Khartoum(ANN)-Some of them Western and Arab countries pledged a total $1.8 billion in aid to Sudan on Thursday in efforts to help the struggling African nation, one year after pro-democracy protesters forced the removal of the country’s longtime autocratic ruler, Omar al-Bashir.
The pledges from 40 countries, including an additional $400 million grant from the World Bank, came during a video conference hosted by Berlin, which marks the formal launch of the international community’s financial support for Sudan’s democratic transition after three decades of punitive sanctions and isolation under al-Bashir.
Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said Thursday’s conference was just the beginning on the path to helping Sudan, and that donors would reconvene early next year.
“We are extremely delighted, satisfied and happy with this response,” said Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a former economist with the United Nations. “For 30 years, we have longed for this.”
Although the conference presented an unprecedented amount of international support, pledges fell far short of the $8 billion that Hamdok has said Sudan will need to rescue its plunging economy.
Sudan’s interim government has been grappling with an economic crisis since it took office last year, also navigating a treacherous transition to civilian rule. On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated Sudan’s economic despair, throwing millions of casual laborers out of work.
Drastic shortages of basic goods nationwide have generated deep frustration, forcing people to line up for hours to buy bread or get fuel. Many of Thursday’s pledges will be used to fund an ambitious $1.9 billion cash transfer program to Sudan’s neediest families, around 80% of the population, over the course of two years.
“This is about helping the government to build political capital domestically so that it can show civilians that they’re capable of responding to all the slogans of the revolution,” said Jonas Horner, senior Sudan analyst at the International Crisis Group.
Acting USAID administrator John Barsa said the U.S. would give $356.2 million toward development aid and democratic transition programs.
Since the coup that toppled Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir economic problems were evident in that country, political fragmentation and a deteriorating standard of living in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the transitional government of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok still enjoys the confidence of the population.
The Islamist military kleptocracy it replaced had ruled Sudan for three decades. Under President Bashir, the regime invested primarily in the military but neglected energy, health and the long-overdue modernization of agriculture. Revenues from currency transactions, gold smuggling and investment deals flowed straight into the bank accounts of members of the party/military complex.