In Karthoum, Abdallah Hamdok is increasingly seen as the providential man who will put Sudan back on the rails of development. This hope is not just within the borders of his country.
On the sidelines of the International Conference in Support of the Sudanese Transition, Germany and France pledged to cancel a $5.4 billion debt owed to the country, while the Elysée Palace agreed to grant a $1.5 billion bridge loan to clear Sudan’s arrears to the IMF. This is one of the latest successes of Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok who, since his arrival at the head of the country in August 2019, is using the experience acquired after 30 years with international organisations to revive the national economy.
Putting Sudan back at the heart of international finance
The loan from France last month to enable Sudan to settle part of its debt to the IMF is the latest in a series of loan agreements successfully negotiated by Abdallah Hamdok in recent months.
In particular, he obtained a joint loan from the UK and Sweden to repay $413 million to the African Development Bank (AfDB). At the same time, the Prime Minister cleared a debt of nearly $1.2 billion to the World Bank, thanks to funds made available by the United States. Marking Sudan’s return to the heart of international finance, this series of loans is by no means trivial and remains the fruit of a process that began in August 2019. Since coming to power, the Prime Minister has had to deal with a recession of -2.5% and a debt that exceeded 200% of national GDP in 2019, a legacy of President Omar al-Bashir’s 30 years in power. However, the head of government remains confident.
Since coming to power, the Prime Minister has had to deal with a recession of -2.5% and a debt burden that exceeded 200% of the national GDP in 2019, a legacy of President Omar al-Bashir’s 30 years in power. Yet the head of government remains confident.
« With the right vision and policies, we will be able to tackle this economic crisis, » he promised when he was sworn in.
One of Abdallah Hamdok’s priorities is to restructure his country’s debt. This requires making peace with the United States, which has placed Sudan on its blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism. Since 1993, the sanctions linked to the country’s presence on this list prevent it from having access to any financing from Washington. Three months after his appointment, Abdallah Hamdok went to the United States to meet with President Donald Trump to negotiate the removal of his country from the list. This initiative was successful, as less than a year later, the Trump administration announced the removal of Sudan from the US blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism. To understand to what extent the presence on this list was an obstacle to the country’s development, it is important to know that the first reactions are to the credit of private investors who can now set up projects in Sudan.
« We hope that the country will be appreciated by the whole world for its investment and growth opportunities, now that all the sanctions have been lifted, » comments Richard Clark, CEO of the mining company Orca Gold. The latter, active in the gold sector, now has the possibility of raising funds on Western markets to finance the development of its projects in the country.
« We hope that the country will be appreciated by the whole world for its investment and growth opportunities, now that all the sanctions have been lifted, » comments Richard Clark, CEO of the mining company Orca Gold.
It should be noted that Abdallah Hamdok had succeeded in making peace with Israel without being forced to do so, a situation that could have created tensions with the Arab world and aggravated the country’s economic difficulties. The United Arab Emirates, along with China, is Sudan’s main trading partner.
Predestined by its history
The democratic transition process underway in Sudan is one of the determining factors in the country’s return to the international scene. But more than the speeches and good intentions displayed by the Sudanese political class, the choice of the leader of this transition plays an important role in the success with the international community. Born in 1956 in the former province of Kordofan in the south-central part of the country, Abdallah Hamdok’s academic and professional background made him a more than obvious choice to lead the national economy.
After graduating in science from the University of Khartoum, he flew to the United Kingdom where he obtained a master’s degree and then a doctorate at the School of Economics at the University of Manchester. Back in the country, he worked as a senior civil servant in the Ministry of Finance between 1981 and 1987. In this capacity, he learned the workings of the national economy and participated in the elaboration of economic policies before a disgrace with President Omar al-Bashir forced him into exile. He was reportedly dismissed because he refused to join the party of the coup president.
In his position, he learned the workings of the national economy and participated in the development of economic policies before a disgrace with President Omar al-Bashir forced him into exile. He was reportedly dismissed because of his refusal to join the party of the coup president.
Nevertheless, Abdallah Hamdok did not remain idle for long as Deloitte called on him in 1993 to work in Zimbabwe, notably as a group leader and member of the management committee.
After two years in the auditing and consulting firm, he put his skills to work for an international institution for the first time. Appointed Chief Technical Adviser at the Zimbabwean office of the International Labour Organization in 1995, the future Prime Minister only spent two years there before moving up the ladder as Senior Policy Economist at the AfDB headquarters in Côte d’Ivoire, from 1997 to 2001. Abdallah Hamdok continued his technocratic career by working for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). It was from his position (which he had held since 2011) as deputy director of the ECA that he was recalled in 2019 from neighbouring Ethiopia, to serve his country.
Ironically or in total recognition of his skills, it should be noted that a few months before taking the head of the Sudanese transition, Abdallah Hamdok was requested by Omar al-Bashir.
Ironically or in full recognition of his skills, it should be noted that a few months before taking over the leadership of the Sudanese transition, Abdallah Hamdok was asked by Omar al-Bashir.
After having judged him unworthy of holding a civil service post in the Ministry of Finance a few decades earlier, the former president called on him to head this same ministerial department, in the midst of popular protest against his regime. Did the technocrat’s refusal to associate himself with a man accused of crimes against humanity by the ICC play a role when it came to choosing the rare pearl to lead the democratic process in Sudan? There is no evidence to suggest otherwise. However, Abdallah Hamdok’s international experience and reputation make him a valuable asset in the renaissance of his country.
High ambitions for Sudan
Almost two years after his appointment as Prime Minister, Abdallah Hamdok has not disappointed observers. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has accentuated Sudan’s difficulties, the head of government is gradually laying the foundations for a sustainable recovery of the national economy. Good management and transparency in the conduct of public affairs are among the leitmotifs of the man who was for a time on the board of directors of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and who has been campaigning for years for good governance in Africa.
Good governance and transparency in the conduct of public affairs are among the leitmotifs of the man who was once a member of the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and who has been campaigning for years for good governance in Africa.
Currently negotiating for an 80% relief of the external debt, Hamdok must also focus on domestic problems such as the persistent attacks and clashes in Darfur. As soon as he was appointed, he took a symbolic first step by visiting this region of western Sudan which has been plagued by violence since 2003. A historic peace agreement was even concluded in Juba on 3 October 2020, between the armed groups and the central government. It is supposed to put a definitive end to the years of violence by putting Sudan back on the road to development.
Freedom of the press, the promotion of foreign private investment and the establishment of effective economic policies will be the driving forces towards the realisation of this objective reaffirmed some time ago by the Prime Minister: « We are a rich country and we can place Sudan among the greatest states.