, Sudan has been capitalizing on profits, making it one of Africa’s fastest- growing countries. Sudan’s government has also fostered growth, introducing a series of liberalizing economic policies.

Stumbling Blocks

Sudan, the largest country in Africa, has been badly worn down by several decades of civil conflict. In the latest major renewal of civil strife in 2003, Sudan’s western Darfur region experienced a brutal battle between rebel groups and government backed militias which resulted in the death of 400,000 and an additional 2.5 million people forcefully displaced into refugee camps and neighboring countries.

In September of 2004, the U.S. government labeled the actions by the Sudanese government and militias as genocide, instituting economic sanctions against Sudan. The United Nations has not made such a declaration.

Sudan’s instability has been one of the reasons for its slow development. The country was also accused by the U.S. in 1997 of fostering terrorism and abusing human rights. The result was and end to $70 million in annual trade with the Sudanese government, according to the U.S. Department of State.

While growth in recent years has appeared, despite the sanctions, the prosperity has not been evenly distributed. In Khartoum, the nation’s capital, a stable business environment has been established, allowing for a great deal of commercial activity. In the southern region, the government has reached an accord for peace in a separate conflict.

Meanwhile, officials have been actively been soliciting foreign investment in various areas, including infrastructure. Among the new developments are schools, clinics and houses, according to the Sudan Studies Association.

“The south is like a business bubble, bursting with opportunities,” said Dr. Richard Lobban, SSA executive director.

Exports – The Country’s Mainstay

As a result, Sudan has relied on other countries to consume its primary resources, agricultural products, which include cotton and gum Arabic. Despite this, oil production and export have received significant attention. Currently 80 percent of all export sales belong to the oil sector.

Following China’s thirst for natural resources to sustain its booming economy, China has created been establishing relations with many African countries, one of them being Sudan. China currently has a 40 percent stake in Sudan’s oil industry. Construction of new oil refineries is contributing to growth. However, the country has only one functional pipeline that produces around 500,000 barrels of oil per dayroom for improvement.

“These resources are, however, being squandered in both north and south, partly because of corruption, and partly because of a lack of vision of equitable sharing of the revenues,” said Michael Kevane from the Department of Economics at Stanta Clara Universtity.

The country is hoping to turn that around. It has joined the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a group of 20 countries which promotes regional economic integration in trade and investment.

The environment for economic growth is also favorable, with the government looking to pass business friendly laws which will expedite establishment of new businesses, waive taxes for up to 10 years, and allow foreign companies to start without the requirement of a Sudanese partner, according to the Sudan development program.