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World Bank allocates $2 billion to fund projects in Sudan

CAIRO (AP) — The World Bank said Monday it has allocated $2 billion to cash-stripped Sudan as the transitional government has struggled to address the county’s decades-long economic woes.

The funds would be used to finance big infrastructure projects along with others to help displaced people over the next 12 months, said Hatem Ghanem, World Bank vice president for eastern and southern Africa.

Ghanem was in Khartoum on Monday where he met with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Finance Minister Gibril Ibrahim, according to the premier’s office.

The announcement came around two months after Sudan cleared all of its overdue payments to the World Bank. The move has given the transitional government in Khartoum access to new types of international financing for the first time in nearly three decades.

The World Bank said at the time that the payment came after the U.S. provided bridge financing of $1.15 billion to help Sudan clear its arrears.

Ghanem was quoted as saying that the international community appreciates the Sudanese government’s efforts to develop the economy and fight poverty along with embarking on “crucial economic reforms.”

Sudan is now on a fragile path to democracy after a popular uprising led to the military’s overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in 2019. The country has since sought to reintegrate into the international community after three decades of isolation.

The government has also sought to overhaul the country’s economy. It has in recent months taken a series of reform measures, including a managed flotation of the Sudanese pound. That unprecedented step led to hikes in the price of fuel and other essential goods.

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron hosted an international conference to offer debt relief for the East African country. Sudan’s foreign debt is at $70 million.

Sudan has for years struggled with an array of economic woes, including a huge budget deficit and widespread shortages of essential goods and soaring prices of bread and other staples. The country’s annual inflation rate soared past 340% in March, one of the world’s highest.

The country plunged into an economic crisis when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 after decades of war, taking with it more than half of public revenues and 95% of exports.

Sudan was also an international pariah after it was placed on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terror in the 1990s. This largely excluded the country from the global economy.

Former President Donald Trump removed Sudan from the blacklist after the transitional government agreed to pay $335 million in compensation for victims of attacks carried out by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network while the terror leader was living in Sudan. The removal also was an incentive for Sudan to normalize ties with Israel.

Samy Magdy, The Associated Press