Over the past 61 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Sudan, economic and trade cooperation has always been the material foundation and a key pillar of the friendly partnership between the two sides. Looking back, China and Sudan have achieved fruitful outcomes in their booming economic and trade cooperation. Looking ahead, economic and trade cooperation between China and Sudan is poised for strong momentum and bright prospects.
Built on a Solid Foundation, China-Sudan Economic and Trade Cooperation Has Secured Remarkable Achievements
China-Sudan cooperation spearheads and sets a good example for China’s cooperation with Africa and provides a model for South-South cooperation. Sudan was among the first countries to actively respond to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and to sign the agreement on Belt and Road cooperation with China. Historically, Sudan’s port of Suakin was the gathering point for ancient Chinese trade caravans to Africa, acting as the link between China and Arabian and African countries. Nowadays, pragmatic cooperation between the two nations on economic, trade, infrastructure, investment, medical care and other areas have achieved satisfactory results. China remains the largest trading partner of Sudan for years on end, with investment made by over 130 Chinese companies in economic, livelihood and other fields in Sudan adding up to over USD 13 billion.
China-Sudan oil cooperation is a successful example of drawing on each other’s merits to pursue mutual benefit and win-win results. Since 1995, Chinese and Sudanese oil enterprises have conducted close cooperation. Thanks to abundant oil deposits in Sudan and strong capital, mature practices and advanced technology from China, they successfully established the black oil industrial chain that engages in all upstream and downstream sectors, including oil exploitation, oil refining and petrochemical trade, and cultivated a large group of oil professionals. Their oil cooperation has brought in USD 60 billion in fiscal revenue and foreign exchange earnings of USD 40 billion. Sudan’s economic growth experienced its golden decade.
China-Sudan agricultural cooperation contributes to modernizing Sudan’s agricultural industry, bringing benefits to both peoples. Agricultural cooperation has evolved into a new engine of growth in bilateral cooperation. The two countries have set up the Executive Committee on China-Sudan Agricultural Cooperation, jointly established the China-Sudan Agricultural Cooperation Development Zone and the China Aid Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center in Sudan, and conducted triangular and South-South cooperation among China, Sudan and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. So far, China has organized 56 training programs on agricultural technology for a total of 255 trainees in Sudan. By the end of 2019, the new cotton variety bred by the China Aid Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center in Sudan, known as “China No.1”, has been grown in approximately 300,000 hectares, which enables 2,500 farmers to obtain their wealth and 30,000 locals to have their jobs. Cooperation in cotton growing has delivered tangible benefits to local farmers.
China-Sudan port cooperation gives a strong boost to the handling capacity of the port of Sudan and propels the development of port industries and foreign trade in regions adjacent to the Red Sea. Since 1997 when China-Sudan cooperation on port development was initiated, port cooperation has extended to many fields, ranging from marine works, dredging and reclamation, construction of highways and bridges, to civil construction and port mechanics. As a result, the then 15-berth port of Sudan which was able to accommodate 20,000-DWT vessels is gradually transformed into a 25-berth integrated port on the Red Sea that is now capable to accommodate vessels up to 70,000 DWT and reaches an annual throughput of eight million tonnes. It has been the gateway of Sudan and even North Africa to the world, and facilities Sudan’s opening up and regional economic growth via logistics and import and export trade.
China-Sudan infrastructure cooperation benefits a broad number of locals and lays foundation for Sudan’s economic and social development. In the years following the construction of the Friendship Hall and the Omdurman Friendship Hospital aided by the Chinese side, Chinese enterprises have engaged in Sudan’s construction projects in a variety of areas, ranging from highways, bridges, house construction to water conservancy, electricity and communications. Among the key projects they were tasked with are three massive dams, namely the Merowe Dam, the Roseires Dam and the Upper Atbara Hydro Junction, and “six highways and one bridge” including the Sinnar Bridge. As more highways open and electricity and water supply become increasingly available, it provides the foundation for economic and social development of the country.
China-Sudan Economic and Trade Cooperation Has Bright Prospects If Their Complementary Advantages Are Maximized
With a vast territory of 1.88 million square kilometers and a population of 40 million people, Sudan is endowed with abundant natural resources, including good natural harbors on the Red Sea and the Blue and White Niles, which embodies a unique potential of development. And China, the world’s second largest economy, has solid financial strength, mature technological experience and thorough industrial systems. Their complementary advantages and highly compatible demands will create great potential and space for cooperation.
Under the framework of the BRI and the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum (CASCF), China will integrate dominant resources of the two sides to make the pie of shared interests even bigger. It will also explore new engines and drivers to boost cooperation for common development, while deepening existing cooperation between the two nations.
Sudan’s superiority in natural resources needs to be maximized to create whole industrial chains for agriculture and animal husbandry. Sudan, a large agrarian and animal-husbandry country on the African continent rich in land, freshwater and labor resources, was once regarded as the “granary of Africa”. Farming and animal husbandry are the economic mainstay of Sudan, contributing one third to the country’s GDP and 40% to its employment. However, merely 28% of the 74 million hectares arable land has been in use for planting, and among 100 million livestock on hand, only five million head of it is exported every year. This implies that Sudan has tremendous space for development. China is ready to actively prompt enterprises to exploit the China-Sudan Agricultural Cooperation Development Zone in continuing developing cash crops like sesame, peanut and alfalfa and extending the white cotton industrial chain. They will also be inspired to, through the China-aid slaughterhouse program and others, enhance the added value of livestock products to build the red animal-husbandry industrial chain. Moreover, relying on oil and mineral resources, they will be encouraged to actively explore cooperative development of mineral resources while expanding oil cooperation.
The potential of harbors in Sudan needs to be fully tapped to boost the economy of regions bordering the Red Sea and the Nile. The port of Sudan and the port of Suakin, two major ports with spillover effects westward on multiple landlocked countries, play as vital access to sea for the hinterland of Africa. The Nile rivers are the treasure-house of freshwater resources and the main artery for shipping. China would like to actively promote the implementation of the agreement on cooperative development of the port of Sudan among Chinese and Sudanese enterprises and work together with the Sudanese side to push forward the construction of the Red Sea special economic zone. Through certain key projects including one aimed at waterway dredging for the Nile, China and Sudan will collaboratively exploit the shipping and tourism resources along the Nile rivers. Furthermore, the Red Sea cargo distribution center will be built based on the bond of friendship between Port Sudan and Qiangdao and through the utilization of premium resources of “two ports and the Nile”.
Focus needs to be put on infrastructure weakness to facilitate cooperation in soft and hard infrastructure. Electricity is supplied in less than 60% of places across Sudan, with per capita power consumption as low as 190 kilowatt hours per annum. Certain sections of the 5978-km railway network are now in some disrepair. Cell phone signals are available in less than 80% of the regions in the country, and network availability and connection quality are far from enough to meet people’s needs. All of these illustrate that it is imperative to improve local infrastructure related to electricity, railways, airports and communications. China is willing to continue with its participation in Sudan’s infrastructure construction by pushing ahead the new Khartoum International Airport project, the satellite navigation program and other key projects, deepening bilateral cooperation on soft infrastructure in health and education, new infrastructure in information technology and hard infrastructure in transport, in an effort to direct Belt and Road cooperation between China and Sudan towards high-quality and sustainable development and improvement in people’s living conditions.
Nothing cannot be done by people with one heart and one mind. China and Sudan face shared interests and opportunities in their future cooperation, for which the two peoples have full expectations. China stands ready to join hands with Sudan to upgrade their practical cooperation on the basis of past achievements, and write a new chapter of Belt and Road cooperation along the Nile rivers.