Interview with H.E. Ibrahim Ahmad Abd Al-Aziz Ghandour, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sudan

Global Insight : Can you please give us an overview of Sudan’s foreign policy and the efforts implemented to maintain solid diplomatic relations with countries worldwide?

A. Sudan lies in an important geographical position, linking east Africa with west Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa with tropical Africa. With this location, Sudan is an important gateway to the whole continent. Sudan is an important micro-chromosome of Africa. There is no African tribe which is not represented here, and because of that central position we have had significant migration waves across the continent. With its riches, old civilisations, and all it economic potential, from mining to oil to gas, agriculture and water, Sudan is a country that is destined to be an important partner in the international community. Unfortunately, there are lot of longstanding misconceptions in the media. Some are of our own creation, but others have been inflicted on us in attempts to soil our image. It has been our policy to interact, to integrate, to negotiate, and to discuss with different partners in the international community in order to present the real image of our country. This is why we have addressed Europe, as an individual country and alongside our neighbours. We have spoken to the US several times and discussed our situation. Of course, our direct neighbours in Africa and the Arab region have been very supportive and we enjoy good relations with them. Today you can’t stand on your own against everybody else; you need to collaborate, interact and integrate.

GI : Q. Last October you welcomed the 2030 Agenda at the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly. Sudan is working towards an ambitious 2030 Vision implementing its plan of action for sustainable development. With a focus on eradicating poverty, providing adequate social and health insurance and maintaining the integrity of Sudan. What are your views on Sudan’s 2030 Vision?

A. We are a partial partner in the internationally community, and we have our international strategy programmes as well as being part of the 2063 African Union agenda, which is focused on tackling poverty and achieving basic human needs for communities that include health, education, electricity and housing. For this reason, our strategy is based in particular on eradicating poverty. We are targeting human development and building human resources through education. We have more than 100 universities and colleges. Sudan is focusing on youth development in trying to provide microfinance to young people for self-employment, and this has been a policy for a long time. But regional integration is an important part of our policies in economic development and achieving our Vision 2030 international agenda. We are part of COMESA, and part of the horn of Africa. Sudan is linked to its neighbours by road and we are planning to extend our railway services to neighbouring countries. Some neighbours are already using Port Sudan and South Sudan.

GI : Sudan has a strategic location, as an entrance to Africa from the east, and is surrounded by other African countries to which Sudan offers access to the coastline. Please expand on the major factors that appeal to foreign investors and on the role the Sudanese government plays in facilitating business?

DThe unilateral US sanctions have definitely had a great effect on Sudan, not on the government but on its people and also on our neighbours. Lifting those economic sanctions will bring resources, attract investors and utilise the country’s high potential, particularly in the agricultural sector, and will provide food for the country and the region. Sudan has been ranked ninth for agricultural potential, but this has been prevented by the economic sanctions. There is also high potential for underground water in Sudan.

GI : Japan’s commitment to Africa, and especially to Eastern African countries, has been remarkable. Back in 2014, Prime Minister Abe’s administration pledged 32 billion USD in new aid, investment and loans for 2013-2017 in Africa. According to Bloomberg, Japanese companies accounted for 3.5 billion USD invested in Africa in 2014, out of 4.2 billion USD invested by Asian countries, a 160% rise that made it the largest Asian investor of African business that year. Amid these signs of commitment to investment in Africa, what are your views and hopes to enhance relations between Japan and Sudan, and how this can benefit the two countries?

I have just come from the TICAD VI in Nairobi, an excellent organisation with a high presence of African countries and International organisations such as the UN, the World Bank, the UNDP and the Japanese counterparts. We had two important meetings as well as the conference. One was an important meeting with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, in which we discussed the history of our bilateral diplomatic, trade and economic relations and we agreed to enhance and strengthen those relations. We thanked Japan for the support it gave us through JICA and for the support of our bilateral and economic relations. We invited the minister to visit Sudan, and he will look into his schedule and try to visit us. We also asked him to arrange a meeting with Sudanese Investment Authorities with Japanese investors in Tokyo, and we are waiting for the final response to that request. The other meeting was with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and a group of TICAD and COMSESA leaders, where we discussed how Japan can cooperate with different regions in Africa. And the first Vice-President who leads the Sudanese delegation made an important proposal of the establishment of a Japanese-African Bank. Over the last three years Japan has spent 33.5 billion USD, which is a large amount compared to other investors in the continent, so a Japanese-African Bank would be an accelerator for Japanese investment in Africa, and would enhance cooperation between Japan and different African nations. Unilateral Sanctions, imposed since 1993 following the country’s inclusion on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, effectively blocked Sudan’s eligibility for the loans and grants from the International Financial Institutions (IFI). Aid and developmental assistance including technical, cultural and scientific exchange, was halted. For that reason, Sudan had to foster close and solid ties with Asian countries, especially Japan, which have offered great support to our country.

GI : Q. How do you view the importance of providing the Japanese diplomatic community with solid and verifiable facts about Sudan?

It is imperative for Sudan to communicate internationally the steps that the country is taking towards sustainable development, peace and security, in order to change the perceptions and break the stereotypes held by the international community.

GI : What is your final message?

A. I would like to say that I attended the TICAD VI as a Minister of Foreign Affairs and I recognised the strength of Japanese relations with different nations in Africa. As a Minister of Foreign Affairs, I value very highly the efforts that Japanese diplomats are making in our country and the efforts to promote the relation between Japan and Sudan. So the only thing I can say is keep up the good work, Africa is the continent of the future. Japan has achieved remarkable growth in economic development, particularly in technology, and Africa needs that know-how. The Japanese need African markets and resources. We can work together in order to access markets in Africa and add value to the continent.