This month, the Kiva Passport series will focus on South Sudan. South Sudan is a newly forming, beautiful country in Africa. Follow is this month while we learn about the country's intensive history, their growing microfinance sector, and dive into how microfinance has played a role in in the post-conflict aftermath in Sudan.
Sudan has a population of 45, 047, 502 people with a growth rate of 2.5% each year, and is the largest country in Africa. The entire country of Sudan has a GDP of almost $99 billion and a per capita of about $2,200. However, over 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. Again, these statistics are for the entire country of Sudan; however, the country fo Sudan voted to split at the beginning of this year. Kiva only works with a Field Partner in South Sudan, the new country to be formed in July! Kiva has loaned over $1 million to South Sudan in the past few years!
In 1956, Sudan gained independence from a joint British-Egyptian rule, a reign that governed Sudan since 1899. A series of civil war outbursts and military coups broke out in 1962, leading to violent tensions between the North and South. In 1972, an agreement was met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, between the Sudanese government and the rebel groups. Power struggles have plagued the border between Sudan and the southern region of the country, creating a race to claim oil that was discovered in Bentiu in 1978. in 1983, Islamic, or Sharia, law was imposed throughout Sudan.
The Rise of South Sudan
After 19 years of civil turmoil, an agreement was reached in 2002 to bring an end to the dispute between the Sudanese government and the Southern Sudanese rebel army. This agreement included the accusations by the rebels that the government continually neglected Darfur, which led to the creation of the Machakos Protocol where the conflicting parties agreed on principles to uphold the sovereignty and right of self-determination of South Sudan.
According to the results of the referendum that took place from January 9 - 15 of this year, Africa's largest country plans to separate into two independent states on July 9, 2011, six years after the signing of the peace agreement which brought to a halt the North-South violence. The questions at hand will ultimately determine the fate of South Sudan, such as how to divide Sudan's debts and oil wealth, whether the new country will mint its own currency, the rights of southerners in the North, and how vigorously the new border will be enforced. The Sudanese government has granted the right of its citizens to choose which nationality to inherit, but whether or not Islamic Law will have a strong presence in the South remains to be foreseen.
Southern Sudan has a landmass of approximately 239, 285 sq mi and is primarily covered in grasslands, swamps, and tropical forests - quite a stark contrast from the blanket of desert that dominates the North! The White Nile creates a divide between these two topographic extremes, passing from the Central African Republic, through Southern Sudan, and into Ethiopia. The natural resources and animal diversity of this area are continually threatened by outside influences who desire to extract natural resources.
People and Culture
The vast majority of people in the South practice traditional and/or indigenous beliefs while a substantial amount follow Christian-based practices. South Sudan is home to more than 200 ethnic groups and is one of the most linguistically diverse regions in Africa! Whereas most northerners are Arabic-speaking Muslims, the South collectively speaks English and Juba Arabic, a dialect very different from traditional Arabic. However, between 2 - 3 million people in South Sudan speak the native dialect of Dinka.
The people of South Sudan have fought for independence from the North because of the strict imposition of Sharia Law on the entire country. One extraordinary characteristic of South Sudan is the vast number of internally displaced people that resulted from the ongoing conflicts. Since the 2006 peace agreement, over 2 million people have returned to the country, not including the return of 200,000 refugees who have left their temporary stays in host countries such as Ethiopia, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Uganda. Many find that not only are they not able to return to their homes, but also there is a severe strain on basic human services, such as health and employment.
Recent post-conflict events in South Sudan have led to the reconstruction of this country's economy and government, and small businesses and entrepreneurial-ism are definitely playing a large role. The people who once resided here are gradually returning home to seek new opportunities and re-establish their homes. Microcredit has been playing a large part in the development of these citizen's financial lives and Kiva has been working to make financial access in South Sudan a reality in the lives of those affected by conflict!