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South Sudan's next task: build a nation from scratch

South Sudanese voted overwhelming in January for independence. Now, they face the reality of building the world's newest nation – from printing new currency to collecting taxes.

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The good news, he says, is that it seems the South realizes that they have to "continue negotiations with the party of the North. They will not relapse to violence – peace is a win-win situation for both sides as far as oil is concerned; nobody wants to risk losing that income."

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Transition in Sudan

As the relatively peaceful breakup of the Soviet Union shows, there is often a 10-year transition period from independence to sustainable nationhood that can take longer for countries that lack vision or leadership.

"When I was in Juba, there was a lot of pride, and justifiably so, for the three or four paved roads they had," says Simon Freemantle, Africa economist for Standard Bank in Johannesburg, South Africa. "So the first priority for this country to start unlocking sustained economic growth is to focus on building infrastructure."

Much of that infrastructure growth will probably be directed down south to the nations of East Africa, including Kenya with its port access, as well as to Uganda and Ethiopia. South Sudan knows that it will have to maintain a good working relationship with Khartoum, and perhaps continue its current 50/50 oil-revenue sharing agreement with the North for the next five years or so, Mr. Freemantle says, because it has no other way of getting its oil out to markets without Khartoum.

But while South Sudan will certainly have its challenges, it may have an advantage over other African countries that gained independence in the early 1960s. It will have a lot more choices of economic partners to choose from, including India, China, and Malaysia, and "they are able to bargain from a better place now that there is some competition for the goods that they have to sell."

Building up a proper skills base among its low-, medium-, and upper-level government officials will have to be another major priority, Freemantle says, and southern Sudanese authorities are quick to point out the number of skilled administrators they already have.

Two hundred and four southerners served as diplomats in the foreign service of the Republic of Sudan, among them 24 ambassadors, says Deng Alor, the highest ranking of the bunch – and the man slated to become South Sudan's first foreign minister.


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