Sudan eyes big investments in formerly restive east
KUWAIT CITY — Sudan sought big aid and investment pledges for its formerly war-torn east on Wednesday as donors and wealth funds met in the oil-rich emirate of Kuwait.
The hosts pledged 500 million dollars while Iran promised 200 million dollars.
"I am pleased to announce the donation of the State of Kuwait of 500 million dollars for east Sudan development," Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad al-Sabah announced at the opening ceremony.
Sheikh Mohammad said 450 million dollars would be in the form of development projects to be carried out by the state-run Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) and the remaining 50 million dollars as a grant for social projects.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said his government would invest 200 million dollars in various projects.
The European Union's executive arm, the European Commission, pledged 24 million euros while Italy promised 30 million.
The Arab Investment Guarantee Organisation undertook to provide support for 300 million dollars in investments.
Musa Mohammed Ahmad, assistant to Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, said the Khartoum government would itself spend 1.572 billion dollars on education, health, irrigation, electricity and water projects in the east.
The region was the scene of a decade-long rebellion by ethnic minority groups against the central government in Khartoum that ended with a 2006 peace deal.
An area the size of Italy, east Sudan is blessed with huge gold, oil and gas resources as well as vast uncultivated arable land.
And yet there is rampant poverty among the region's five million inhabitants, most of whom live on less than two dollars a day, and child mortality and malnutrition rates run high.
More than 600 representatives of 39 countries, 28 international organisations and 73 non-governmental organisations were attending the two-day forum hosted by Kuwait.
The United Nations Development Fund (UNDP), the World Bank and the Islamic Development Fund were among leading organisations taking part in the conference, which was to discuss 177 projects worth 4.2 billion dollars.
Main projects to be offered for investors and donors included a major dam at a cost of 600 million dollars, three cement factories for 450 million dollars, and roads and power projects at a cost of 430 million dollars.
"The region is in dire need of investment in infrastructure, human capital, and preservation of peace through new development," Claudio Caldarone, the UNDP country director for Sudan told AFP.
"It is a region with high potential for growth and development ... It has the only access in Sudan to the sea, it has the second best preserved coral reef in the world.
"There are also innumerable natural resources ... (including) oil, gas, gold, marble and there is also... uncultivated arable land," Caldarone said.
Caldarone said the region needs around four billion dollars for development.
East Sudan is divided into the three states of Kassala, Al-Qadarif and Red Sea.
According to UNDP figures, 58 percent of the population in Red Sea state and 50 percent of those in Al-Qadarif live below the national poverty line, surviving on 50 dollars per person a month.