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South Sudan, Chinese scholars vow to deepen collaboration on research and development

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South Sudanese scholars together with their Chinese counterparts on Friday vowed to deepen their collaboration on research and knowledge sharing in a bid to aid the development of their respective countries.

The two sides met at the third South Sudan-China Think Tank Forum held in Juba, to share knowledge and experiences on a wide range of key issues that are vital in the bilateral cooperation of the two countries.

Robert Mayom Deng, Vice Chancellor of the University of Juba said that the two countries need to deepen their existing cooperation in the education sector, adding these efforts will help both countries to build a knowledge sharing system which can impact capabilities for sustainable development and strengthen their partnership for common development.

“To achieve this goal of strengthening common development, there must be stability in the two nations. Therefore, China must work very hard to help our country achieve the political stability which we have been struggling for the last so many years,” Deng said.

The third South Sudan-China Think Tank Forum was held under the theme of “strengthening partnerships for common development”.

The South Sudan-China Think Tank Forum was established jointly by the Juba-based Institute for Strategic and Policy Studies and the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University.

The first forum was held in 2019 in Juba and the second forum took place in December 2021.

Deng said that China has a key role to play in bringing peace and stability in the youngest nation.

“As one of the greatest nations in the world, I am sure they can do that. This stability can sustain development of our nation because once we have this sustained development, then it is going to affect our population in a very positive way. China can do that by sharing knowledge and experience in capacity building,” he disclosed.

The University of Juba already has close partnership with the Institute of African Studies Zhejiang Normal University (IASZNU) in China which has seen several of it’s scholars enroll at the Chinese university.

Deng called for total commitment from both governments towards funding research facilities in both countries to realize the core objectives of their bilateral cooperation.

Liu Hongwu, director general at Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University, said that South Sudan is the heart of Africa and East Asia due to it’s vast unexploited mineral wealth.

“Today in China, many people always ask me why I always go to South Sudan, I told them that South Sudan is the heart of the African continent; South Sudan is the heart of East Asia. It is one of the important target countries for Chinese enterprises,” Liu said.

Barnaba Marial Benjamin, Chairperson of South Sudan-China Friendship Association, said that South Sudan is banking on China’s finances and technology to exploit it’s vast untapped mineral resources.

“South Sudan is enormously rich, there is no question about it, but we have no finances to kick it off, so with the Belt and Road project starting, giving 60 billion U.S dollars to the African countries, we thought that this would be a great opportunity for South Sudan to benefit because we had worked out a program since 2012,” he said.

He said the plan includes construction of 14,000 km of roads in order to reach the hinterland of the country where mineral resources are located.

Benjamin said that they have already established the China desk in the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation to fast track the implementation of projects under the 2012 program.

“It was formed on every clear program that we have projects to be financed through partnership, so that these projects will make the people of South Sudan benefit from their resources as well as our friends who will be in this partnership including the Chinese,” he disclosed.

Lin Chen, Secretary General of the Center for South Sudan Studies Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University and program analyst at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that over the past two years researchers at the Center for South Sudan Studies have published 8 papers and reports on South Sudan’s development .

She added that they have also successfully completed a comprehensive book on the geography and environment of South Sudan.

“The center has played a pivotal role in fostering intellectual dialogue, promoting understanding and contributing to the development and prosperity of China-South Sudan cooperation. While we take pride in these achievements, we are fully aware that there is still much more work to be done,” Lin said.

She revealed that Chinese and South Sudanese scholars, think tanks should collaborate together to strengthen applied research on the development agenda based on field work, adding that this will provide advice to the two countries on which critical areas they should cooperate on in the future.

Hanafi James Killa, the Acting Director of the Department of Asia and Oceania in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, appreciated the Chinese government and it’s people for standing with South Sudan during the previous conflicts by keeping their Chinese workers in the oil fields to maintain oil production.

He said that the partnership between China and South Sudan is critical not only in the oil sector but also in the development of agriculture, human resources, forestry and minerals.

“To unlock and exploit these resources needs partnering with China to achieve the key national interest of peace and development along with social- economic development. Developing agriculture and agro- products through joint agricultural pacts with Chinese enterprises will boost South Sudan’s economy and enable South Sudan to join regional and international supply chains,” Killa said.

Melha Ruot Biel, Executive Director of the Juba-based Institute for Strategic and Policy Studies, said that the South Sudan-China Think Tank Forum is very important in advancing not only bilateral cooperation but also people-to-people relations.

“This exchange (forum) alone is an important thing between China and South Sudan, you cannot do business when you don’t know one another, so it is a forum where you come and learn and exchange contact and continue to dialogue with one another even after the forum,” Biel said.

Leben Nelson Moro, a senior academic at the University of Juba, said that the Chinese government should not only focus on oil and other interesting sectors for investment but support South Sudan to achieve peace and stability.

“China and South Sudan over the years have been deepening partnership for mutual benefit, but its recommended that this relationship should be diversified, the focus on oil is great but also there is need to move to other areas and even to pay attention on peace building because we are coming to the end point of the implementation of the peace agreement,” Moro said.

Ma Qiang, Chinese Ambassador to South Sudan, said that the China-South Sudan Think Tank Forum  has played a positive role in promoting the overall development of bilateral relations by tightening the bonds of people through the exchange and integration of ideas, enhancing mutual understanding through learning from each other, and serving the greater good of both nations.

“Firstly, we should jointly implement the Global Development Initiative, deepening China-South Sudan pragmatic cooperation across the board. Development is the master key to solving all problems, and it’s also placed at the center of our cooperation,” Ma said.

He said that the Chinese government stands ready to promote high-quality development of China-South Sudan cooperation, and to give more support to the economic and social development of South Sudan under the frameworks of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC.)

The South Sudan-China Think Tank Forum aims to further promote the academic research strength of China and South Sudan, share experience on policy research, social and economic development, environmental protection and other fields, and continue to inject momentum into the development of cooperation between China and South Sudan.

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