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City Profile: Khartoum, Sudan

April 12, 2010  »  City Profiles2 Comments

This is the second post in a series that intends to examine the ICT environment in large metropolitan areas of Africa that receive relatively little publicity and lack ICT framework. These cities are often overshadowed by Cape Town, Johannesburg, Cairo, Nairobi, Accra, and Lagos but still have a bright future – albeit with a few additional hurdles to clear. In light of the recent elections in Sudan, we follow with an ICT outline of Khartoum, Sudan.

Khartoum: Nile and the sunset {alashotokan.deviantart.com}

Khartoum: Nile and the sunset {alashotokan.deviantart.com}

Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, has seen increased urbanization since the 1970′s as a displaced rural population (from Sudan and surrounding nations) moved to the city. Most of these individuals lack sufficient training and are a burden to the workforce, but, thanks to increased oil prices, Sudan’s GDP is steadily increasing. Sudan’s (and Khartoum’s) main challenge will be political stability. In spite of a democratic multi-party election, the nation still faces an unstable political structure and lack of national unity. Southern Sudan is somewhat segregated from the North, and the Darfur region in western Sudan is the site of the century’s worst genocide. On a global level, the conflict in the Darfur region precludes foreign investment and support. On a national level, this conflict is a remnant of decades of civil war and only continues to prevent unity.

First, a look at the most recent population figures for the Khartoum-Omdurman (Umm Durman) metro area:

  • 5.17 million (UN World Urbanization Prospects, 2009), some sources say as high as 8 million
  • Breakdown by city (conservative estimate): 1 million in Khartoum, about 1.9 million Khartoum North, about 2.3 million Omdurman
  • 5th largest metropolitan area in Africa (about 1.5 times the population of Cape Town or Nairobi)

Ideally, this report would focus on both Khartoum and Omdurman. However, an in-depth search of the Internet turns up essentially no reports of ICT endeavors and reports from the city of Omdurman. There are mentions of Internet cafés in the city, but no further information is provided. Perhaps what is true of Khartoum is also true of Omdurman. Fortunately, there are a few (but mostly dated) resources for information on Khartoum’s ICT growth. Out of the limited public information available on the Internet, here are some important points of information to know about Khartoum’s ICT progress:

Sudan as a whole:

Southern Sudan:

Khartoum:

Conclusion: The city of Khartoum is on the brink of great ICT development. There is a large, youthful workforce that is unskilled and currently more concerned with humanitarian and political needs than technological advancements. The University of Khartoum is ready to provide support to this group, but needs the government’s assistance. First, the government must promote peace throughout the country. Historically, ICT growth is only successful under peacetime conditions. Sudan knows this first hand. In 1999, following the Second Civil War, but before the recent Darfur conflict, the nation implemented an ICT policy and was on track for substantial progress. Once these civil wars are memories of the past, the government must collaborate with scholars and professionals in the ICT field to create a new national plan with plenty of internal momentum. The people of Sudan are certainly ready for change and have shown great excitement over the recent multi-party election. Foreign investors will certainly be ready. However, a new hurdle could shift attention away from ICT yet again. Southern Sudan’s independence referendum in slated for January 2011.

Positives:

  • Sudan has previously created a national ICT policy
  • Multi-party elections hint at even greater political stability and excitement for change
  • Ministry of Investment exists
  • University of Khartoum has decent infrastructure and is ready to train a new workforce
  • Growing economy with ties to Middle East investors, broader foreign investors once Darfur conflict ends

Challenges:

  • Darfur prevents stability and investment, plus the entire region lacks infrastructure
  • Sudan (Northern Sudan) and Southern Sudan lack cohesion and common vision (in fact, Southern Sudan may become independent in the coming years)
  • Lack of general enthusiasm for ICT and lack of trust in the government who must create an updated ICT policy
  • Language and cultural barriers – Arab vs. African influences (perhaps Southern Sudan’s independence would help in this area?)

Final intriguing thought: Sudan must realize its powerful geographical position for collaborating with other nations. Sudan is one of eight nations in the world to have 8 or more neighbors and connects land and sea; East Africa with Central Africa and Northern Africa; Northern Africa with sub-Saharan Africa.

  • http://ictworks.org/ Wayan @ ICTworks

    To my knowledge, Sudan is still under embargo for any ICT hardware – USA companies are not allowed to export to Sudan without a special waiver.

  • http://www.khartoumgateway.com Khartoum Gateway

    Thanks for this.. it's good to see that Khartoum is given it's due. A little guidance is needed but definitely a lot of potential in this area.