Webinar highlights South Sudan’s commitment towards its oil and gas sector

SS PR South Sudan, set to capitalise on renewed peace, has pegged 2020 as a year of stability and economic growth, underpinned by the country’s revived oil and gas sector

Despite COVID-19 sending the global energy sector into turmoil, South Sudan has committed to economic progress, exploration, and exploitation of the country's energy potential.

This and more was unpacked by the African Energy Chamber and Africa Oil and Power in a webinar on 27 July. Under the theme ‘Preserving Economic Progress in the Face of COVID-19,’ the webinar brought together top executives from the country’s energy and finance sectors. Panellists included Robert Mdeza, CEO, Trinity Energy; Makear Michael Dot, CEO, Nile Petroleum Services; Jacob Manyuon Deng, director general for planning and projects, South Sudan Electricity Corporation and Felix Ataro, Corporate Banking head, Stanbic Bank Kenya.

The webinar provided insight into how COVID-19 is affecting the country’s economic progress. According to Makear Michael Dot, “COVID-19 has [had an extreme] effect on the entire globe and South Sudan is a part of it because we are not isolated from the whole world.

“Since South Sudan is a landlocked country, we depend on our neighbouring regional countries for our gateway into the global market for the logistics and delivery of different services. Despite that we are a young nation that has been independent since 2011, so we are in need of a lot of expertise to come especially from South East Asia where the [pandemic] started.”

Despite these implications, Makear Michael Dot has noted that the country maintains the need to move forward with existing plans and projects.

According to Jacob Manyuon Deng, “We were in a situation where we had a lot of plans to develop. People in South Sudan are in dire need of electricity. COVID-19 has impacted the economy, especially the energy sector, but we must keep on developing the plans. Even though there is an impact, we must work very hard to ensure the economy is surviving.”

Robert Mdeza provided insight into the accessibility of funds for organisations, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have taken a medium to long-term view about our projects in the country. We work with Stanbic and other banks locally, for our local needs. We have taken a long-term commitment to the country. But we basically work with everybody because of the nature of our transactions. For us to handle the flows we have to have many connecting places.”

Additional information concerning investment project attraction was provided by Felix Ataro: “Attracting investments into the country is quite important, however, from a commercial banking point of view, I wouldn’t say there is much that has gone into that. The kind of organisations that will be better at that would be the Developmental Financial Institutions (DFI’s) because they have mechanisms to be able to manage that. Infrastructure at the moment has come from DFI’s. Banks have to think beyond the commercial type of interest that [they] would earn money and look at the other elements like being part of a community. Each bank is coming up with its own strategy.”

The discussion also touched on the issue of sanctions for the country, which Felix Ataro explained has increasingly become a headache for financial institutions. “Especially for us to be able to guarantee safe transfer funds for our clients in and out of the country. It is increasingly becoming quite a bit of a pain on a daily basis with international correspondents, banking partners and financial institutions. Again, we should not just be commercially oriented, we should also look at how do we contribute to development because that's about community,” he said.

Final words from Makear Michael Dot underlined that local content is the only way to compete with international companies and achieve development in the country. “The government, the private sector, the companies and the financial institutions are getting improved. For the environment, we would like to encourage all technologies to be implemented in order to produce oil in various ways.”

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