Angela Stephens is a Development Outreach and Communications Officer in the Africa Bureau.

USAID on June 14 convened a discussion in Washington with representatives of the World Bank, the Departments of Treasury and Commerce, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Citibank, the Corporate Council on Africa, and the Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) to discuss investment and economic issues for South Sudan as it approaches independence on July 9.

Earlier this year, USAID inaugurated the electrification of two key market towns in Eastern Equatoria (Kapoeta, shown here) and Western Equatoria (Maridi), which—like most of southern Sudan— had never had electric power. This has already helped boost economic activity in these towns, enabling merchants to extend their hours, improving community security, and helping schoolchildren to study after dark. Photo Credit: Jenn Warren

Led by Deputy Assistant Administrator for Africa Raja Jandhyala, the discussion addressed topics including working with the GOSS Ministry of Investment on its priorities and focusing on sectors that can attract investors to the new nation, including agriculture and infrastructure, which may offer the greatest immediate opportunities for private sector employment.

As Jandhyala told the gathering, “This is a follow-up to the private sector event we had last month in Juba with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and private sector representatives who are already on the ground.”  She mentioned that USAID funded a study released by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation last month, Doing Business in Juba 2011, the first assessment of business regulations in southern Sudan’s capital.  The United States is encouraging a wide variety of investors, in and beyond the Africa region, to explore opportunities in southern Sudan.

The United States, United Kingdom, and Norway are working with the GOSS on an international engagement conference for South Sudan to take place in Washington in September, which will provide an international platform for the GOSS to present its vision for the new country, and to engage development partners and private sector entities on priority areas for support and collaboration.  GOSS officials seek to build a broad coalition to promote private sector engagement in South Sudan post-independence.