BY: JUMA MABOR, NAIROBI, OCT. 18/2012, SSN; The issue of foreign citizens influx into the nascent Republic of South Sudan has been very controversial and it is not without concern that various commentators have in the past ruthlessly given their strongest sentiments about the worrying occupancy of foreigners at every level of our economy.
At the personal level, I have had reservations on the outburst against the foreigners who go and/or come to South Sudan for business related activities and this position has been motivated and inspired by the consideration that south Sudanese during their struggle for independence were and are still scattered worldwide and the host countries have and had given them the hospitality that they then and now deserved.
However, these statuses were not without some obstacles here or there but determination was the underlying factor that the south Sudanese had as they endured all manner of mistreatment that come with being a foreigner in a far away borders.
It was also during these difficult times that south Sudanese learnt that, besides respecting and upholding the laws of the host state, there were also limitations and boundaries that foreigners cannot cross into with regards to business engagements and other related activities. South Sudanese also learnt that, there are in a host or foreign countries areas of jurisdiction that are non-accessible to foreigners no matter their status in that country.
South Sudanese also got it into their different skulls that their political opinions no matter how extra ordinary and idealistic they maybe are non-consequential in the political scenario of the host state and therefore were never needed. These and other limitations were very much adhered to by the south Sudan nationals in order for them to avoid an embarrassment of deportation and payment of huge and exorbitant fines from the police to the courts although even with all the observance of such laws, 99.9 percent of south Sudanese who went to foreign countries will agree with me that each if not all of them parted with money to support their documents as was the common phrase from our closer neighbors.
What am I aiming at by giving this story? The answer is simple, when I visited south Sudan recently, I, without much hesitations agreed with those who have been enlightening the citizens of South Sudan that the foreigners are the ones frustrating the growth of our economy and of course with the help of some few national perpetrators who intend to loot the meager resources of our infant and virgin nation.
These malicious intentions are being orchestrated at several levels of our economy including the employment of foreign citizens in our civil service but first thing first, I want to share with the readers some of the industries that are exclusively owned by foreigners and they are making a lot of money out of these areas with impunity and improper regulations.
For instance, let us talk about the transport industry and I urge my readers to understand this sector as including the airlines, the bus companies, the mini bus commonly known as (Matatu), the Bodaboda Motorcycle industries and all other means of transportation of people, goods and services which are all being controlled by not less than 99.9 percent foreigners and it is only in south Sudan that you would wake up and before you get to your office, take breakfast at the foreign owned canteen, purchase airtime from a foreign owned kiosk, ask the foreign shoe shiner to clean your shoe, ask a foreigner to take you to the main road to access an Eritrean owned Matatu to take you to your final work station and possibly at the office ask the foreigner (your secretary) to give you your days dairy activities and at lunch time take the same route to lunch at Ethiopian restaurant before you use all the previous means of transport and procedures to get back to your house as some of our civil servants do not return to office after lunch.
Now, the bottom-line for all these chronology is to show that it is only in south Sudan where foreigners can be drivers at the transport industry like Matatu, it is here that they can also be conductors and it is even here that they can engage in Bodaboda business and operate small kiosks without any piece of license stuck to their mischief made premises.
In countries especially that are neighboring south Sudan, some of their citizens in one an unforgettable encounter paralyzed the government functions by demonstrating before the offices of the president and the prime minister for several days on the basis that certain Chinese citizens, in fact very few of them have resorted to retailing the china made phones along one of the infamous street in the city and this actions by Chinese were perceived to be an intention to venture into businesses that are preserves for the locals.
Secondly, as south Sudanese in the same country, getting your change after paying your bus or Matatu fares is next to impossibility because giving back the change to a foreigner is not mandatory or right but a choice that is entirely at the prerogatives of the conductor and as a foreigner, you should have persuasive skills if you wish to get some returns from what you have initially paid.
This issue has caused most south Sudanese teeth and other bodily-inflicted injuries in their encounters with Matatu owners and the police in that particular country. On the other hand, any business that is seen to engage so many foreigners as potential customers like some indigenous food joints bring a lot of competition between such business owners and their competitors and ultimately, the people with such businesses end up being murdered or if lucky, forced to close down their businesses as a result of perpetrated difficulties to get them out of the market.
Do not be mistaken, these are all nationals of the same country but because the other one is engaging in the business that attracts foreigners as customers and get for him/her more money than the competitor, then the alternative as to be explore to get rid of him/her.
These are the extents to which other countries and their citizens can go to block out foreigners from taking up their business sector. There is no slightest opportunity for foreigners to do any business in such countries because for one, the competition is too steep and worse enough, there are those businesses that are exclusively for locals and no foreigner can be allowed to register them even when they have capital and interested to open such businesses. These kinds of businesses are like the ones on transport industry that I have mentioned above.
Another abused sector of our economy is the hotel industry where almost all the residential areas in and around Juba have been leased out to the Foreigners as hotels and particularly to Ethiopians and Eritreans investors or so they called themselves.
The worrying factor with these kinds of business is morally and economically obvious for example, in every city planning, there are areas designated for business activities and those that are residential and this is vital because its preserves the serenity of the household safety as well as comfort and observations of family morals and stability while noise pollution is avoided.
In Juba, Ethiopians/Eritreans have constructed hotels and neighboring them are family houses and in these hotels, there are private rooms, restaurant, bar and all avenues for leisure and herein the house adjacent to it is a family house with a young girl, a wife and a father who can in a blink of an eye access all the activities that takes place at the hotel and either become inspired or traumatized.
This experience itself can have two fold impacts, one, it may destroy the moral status of our society as girls, young men and even house wives will find it easy to engage in immoral activities like fornication, infidelity or adultery and drunkenness because as, one Nigerian actor said, and I quote: Proximity is tantamount to accessibility.
I also think this can be used as stepping stone to venture into and overindulge in immoral activities by these vulnerable groups and citizens of our country.
Two, the peace, tranquility and comfortability that is usually associated with being in the comfort of your own home after a long day of activities is nonexistent in such neighborhoods as these hotels open loud music into the night for purposes of entertaining their customers. It is also during these times that the intoxicated/drunken forget their manners and caused havoc thus awakening or forcing the neighbors to remain awake as their utterances may sometimes sound unbearable.
In all these dramas, the funny scenario is that, unlike many business premises that operate in other countries including Eritrea and Ethiopia, every Ethiopian/Eritrean hotel in south Sudan operates like they are all five star hotels because the charges for both accommodation and foods are very exorbitant.
For example, you can pay a room for SSP 350 a night which is equivalent to U.S. Dollars 120 or so and I do not know how much this can be in Eritrean or Ethiopian Monies. Funny enough and again unlike other hotels in other countries, the licenses under which these hotels operate are nowhere affixed to the walls to tell the customers the limits and legitimacy of their operations.
Let us go again to another area of concern, which is water supply around Juba and its surroundings. I will only make some precise remarks about this area not because I lack information but because sometimes, it is prudent to leave some things to common sense.
Now in this area, the Eritreans/Ethiopians are the ones supplying water using their water tankers and again charging exorbitant fee to the locals. This is a project where revenues could be raised if the city council of Juba had initiated it and exercised the monopoly of being the only water supplier to its city residents. This can as well bring assurance as well as enabling the council to increase it GDP.
I am not saying private companies should not be allowed to engage in this business but all I am trying to contribute is that this is another obvious sector where easy money can be accessed by the city council. The private companies can initiate the same projects but it will only be left to customers as to which supplier they would choose depending on the charges and level of service delivery between the city council and the private companies.
In addition, I am not going to talk about the employment of foreigners in our government institutions not because I am not against the issue with all the consequences involved but simply because I have like many other colleagues who have previously commented about it, confirmed that the government has to the highest degree of contempt ignored this concern and I think it should be left at that as we all await the repercussions.
However, at this very juncture, I want to go straight to the way forward in the face of these glaring economic challenges.
One, the government and the people of the republic of south Sudan must know that there are some businesses that you cannot allow foreigners to engage in no matter their connections, these includes Bodaboda, Matatu industry with exception that the company can be owned by a foreigner but the employees like drivers and conductors should be locals.
Foreigners can not open kiosks, canteens in a foreign country, these are small business enterprises that are left to the locals who do not have enough capital to open bigger businesses, foreigners should not shine shoes or hawk in the streets of juba because this is absolutely prohibited and it is a bad practice for the country like ours because some poor foreigners can influx into the country with sub standard and counterfeit goods and hawk them to our illiterate population thus cheating them out of the monies and run away with our resources.
Secondly, the institution concerned with city planning must look into it that residential areas are separated from Hotels and ask those who leased their houses to foreigners to rectify their contracts in order to avoid the hotels being at the neighborhood that is meant to be a residential area.
The Authorities concerned with issuing business licenses must also ensure that all the businesses have their licenses available at a very visible place where any concerned citizen can easily see what the business is all about and for how long.
The ministry of commerce, trade and industry must also regulate on the prices of the hotels and other businesses because the foreigners are getting advantage of our people for most of them do not know the economic value of our money. If there is no law in place to control the prices, then the policy of free economy is being abused by foreigners on that basis and therefore the noble reason why the government should enact laws to that effect.
It is still in the hotel industry that I also want to recommend that, in every hotel owned by foreigners, 50 percent of its staff should be locals because this is legal as well as moral for the creation of jobs for our people. There is no way like it is now where a hotel is established and all its employees are foreigners. That only happens in south Sudan and something needs to be done and urgently done to save this situation.
Thirdly, the city council of Juba must take over the water project and revoked all the business licenses given to foreigners to supply water to Juba residence. This as I had said before can help the council raise enough revenues to initiate other developmental projects and help the people of south Sudan.
The private companies can do their own way but like in the hotel sector, the drivers and loaders should remain locals in order to create jobs for our population.
Lastly, the only modality that can be used to avoid this foreign exploitation of our economy is to plead with our government to listen to the voices of informed citizens like myself on what needs to be done to surmount these challenges and manage the effective growth of our economy and meet the expectations of our people.
In that order, it is relatively important for our government and specifically the institution in charge of registration of businesses and companies to ascertain the financial viability of the investor and how much it can contribute to the economy of the country and this can only allow the multinational business organisations and companies to come to south Sudan and improve our economic growth.
This can also be done in collaboration with South Sudan embassies and consulates abroad not to allow foreigners to just get visas and think that they are going to think about the kind of business they want to establish when they are already inside south Sudan. These are the kinds of people we see prostituting and hawking in our streets today and these kinds of businesses are not doing any benefit to the country.
In conclusion, I want to also urge fellow citizens of the republic of South Sudan to wake up and do something about the future of their country because even as we blame our government and foreigners for all our misfortunes and lack of progress, we have also contributed to this downfall by being too ignorant, lazy and proud for nothing.
Some people do not have sources of income and to even feed themselves and instead of going to work as conductors, drivers, motorcyclists, waiters/waitresses, shoe shiners, kiosk/canteen owners, hotel investors if they have that opportunities, we are just all over complaining about foreigners this and our government that yet we do not want to accept that we are also part of the problem.
And until we get this diagnosis correct, we shall never be proud of the freedom that our heroes and heroines sacrificed their blood to bring for us. Let us style up and save our country from being the breadbasket where the owner only ends up carrying the basket and the bread already been taken away by those who know its significance.
Juma Mabor Marial is not an economist but a Lawyer. However, they say, experience is the best teacher, and as such, his visit to South Sudan and seeing these happenings prompted him to write this very article. He is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org