Sudan, the largest country in Africa, and the Arab World, is the country the Internet and e-commerce infrastructure we are interested in for today. This country, located in northeastern Africa, is also tenth largest in the world. Sudan is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, Kenya and Uganda to the southeast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic to the southwest, Chad to the west and Libya to the northwest. The country, being a member of the United Nations, also maintains membership with the AU, LAS, OIC and NAM, as well as serving as an observer in WTO. Despite being the 17th fastest growing economy in the world with new economic policies and infrastructure investments, Sudan still faces a lot of economic problems, as it must rise from a very low level of per capita output. Since 1997, Sudan has been implementing the macroeconomic reforms recommended by the IMF. Nevertheless, the Sudanese economy appears to be one of the fastest growing in the world, despite the American sanctions. Notably, the country represents the third largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.
In terms of the ICT progress, it’s important to note that Sudan has a large, equipped enough telecommunications system by regional standards, including a national fibre optic backbone and international fibre connections. The country’s ICT sector considered as one of Africa’s most flourishing telecommunications markets, receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in oversea investments per year. Telecommunications investment has spiked from only $500,000 in 1994 to over $100 million per year, at present.
Interestingly, the country commenced its telecom sector reform in early 1993. However, truly development processes have happened since 1997 after the discovery of oil that has spurred and generate much needed foreign exchange. Enormous further potential exists since the country’s total teledensity is still one of the lowest in the world at less than 3%. Besides, Sudan represents by far the fastest growing fixed telephony market not only in Africa but worldwide.
The largest national telecom provider is Sudatel. The company is responsible for the construction and maintenance of Sudan's telecom infrastructure. Sudatel is more than 60% owned by the Sudanese government; the remainder being owned by private interests. Sudatel’s stock is listed on the Bahrain Stock Exchange besides being listed on several regional stock exchanges.
The incumbent has been privatized for more than ten years, with major shares and management control now held by Etisalat of the UAE and Qatar Telecom.
Sudatel overtops the world’s fastest growing fixed-line market until it started substituting traditional copper lines with CDMA2000 fixed-wireless access in 2005. Sudatel is presently expanding its satellite earthlink facilities and building a fiber optic network.
Competition in the Internet market comes mostly from Canartel, which has a strong emphasis on data. The operator is majority-owned by Etisalat. Canartel is opted for CDMA2000 technology to cost effectively roll out fixed services and, like Sudatel, is offering wireless broadband services through this network following an upgrade to the EV-DO standard. The company is lobbying for a licence to offer mobile services as well but is meeting resistance from the other operators.
The other popular Internet services providers, operating on the national telecom market among others, according to www.ostamyy.com, are:
• Sudanet – one of the largest ISP in Sudan, providing internet services to corporations, private businesses and individuals. It has a diverse customer base cutting across many different sectors, including industry, research, academia, banking and tourism, embassies and consulates.
• ZinaNet – represents a well-established ISP in Sudan. The company provides its customers with the choice between various types of connection to choose what is most suitable to fulfill their needs, including analogue, ISDN, Frame Relay, or receiving satellite system.
• Sudacom - is one of the licensed ISP in Sudan. The Sudacom provides it's services under the name Sudacom ISP.
Broadband pricing varies widely between the different operators, and a stark contrast exists between their respective average revenue per user levels, with the leading operator achieving twice as much as one of its competitors, one of the highest ARPU levels in region.
Importantly, in compliance with a peace agreement, the oil-rich south of the country which has long been beyond the central government’s control and deprived of development, has started establishing its own independent telecommunications regime, creating new opportunities for service providers and equipment suppliers.
Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Sudan is .sd, administered by Sudan Internet Society. Two years registration agreement, according to www.rwgusa.com , is very expensive: $ 350.00 for .sd and $ 499.00 for .com.sd. Actually there are no any special requirements or restrictions for the allowance to be registered. Thus, even local presence of the registrants is not required.
The registration is also available under the second-level domains
• com.sd - companies
• net.sd -network providers, ISPs
• org.sd - Sudanese NGOs
• edu.sd –national Universities and Colleges
• med.sd - medical
• tv.sd – media
• info.sd - newspapers, Information & Media
• gov.sd - Sudanese government and Ministries
Besides, third level names are also available for the registration beneath various second-level categories.
Being one of the leaders on the African telecom market, the country can boast about the enormous growth of Internet penetration level that has made up almost 14,000% for the decade. However, the broadband usage has only hovered 10%, with 4,200,000 Sudanese connected, according to www.internetworldstats.com. Meanwhile, the country occupies the fifth position amid Africa Top 10 Internet countries.
As for the e-commerce sector, Sudan has been making huge steps towards embedding online business tools in all spheres of the country’s economy. Thus, the number of programmes has been launched to connect businesses to the e-commerce through the Internet, electronic networks and other advanced technological means.
Meanwhile, the great number of banks in Sudan is now offering different types of e-banking services. For instance, EBS delivers the wide variety of e-banking services to the public, including eBank, SMS Banking Services, WAP Banking Services, IVR, Banking Services through the phone, eSwitch, etc. The other good examples of Internet banking provision are Bank of Khartoum or Fisal Islamic Bank.
Accordingly the demand of Sudanese banks is increased to adopt electronic means of payment reasoned by the many advantages that it offers, like saving time, increase the money circulation in the banks. Several electronic payment systems have been adopted in the country thus far:
• SWIFT - a shared worldwide data processing and communications link and a common language for international financial transactions came to Sudan in 2000. Currently almost 90% of the banks working in Sudan, whether local or international, are connected to this network.
• National Switch (NS) - is established in 2006 to provide Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) services, Point of Sale (POS) service, Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) and allows Sudanese banks communication.
• Electronic Cheque Clearance (ECC) - an electronic image-based check clearing solution, designed to provide end-to-end nationwide clearing of checks within the same day, that was established in Sudan in 2007. Besides, Sudan is one of few countries did perform this project and now it’s up and running with a high volume of money transferred between the Sudanese banks.
• Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) - is ongoing project that will start at the end of this year (2010). The objective of this project is to improve the overall efficiency of the large value of payment system, particularly in respect of reducing interbank settlement risk. It enables the transfer and settlement of high value interbank funds.
Moreover, all the banks working in Sudan were united with a network under the umbrella of the internal Bank of Sudan (BOS). CBOS is responsible for building and developing e-banking industry in Sudan.
Being one of the African telecom leader, with well-developed and excellent equipped Internet sector, the country has also succeed in terms of e-commerce and e-banking deployment. Moreover, the country has a great potential that can let it become one of the world leaders on the ICT market. Why not? This rich oil state has definitely all chances to catch up and outstrip the world leaders.