South Sudan hopes its citizens will benefit from education, foreign direct investments and infrastructure development after it joined the East African (EAC) community, a regional trade bloc in April, officials said on Tuesday.
The Secretary General of the South Sudan EAC Secretariat which will be upgraded soon to the level of Ministry of East African Affairs, Mou Mou Athian Kuol told Xinhua that before joining the trade bloc South Sudanese were paying high visa fees to go and study in Uganda and Kenya but this will soon change as member countries called for harmonization of visa fees and free movement of persons in the EAC.
"Already before joining EAC our children were having education in Uganda and Kenya but this was only for the rich due to high visa fees denying many poor families from taking their children to school there," Kuol said in Juba.
"With our membership the fees will be waved and payment will no longer be in U.S. dollars but local currency," he added.
He revealed that South Sudan before plunging into war attracted foreign direct investments in oil and mining, agriculture due to its vast unexploited land and dilapidated infrastructure after long decades of civil conflict of independence from Sudan.
South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 going with 75 percent of the oil resource.
"We have to provide a peaceful atmosphere for investors to invest their capital here and this will create jobs for our unemployed youth," he disclosed.
In December 2013, with support from donors the country organized a successful investment conference that attracted investors from all over the world and region but unfortunately it again plunged into conflict.
The conflict was sparked after President Salva Kiir accused his deputy Machar of plotting a coup which he denied leading to killing of tens of thousands, displacing more than 2.3 million from their homes and 200,000 live in UN protection camps.
"Joining EAC will help us prioritize development like exports otherwise by this time we should have diversified our economy from oil dependence and developed exports," Kuol said.
The impoverished youngest country depends on oil to finance 98 percent of its fiscal budget and yet only less than five percent of its arable land is cultivated.
"Being landlocked has led to high cost of doing business due to bad roads and multiple charges on the roads," he disclosed.
"We shall domesticate our laws and policies within the EAC laws. We have recognized we need to train our civil servants about EAC laws and principles to make them participate in various projects within the three years given to us," he disclosed.
President Salva Kiir signed the EAC accession protocol in April and it awaits parliament ratification before the country starts to implement key protocols enshrined within the regional bloc.