18 April 2024

The world’s newest nation's lays the foundations for trade

by Kudzai Makombe Peter Donelan / in Impact story


  • The partnership between the Government of South Sudan, the Enhanced Integrated Framework (EIF) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is helping to nudge the country away from dependence on oil to inclusive trade. This will not only benefit a larger share of the population, but also encourage peace. 
  • The EIF supported the update of South Sudan’s trade policy through a consultative process that included government ministries and agencies, academia, the private sector and development partners. It further benefited from lessons learned from peers in Rwanda and Uganda.
  • The EIF supported the mainstreaming of South Sudan’s key trade strategies into the Revised National Development Strategy (2021-24) and the development of the Trade Policy Framework.
  • The EIF supported the development of the "Trade for Peace and Resilience in South Sudan" study, published by UNDP in 2021. The study is designed to work alongside trade policy to ensure trade contributes to resolving conflict and promoting peace. 
  • To strengthen the government's ability to develop and implement trade-related policies, the EIF supported the establishment of an EIF National Implementation Unit (NIU) within the Ministry of Trade.
  • The EIF helped train public officers to effectively engage at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) trade negotiation tables. In 2023, the EIF supported the South Sudan National Steering Committee on WTO accession through training from the Eastern and Southern Africa Management Institute – Trade Policy Training Centre in Africa (ESAMI-trapca). The upskilling will also help South Sudan gain a foothold in trade within the East African Community (EAC).
  • In 2023, with the EIF's support, The Gambia received a high-level delegation from the Republic of South Sudan to establish bilateral relationships between the two countries. 
  • The EIF's support has enabled the country to engage in digital trade through the launch of an e-commerce hub and training for micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) on its use.

South Sudan is pursuing regional, continental and international trade. Africa’s youngest country, with a population of just over 12 million people[1], is already a member of the EAC. With the support of the EIF and other Aid for Trade (AfT) development partners, it aims to become a member of the WTO and the AfCFTA. 

Oil revenues, which make up more than 90% of the country’s exports,[2] have played an important part in the country’s progress since its independence from Sudan in 2011. However, the Government of South Sudan recognizes that this is not a sustainable option to lift the population out of poverty, internal conflict, and persistent humanitarian crises, all of which are compounded by vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters. Agriculture employs 95% of the population[3] – but only about 4% of South Sudan’s vast arable land is under cultivation due to insecurity. 

The road to market

The EIF’s partnership with South Sudan began in 2013. As part of its mandate, the EIF is tasked with assisting the least developed countries (LDCs), including fragile and conflict-affected countries, to use trade as a tool for inclusive development in line with United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 8 on promoting sustainable options for decent work and economic growth. This trade-for-peace support will help contribute towards South Sudan's desire to progress towards lasting peace. The partnership focused on developing an institutional framework to enable the country’s entry into global trade, opening a pathway for the population to participate in and benefit from economic growth through job creation. 

Support was provided through an initial preparatory project, the pre-Diagnostic Trade Integration Study (DTIS), a government-led process that benefited from lesson learned from Rwanda and Uganda on trade mainstreaming and technical assistance. The pre-DTIS paved the way for South Sudan to draft action plans defining best practices in tariff reforms for participation in the EAC. The plans also included guidance to enable the country to benefit from trade liberalization with non-EAC members. 

The country’s first DTIS was completed in 2014, with UNDP as the main implementing partner. It spurred additional support for the establishment of an institutional AfT framework to strengthen the Government’s ability to develop and implement trade-related policies. An NIU was created within the Ministry of Trade. This is part of the Government’s Multi-stakeholder National Consultative Mechanism – a national implementation arrangement comprising stakeholders drawn from the government, line ministries, private sector representatives, development partners and UNDP as the implementing partner.

Setting the terms and conditions for pro-poor trade

With EIF support, a National Export Strategy was developed to facilitate increased access to international markets.The existing trade policy was updated through a consultative process that included government ministries and agencies, academia, the private sector and development partners. The process benefited from lessons learned from peers in Rwanda and Uganda. The outcome was the South Sudan Trade Policy (TP 2014), which review led to the production of a Trade Policy Framework Implementation Plan. The Trade Policy Framework 2018-23 lays the groundwork for EAC integration and future WTO accession. 

Speaking at the validation of the Trade Policy Framework in 2018, Honourable MOU MOU Athian Kuol, Undersecretary of EAC Affairs, representing the Minister of Trade, Industry and East Africa Community Affairs (MTIEACA), said: 

If you really need peace, go for trade. If you need development, go for trade. If you need connections, go for trade… This trade policy will help us diversify our economy. We have only one resource – oil, which puts us in a dependency situation. With this trade policy framework, we will be able to produce goods for our domestic market and for external ones. [4]

MSMEs, with a focus on women- and youth-led businesses, were integrated into the policy framework to ensure benefits are felt by all members of society. The policy framework aims to link producers with national and regional global value chains. Gender equality, ensuring compliance with labor standards, procurement obligations and environmental sustainability, are all important aspects of the framework. 

The TP 2014 also enabled integration of trade into the South Sudan Development Strategy 2018-2021 and the Trade for Peace paper.[5] The EIF-supported Republic of South Sudan and UNDP Trade for Peace and Resilience study, published in 2021, was designed to work alongside trade policy to ensure trade also contributes to resolving conflict and promoting peace. The paper highlights the benefits of trade in connecting areas long isolated by conflict and expanding opportunities beyond subsistence. It also states that encouraging local and ethnic communities to trade with other groups will help to increase resilience and build peace by fostering trust.[6]

Honing negotiation and diplomacy skills

The EIF supported capacity-building to develop and implement new and updated trade policies, as well as to ensure sustainability. NIU staff were trained in project management, monitoring and evaluation, and learning. The training was extended to officials from other departments, including customs, the National Bureaus of Statistics and Standards, the EAC secretariat, the Nimule one-stop border post desk, and the South Sudan Chamber of Commerce. In addition, 118 private sector representatives learned about the AfCFTA, including through a South–South exchange on competition law, aligning with the AfCFTA Protocol on Competition Policy, adopted to ensure competition fosters trade, inclusive growth and a fair business environment across Africa.

The EIF financed participants in regional dialogues and training on WTO accession. These included high-level technical officials from MTIEACA and the South Sudan EAC secretariat. By 2019, South Sudan had submitted its first Memorandum on the Foreign Trade Regime to the WTO and had convened its first Working Party meeting.  

In 2023, the EIF supported the South Sudan National Steering Committee on WTO accession through training from the ESAMI-trapca. This is a specialized trade policy and trade law training institution for professionals in the LDCs and low-income sub-Saharan African countries. Senior government officials have also been trained on competition law enforcement for implementation of the EAC Competition Act 2006, organized by the Competition Authority of Kenya. Further skills support was provided for 10 senior trade officers to be deployed as commercial attachés. ESAMI-trapca also conducted training on commercial and economic diplomacy. 

South–South learning exchanges supported by the EIF continue to be central to building the country’s trade capacity. In 2023, The Gambia received an EIF-supported high-level delegation from the Republic of South Sudan. The delegation met with the Office of the President of The Gambia, ministries and the private sector, and visited both public and private sector facilities. An interface meeting was held with The Gambia Women’s Chamber of Commerce, the International Trade Centre (ITC) and other private sector representatives towards establishing bilateral relationships and learning on challenges in doing businesses. The exchange resulted in an agreement on South Sudan’s participation in upcoming Gambian trade fairs and exhibitions, with the goal of promoting trade between the two countries. Both countries will now urge their businesses to engage and consider trading with each other as a stepping stone for expanding exports under the AfCFTA.

Checking progress revising priorities

A DTIS Update was completed in 2022, with the primary goal of developing market access for trade in goods and services to further progress the WTO accession process, AfCFTA negotiation and East African Market integration. The DTIS Update explored standards and infrastructure, digital trade and e-commerce, entrepreneurship, sectoral trade and economic diversification.

The DTIS Update also prioritized climate change, particularly as it relates to the country’s key productive sectors and green value chain diversification. South Sudan is extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts. According to the European Commission’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (2023),[7] four years of unprecedented floods have led to massive displacement and crop destruction. In 2021, the country developed its first National Adaptation Plan (NAP 2021-2025), under the UNDP and United Nations Environment Global Support Programme on NAPs, supported by the Global Environment Facility.[8] The NAP prioritizes building climate-resilient communities; a climate-resilient economy and development trajectory; and a climate-resilient environment and ecosystems.

E-commerce lifting barriers to trade 

A major milestone on the country’s journey to enhanced trade was the launch in 2022 of the e-commerce hub. Financed by the South Sudan Ministry of Trade, the EIF and UNDP, the facility supports South Sudan's first online marketplace platform, www.dukaanye.com. As a landlocked country with higher trade barriers, South Sudan will benefit from e-infrastructure that enables MSMEs to trade digitally in local and international markets. 

Seven hundred (700) MSMEs were trained in 2022 on various aspects of e-commerce, including basic information and communication technology skills, online store management, social media marketing, data analytics, and creation of digital content. Speaking at its launch in December 2022, Hon. MOU MOU Athian Kuol expressed optimism at its potential to promote entrepreneurship, contribute to inclusive private sector development and create jobs: 

It will play a central role in connecting our producers to regional and global value chains. This is a proud and historic day. [9]

The e-commerce hub is one of the outcomes of the Revised National Development Strategy 2021-2024, which commits to creating employment opportunities through the development of the digital economy. It is part of a larger project jointly supported by the Ministry of Trade and Investment, the EIF, UNDP, the African Development Bank and the Netherlands Embassy. 

The government has put in place a legal framework to regulate this growing sector of the economy. The challenge remaining is the high cost of mobile broadband – South Sudan has one of the highest mobile tariffs in Africa, and only 4% of the population lives within 25 kilometres of a fibre node.[10]

Illustrated systemic change

The changes that have taken place so far in South Sudan demonstrate systemic change behind the scenes. The partnership between the Government of South Sudan, the EIF and UNDP is helping to nudge the country away from dependence on oil and towards inclusive trade. This will not only benefit a larger share of the population but also encourage peace. The ultimate goal is to develop the kinds of jobs that improve lives and spur sustainable economic development.

The policies and frameworks developed with full government ownership and incorporated into various other strategies will continue to guide national trade and investment beyond EIF and UNDP support. They will help the government mobilize more resources for AfT priorities. Already, it has secured EUR 5 million towards a trade and youth employment project and funding support from the Africa Export-Import Bank for the development of a national export strategy in collaboration with ITC.

The country’s progress in becoming 'open for trade' is best demonstrated by the above-mentioned online marketplace. Here, everything is on sale, from agricultural produce such as locally grown coffee and avocados to natural activated charcoal, shea butter, honey beauty products, and much more. This is a sure sign of the MSME growth taking place in South Sudan. The right policies and a framework for inclusive trade are coming together, and the South Sudanese are ready to take advantage of markets at home and abroad. 

[1] DTISU 2022

[2] DTISU 2022

[3] DTISU 2022

[4] https://www.undp.org/south-sudan/news/south-sudan-ministry-trade-industry-and-eac-affairs-takes-steps-align-east-africa-community-standards

[5] https://www.undp.org/south-sudan/publications/policy-brief-trade-peace-and-resilience-south-sudan

[6] https://www.undp.org/sites/g/files/zskgke326/files/migration/ss/Trade-for-Peace_Policy_Brief_Low-res.pdf

[7] https://civil-protection-humanitarian-aid.ec.europa.eu/where/africa/south-sudan_en

[8] https://unfccc.int/sites/default/files/resource/South-Sudan-First-NAP%20.pdf

[9] https://www.undp.org/south-sudan/news/undp-south-sudan-and-ministry-trade-industry-launch-new-e-commerce-hub

[10] DTISU2022 pp260


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Alors que la deuxième phase du Cadre intégré renforcé (CIR) touche à sa fin en 2024, l'objectif est de produire un catalogue de récits d'impact mettant en lumière les efforts du partenariat du CIR dans les pays les moins avancés (PMA) et les PMA récemment reclassés où il s'est activement investi. Le présent récit d'impact constitue l'un des récits du catalogue. Il a bénéficié de la contribution et des commentaires essentiels de la part des Unités nationales de mise en œuvre du CIR (UNMO) basées dans les pays et de l'ensemble de l'équipe du CIR.

L'objectif premier de chaque récit d'impact, ainsi que de l'ensemble du catalogue, est d'adopter une approche journalistique en relatant l'implication du CIR dans les PMA au cours de la Phase Une et Deux. Le but est de fournir des informations pertinentes et de documenter les résultats et les impacts, ainsi que certains enseignements tirés du travail du partenariat du CIR dans les PMA. Ces récits ne fournissent pas une vue d'ensemble de tous les aspects de l'implication du partenariat du CIR, tels que les calendriers précis ou l'étendue exacte de la participation (c'est-à-dire les contributions financières). Ils constituent plutôt un moyen d'information parmi d'autres sur le travail du partenariat du CIR. Les lecteurs intéressés sont encouragés à compléter ces récits d'impact en consultant d'autres sources, notamment les Rapports annuels du CIR, les articles des Nouvelles de l'Aide pour le commerce, les canaux de réseaux sociaux du CIR et, le cas échéant, les UNMO dans les PMA ainsi que le Secrétariat exécutif du CIR.

Il est essentiel de reconnaître que les informations fournies ne sont ni exhaustives (par exemple, elles sont basées sur les dernières données disponibles au moment de la rédaction en 2023) ni de nature évaluative. 

Enfin, bien que chaque récit d'impact adhère à une structure similaire, la diversité des pays, des contextes et des implications du CIR signifie que chaque histoire est unique.

Any views and opinions expressed on Trade for Development News are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect those of EIF.