Effective operational reengagement in transition states can often pose a tall order, especially after protracted periods of conflicts. Indeed, the imperative for increased development operations in a fragile state is often dictated by the tremendous development needs on the ground. But this is usually a time of constrained policy environment, due largely to capacity gaps, when enormous weaknesses in institutions constrain absorptive
capacity and thus impede the speed of response to such development needs.
In Sudan, the situation was no different in 2007 when the Bank took the bold step to open the Sudan Country Office, a landmark decision in revitalizing the Bank’s operational relationship with the country, which had dwindled since 1995 due to accumulated arrears. In Sudan’s case, therefore, beyond the usual transitional challenges of capacity and weak institutions, the predicament of effective operational engagement was compounded by the arrears and debt situation, residual tensions between Sudan and South Sudan, and the country’s constrained relations with the international community.
For the Bank, the added-value of its presence on the ground was prodigious, giving it a strategic impetus to step up its policy dialogue, technical assistance, capacity building and targeted operations, at a time when it was most needed. For the host country, it was an exceptional opportunity to welcome the institution to its native home, having been founded in Khartoum in 1963 over half a century ago. The enthusiasm for mutual cooperation between the host and the guest soon gave the Bank a unique niche that saw it assume leadership in supporting the country’s quest for reengagement with the international community, especially on the issues of arrears clearance and debt relief, resolving the outstanding post-secession issues with South Sudan, resolution of internal conflicts, and taking innovative approaches to urgently avail needed development financing.
The Bank’s lead role in providing technical assistance to the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP) since 2010 has played an exceptional role in resolving contentious post-secession issues between Sudan and South Sudan. On debt relief, the Bank was an instrumental part of the technical work towards meeting debt relief requirements, serving on a Technical Working Group (TWG) that also comprised the World Bank, the IMF and the Paris Club. These contributions have not only raised the profile of the Bank in the country but also positioned it as a trusted partner, and thus a first port of call in the country’s quest for development assistance.
Through innovatively tapping into trust funds and facilities, the Bank today counts among Sudan’s biggest donors, with an active portfolio of close to USD 200 million in key sectors including governance, accountability in public financial management and social service delivery, among others. These operations are financed with exceptionally approved resources from the Transitional Support Facility, the African Water Facility, the Special Relief Funds, Bilateral Trust Funds, and from the Regional Operations Window. Building on these achievements, the Bank’s strategic direction engagement in Sudan, going forward, will be guided by the “High 5s”, with strong emphasis on those relating to “Feed Africa” and improving the livelihoods of Africans. These are currently among the top priorities for the country.
* Dr Abdul B. Kamara is the Bank’s Resident Rep. for Sudan; e-mail: email@example.com