Sudan: ‘Our banks are too weak’, says finance minister Jibril Ibrahim

By Nicholas Norbrook

Posted on Monday, 16 August 2021 17:09, updated on Wednesday, 8 September 2021 12:24
Dr. Gibril Ibrahim Mohammed is the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Movement/Army (SLM/A), Minni Arko Minnawi attends the signing of a peace agreement between Sudan's power-sharing government and five key rebel groups, a significant step towards resolving deep-rooted conflicts that raged under former leader Omar al-Bashir, in Juba, South Sudan August 31, 2020. REUTERS/Samir Bol

An astute choice for Finance Minister, Jibril Ibrahim's arrival brought a former rebel inside the governing tent, and has been instrumental in bringing peace to Sudan's West. His tasks however are legion; number one, getting his arms around the opaque state-owned enterprises that control so much of the nation's GDP. And the stakes are high: as Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok says: "We have to rebuild our economy if our political transition is to work."

The Africa Report: How are you taking back control of state-owned enterprises (SOEs)?

Jibril Ibrahim: In the past, companies owned by the military used to have tax exemptions, customs exemptions… but no exemptions any more now. Any commercial company needs to be treated like any other commercial company. And they have to pay their tax. We are working on how we bring all the SOEs under the control of the ministry of finance. Hopefully we can do that soon.

How do you assess the health of your banks?

For the short period I have been at the ministry of finance, I felt that our banks are too weak. They have very little capital to help them finance real projects. One of the things I discussed with the central bank governor is we should think of merging these small banks to create banks with enough capital to be real banks. And not only that but invite foreign banks to come in and buy shares in these banks. So we need to prepare these banks for selling.

How will the unification of the Darfur affect stability and prosperity in the region?

The Darfurians have a shared history of 400 years, if not more. They have the feeling they have one identity – though they fight among themselves on an ethnic basis.

For a long time, the Darfurians keep asking for unification of the states. In the peace talks, we asked for the return of the old system of regions. When the colonial region left, we had nine states. Three were dropped because the south seceded. All those who belong to the regions, especially those who have been marginalised for a long time, think this unification will give them power in negotiating with the centre. And instead of being small states, they will be a big block, and the centre will assist them better.

Of course this creates other problems, if the power does not trickle down from the region to lower levels of governance, we will be creating a new centre. So we will have to be very careful we don’t move from one decentralised system to another.

This article was first published in The Africa Report’s print magazine. 

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