Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What does it take to enter the Southern Sudanese market?

Without a doubt, unless you're already running a going concern here, South Sudan is a bit of an enigma. This is a place where entrepreneurs need to be smart, flexible, resilient, and willing to work harder than in other environments.

So why come?

A number of reasons: the margins in this environment are higher. Consequently, the return on investment is faster and there is ample room for competition in even the most saturated industries.

So what's the downside?

This is what can best be described as a pre-emerging market. there's little usable information available on the whole market, and what is available is dated.

The laws of Southern Sudan are still being finalized. The basic rules of the road for banking, corporate governance, land acquisition and other business-related code is either absent or driven by guidelines written by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement during the civil war in 2003-2004. While most of these laws are in use today, a lot of the government structures and regulatory bodies they refer to are no longer relevant.

Still here?

Good. There's a huge caveat to this gloomy message: everyone wants you here. If honest businessmen have a product or service the market needs, the people, the government and your fellow entrepreneurs want you in South Sudan.

Yes, the rules are still being detailed, but the government's policy is to shape them according to the realities that exist, not on dated concepts (like those in Kenya's business environment). The policymakers keep an open mind to businessmen in making the environment fair for everyone. And while yes, there are challenges in the way the market functions, a strong and deep fairness principal is very much adhered to.

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