Issue 1, May 2008
|Various International Investors|
Since independence, there has been a scramble for Sudan’s agricultural and mineral wealth from interested outside investors. The history of oil concessions in Sudan reads like a novel of international business intrigue. (See Oil and Conflict Timeline in Background Resources.) A constantly changing cast of characters has bought and sold shares of the partially state-owned oil businesses, created international consortia to get around sanctions, and brokered deals that consistently shield Khartoum from financial ruin. These arrangements have softened International Monetary Fund (IMF) punishment for nonpayment of debts and facilitated corruption. From Chevron to Arakis to Talisman, foreign nationals and Khartoum cronies have created and dissolved and recreated various corporations whose activities intersected the various military crises facing the country. Today, oil wealth remains primarily in the North to the detriment of the development of the South (where the oil fields are located) and there is considerable controversy about the credibility of maps showing oil reserves in the West (where the Darfur crisis is raging). US corporations have been largely unable to capitalize on Sudan’s resources due to sanctions, although many have exploited loop holes by forming minority interests and holding companies. Most eagerly await a peaceful resolution to Darfur in hopes that it will reopen a lucrative Sudanese oil market, which is currently dominated by China, and to a lesser extent, Pakistan.
This desire to unseat China as Sudan’s largest foreign investor looms large as the world watches China’s meteoric rise as a global economic tiger. Desire to enter a lucrative emerging market and check the domination of Chinese investment is always an agenda, spoken or not.