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South Sudan Conference Calls for Infrastructure and Tax Reform 

South Sudan Juba map

JUBA — Traders and investors gathered at South Sudan's economic conference have issued a resounding call to the transitional government of national unity, urging them to prioritize building critical infrastructure and simplifying tax policies to bolster the nation's struggling economy. 

The four-day conference, which began Monday, has drawn participants from various sectors. It aims to address South Sudan's economic crisis and discuss ways to revitalize the nation's economy.

Goodwill Juma, a sales manager at Hagana, a local company specializing in honey and peanut butter production and export, highlighted several challenges facing local entrepreneurs.

One of the most significant hurdles, he said, is the inadequate road network, leading to extended delivery times and market disruptions.

"The poor road network sometimes takes us several days, such as from Mundri to Juba. When the roads are not maintained, it can take nearly four to five days. Consequently, this makes it challenging for us to consistently supply our products to the market," Juma lamented.

Furthermore, the shortage of packaging materials and the unstable U.S. dollar exchange rate have forced some entrepreneurs to halt imports of essential goods. Acquiring foreign currency for importing necessary raw materials from neighboring countries remains a persistent challenge.

Florence Aryemo, director of CFMM for Trade and Investment, another local enterprise specializing in soap, cosmetics, and skin products, echoed these concerns.

She highlighted the scarcity of packaging materials within South Sudan and the reliance on imports.

"We don't have packaging in South Sudan, so most of our packaging comes from outside South Sudan, like Uganda and Kenya. Sometimes it is difficult. You order packaging, and you may receive one color, but the next time you order, that color may no longer be available. As you can see, we have two types of packaging: black and cream. The shortage of packaging materials is a significant challenge," Aryemo said.

Bak Barnaba Chol, South Sudan's minister of finance and planning, emphasized that the conference's participants are expected to engage in discussions on macroeconomic policies, private sector development, and creating a business-friendly environment. The discussions aim to chart a roadmap for priority sectors within the government's work program, ultimately contributing to economic growth.

"We got our independence in 2011, but we have continued to face social, economic, and political unrest that has significantly hindered our economic development. This has led to missed opportunities both locally and globally," Chol said.

The conference has attracted participants from both local and regional spheres, including officials from the World Bank and African Development Bank.

Addressing the conference attendees in Juba, U.S. ambassador to South Sudan Michael J. Adler underscored the importance of the government's commitment to restoring peace, stability, and good governance as fundamental drivers of economic activity and investor confidence.

"I regret to say that such an environment does not exist. It will only emerge when the transitional government demonstrates the political will to meet the peace commitments necessary for free, fair, and peaceful elections. It will only emerge when there is accountability for human rights violations, including gender-based violence, and measures to prevent corruption. Transparency in the use of public revenue is also essential," Adler said.

He further emphasized the necessity for transparency in the management of the country's oil revenue and timely payment of civil servants.

South Sudan's Ministry of Finance and Planning organized the conference under the theme 'Towards a Diversified, Inclusive, and Sustainable Economic Growth.' Participants are expected to identify priority sectors for investment, agree on policy reforms, and establish public-private partnerships.