Economists and bankers have repeatedly asked the government of Sudan to implement radical reforms or seek a bailout from friendly nations to pull its economy out of the downward spiral; given it has struggled to raise new funds from abroad to keep the economy afloat it has turned to the Arab Monetary Funds. Heeding this advice, the new government is looking to attract more funds, starting with international banks as it says it is open for business.
According to the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US embassy in Khartoum, Ellen Thorburn, “We want to show that Sudan is open for business, that banks, international banks and businesses are welcome back here. There have clearly been some dramatic changes in the Sudanese government and the timing seemed right now with the civilian-led transitional government and the changes that they are enacting.”
Last week, four U.S diplomats opened accounts at a Sudanese bank for the time in decades and this for Thorburn could signal the beginning of business entrance as she notes that the country is willing and open for transactions.
“One main reason is for convenience so we can use our new accounts and the debit cards in stores and restaurants as we move around Khartoum. Symbolic it is to support the economy of Sudan, we lifted economic sanctions in 2017 and we want to show that Sudan is open for business, that banks, international banks and businesses are welcome back here,” Thorburn added.
Sadly, with the prolonged demonstrations, missing protesters and uncertainty of things in the country, foreign businesses may not be in a hurry to invest and open shop in the country anytime soon.
Sudan has been suffering from chronic hard currency shortages and soaring inflation since 2012 and despite the United States listing a decade-old sanction in 2017, foreign investors have not returned. The economy, however, got worse in 2018 when the country implemented a set of austerity measures, ousted President Omar Al Bashir reshuffling his cabinet and launching a war on corruption to cut government spending. This led the hyper-inflation and nationwide protests that lasted more than eight months.
In March 2019, the country signed deals for loans worth $300 million with regional Arab Funds. Sudan agreed to a $230 million loan with the Abu Dhabi-based Arab Monetary Fund to support its balance of payments. The Northern African country also signed a deal for a second loan worth $70 million with the Arab Trade Financing Program, whose shareholders include the Arab Monetary Fund.