Today, South Sudan became the newest member of the United Nations after being voted in by the UN General Assembly as its 193rd member.

The independence of South Sudan comes after decades of internal conflict within the former Sudanese state. South Sudan’s independence follows a referendum in January 2011 in which nearly 99% of the South Sudanese electorate voted to separate from the rest of Sudan. The separation of South Sudan leaves the Republic of the Sudan ("Sudan") as a continuing state under international law, albeit with reduced territory and population.

South Sudan occupies nearly one-third of the territory of the former Sudan. The capital and largest city of South Sudan is Juba, and English is the official language (although many others are also used). South Sudan borders Ethiopia in the east, Kenya in the south-east, Uganda in the south, the Democratic Republic of Congo in the south-west, the Central African Republic in the west, and Sudan in the north.

The country is led by President Salva Kiir Mayardit, and its government structure includes an Executive Branch, a unicameral South Sudan Legislative Assembly, and provisions for an independent judiciary. The nascent state has established several overseas missions, with far greater integration into the international community expected soon. On July 13, the United Nations is expected to vote to accept South Sudan as its 193rd Member State, and additional memberships in other multilateral institutions are also anticipated. Notably for near-term development efforts, membership in the International Monetary Fund, which is a pre-condition for membership in the World Bank group, could take another year or so due to the limitations in economic data.

While the relationship - and certain areas of the border - between South Sudan and Sudan remain unsettled, there is expected to be a concerted effort by the international community to support South Sudan as it develops its capacity as an economically and institutionally viable state. These efforts are likely to include substantial economic development initiatives, including much-needed infrastructure projects, that leverage private and official funding sources, including from the African Development Bank and other multilateral financial institutions.

Given its great needs for investment and development, as well as its substantial natural resources, South Sudan presents potentially compelling business opportunities. Among the key sectors of interest are:

  • Oil. South Sudan holds substantial petroleum reserves, estimated at over 5 billion barrels Given the political situation in the region, the South Sudanese oil sector has not been fully integrated into the international energy sector markets. With that said, while US sanctions on the South Sudanese petroleum sector have been lifted, because of ongoing concerns about the Government of Sudan, the US has indicated that US persons (individuals and entities) will be prohibited from transactions in South Sudan’s petroleum sector if South Sudan shares the revenue from its oil reserves with Sudan.
  • Agriculture. South Sudan offers a robust agricultural sector whose produce includes cotton, peanuts, millet, wheat, sugarcane, and a variety of fruits. This sector is a particular focus for US and international development assistance, including financing, capacity-building, and technical assistance.
  • Mining and Timber. South Sudan has substantial deposits of a range of precious and non-precious metals, as well as a growing timber export capacity.
  • Infrastructure. Given the impact of severe fighting and resulting under-development, South Sudan has extraordinary needs for the development of basic infrastructure. Among South Sudan’s needs are various energy projects (including power stations, pipelines and refineries) and basic transport capacity, such as roads and railways.