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Central Bank Boosts Cross- Border Trade, Financial Inclusion

Cross- border trade has of recent received major boost with the opening of the branch of the Bank of South Sudan in Aweil town of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State.

The once booming trade between South Sudan and neighboring Sudan has been disrupted following outbreak of conflict in Sudan in April 2023.

The majority of people in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, which lies in north-west South Sudan on the border with Sudan, depend heavily on trade and imports from East Darfur and West Kordofan in Sudan.

The opening of the branch of the central bank is among the key policies of the government to stimulate economic growth amid high inflation caused by over-reliance on oil revenues.

James Alic Garang, the Governor of the Bank of South Sudan, said last week during the opening ceremony of the branch in Aweil, that the motive of this initiative is aimed to stimulate cross border trade not only with Sudan, but also among neighboring States of Northern Bahr el Ghazal like Warrap, Western Bahr el Ghazal, and Abyei Administrative Area.

He noted that the new branch will not only improve revenue collection by State officials, but also lessen the risks related to revenue collection exercise, and at the same time will allow the Bank of South Sudan to foster financial inclusion and economic development in Aweil and the neighboring areas of Abyei and Twic in Warrap State.

“Opening of the branch in Aweil signifies the government’s directive and policy intention around bringing the proverbial towns to the people, not only will the bank bring financial services to Aweil but it will also create some jobs to locals in the State,” Alic said.

Alic said that commercial banks stand to benefit from the central bank’s presence in Aweil because this reduces financial security risks and logistical costs.

More commercial banks are expected to open branches in Aweil town, where Kenya Commercial Bank, Ivory Bank and Eden Bank remain the dominant players.

State officials and civil servants in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, will no longer incur costs of traveling to Wau town in neighboring Western Bahr el Ghazal State to transact business or receive salaries.

“When the government wants to pay salaries they (civil servants) go to Wau, and when Wau branch runs out of local currency they go to Juba, and you can imagine the cost of flying a plane from Juba to Wau or transporting cash by road, once we have a branch here the State government would find it easy to deposit revenue collection to the government account as well as paying salaries,” Alic said.

He also repeated his mantra of encouraging local production among the people of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, saying it’s the critical thing to mitigate the economic hardship in the country.

 “When we produce more, we consume more and export the surplus abroad which at the same time brings us foreign currency,” Alic said.

Alic has opened so far 8 branches of the central bank since being appointed the Governor of the Bank of South Sudan in October 2023.

Governor James Alic Garang (3rd-Left) in a group photo with State leaders and MPs in Aweil on June 28th, 2024.

David Deng, Chairperson of the State Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, said the central bank branch will reduce the burden of carrying bulk cash.

“The business community in the State will no longer carry bulk money from Aweil town to Wau town of Western Bahr el Ghazal State, and this central bank branch can help them to keep their money safe,” Deng said

He also noted that the presence of the central bank branch will ease access to hard currency for the business community.

Deng Makol Akuei, Chairperson of the Traders Union in Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, said traders who import goods from neighboring Uganda and Kenya will no longer struggle to exchange their local South Sudan Pounds for dollars.

“Traders import goods from neighboring Uganda and Kenya, and this requires hard currency which takes one to two months to get,” Makol said.

Makol expressed optimism of the economy recovering with the opening of branches of the central bank across the country.

South Sudan is currently mired in economic crisis due to the weakening of the South Sudan Pound (SSP) against the dollar. The dollar is exchanging with the SSP at around 310000 in the parallel market.

Tong Lual Ayat, Deputy Governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, said the central bank branch will help provide loans to support small scale farmers through the Agricultural Bank of South Sudan.

“We are going to see small scale farmers supported with loans to boost agricultural production, small scale enterprises will also benefit, and the humanitarian organizations which bank their money in commercial banks in Juba will now be able to do the same here in Aweil,” Lual said.

Dominic Kang Deng, State Minister of Land, Housing and Public Utilities, said that they have often been facing inadequate cash in the State, adding that the branch of the central bank will put this inconsistency to an end.

Mel Wal Achien, MP Aweil West County praised President Salva Kiir Mayardit for supporting the central bank’s initiative of opening up branches of the central bank across the 10 States and three administrative areas.

“We are standing with your (Alic) leadership as people of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, we hope that this time our farmers will be able to access loans to buy farm inputs such as seedlings, chemicals and farm equipment,” Achien said.

Northern Bahr el Ghazal State shares a border with South Darfur to the north-west, East Darfur to the north and West Kordofan to the north-east.

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