Is Sudan being exploited by foreign powers?

Opposition leaders in Sudan say its military rulers are being exploited by foreign powers, eager to take advantage of the country’s natural resources and strategic location.

A power-sharing deal has recently been reached between the military and opposition groups – but Sudan’s political future remains uncertain.

So which countries are involved with Sudan and what are they hoping to gain?

Who’s buying Sudan’s resources?

The United Arab Emirates is Sudan’s biggest destination for exports. It buys most of the country’s lucrative money-earner, gold.

Second is China, which imports significant amounts of crude oil.

Sudan’s oil industry was once a much larger proportion of its economy – but when South Sudan broke away in 2011, most of its oil fields went with it.

Oil now accounts for just 1% of Sudan’s economy, compared with just under 20% in 2011.

The next significant destination for Sudan’s goods is Saudi Arabia, which buys mostly livestock.

Destinations of Sudan’s exports in 2018

(US$ millions)

Source: Central Bank of Sudan

With the drop in oil exports, Sudan has sought to bolster its agriculture sector – and this has involved granting land leases to foreign powers.

Sudan has agreed to lease millions of acres to Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Turkey and China, and is in the process of making similar deals for other countries, including Jordan, Egypt and the UAE.

Regional rivals are vying for contracts

Sudan’s coastline, on the Red Sea, is an important shipping route, close to the continuing war in Yemen, and various countries are vying for influence.

Most of the country’s trade currently passes through Port Sudan.

However, a contract worth $2.4bn (£1.9bn) to develop and operate the port, granted to a Philippine company, has been suspended by the ruling Transitional Military Council (TMC), following a strike by workers earlier this year.

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