Khartoum or Khartum is the capital of Sudan. With a population of 5,274,321, its metropolitan area is the largest in Sudan, the sixth-largest in Africa, the second-largest in North Africa, and the fourth-largest in the Arab world. Khartoum is located at the confluence of the White Nile, flowing north from Lake Victoria, and the Blue Nile, flowing west from Lake Tana in Ethiopia. The location where the two Niles meet is known as al-Mogran or al-Muqran. From there, the Nile continues to flow north towards Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. It has bridge connections with its sister towns, Khartoum North and Omdurman, with which it forms Sudan’s largest conurbation. The Mahdists besieged and destroyed it in 1885 and killed Major General Charles George Gordon, then the British governor-general of the Sudan. Reoccupied in 1898, Khartoum was rebuilt by Governor-General Lord Kitchener and served as the seat of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan government until 1956, when the city became the capital of the independent republic of Sudan.
Divided by these two parts of the Nile, Khartoum is a tripartite metropolis with an estimated overall population of over five million people, consisting of Khartoum proper, and linked by bridges to Khartoum North and Omdurman to the west. Khartoum was founded in 1821 as part of Ottoman Egypt, north of the ancient city of Soba. The Siege of Khartoum in 1884 led to the capture of the city by Mahdist forces and a massacre of the defending Anglo-Egyptian garrison. The city has continued to experience unrest in modern times. Three hostages were killed during the Attack on the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum in 1973. The Justice and Equality Movement engaged in combat with Sudanese government forces in the city in 2008 as part of the War in Darfur. The Khartoum massacre occurred in 2019 amongst the Sudanese Revolution.
Khartoum is an economic and trade centre in Northern Africa, with rail lines from Port Sudan and El-Obeid. It is served by Khartoum International Airport, with another airport, Khartoum New International Airport, currently under construction.
Data and Facts
- Sudan exported US$5.6 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2015. Sudan’s highest-value export is petroleum oils, most crude and with a smaller amount of refined oil
- Khartoum city has an area of 375 square miles (971 square kilometers), with a population of two million residents who must cope with a hot desert climate
- Population density is much more intense within Sudan’s capital city with an average 8,500 people per square mile (22,100 per square kilometer)
- On the whole, credit cards are not accepted in Sudan and there are no ATMs in Khartoum, so planning ahead and bringing enough cash for the duration of your trip is vital
- Khartoum is home to several fascinating museums. Alongside the National Museum of Sudan, the Presidential Palace museums and Ethnographical Museum provide a glimpse into the fascinating history of the nation, its rulers and its culture
The politics of Sudan formally took place within the framework of a federal representative democratic republic until April 2019, when President Omar al-Bashir's regime was overthrown in a military coup led by Vice President Ahmed Awad Ibn Auf. As an initial step he established the Transitional Military Council to manage the country's internal affairs. He also suspended the constitution and dissolved the bicameral parliament — the National Legislature, with its National Assembly and the Council of States . Ibn Auf however, remained in office for only a single day and then resigned, with the leadership of the Transitional Military Council then being handed to Abdel Fattah al-Burhan. On 4 August 2019, a new Constitutional Declaration was signed between the representatives of the Transitional Military Council and the Forces of Freedom and Change, and on 21 August 2019 the Transitional Military Council was officially replaced as head of state by an 11-member Sovereignty Council, and as head of government by a civilian Prime Minister. The legal system in Sudan is based on Islamic Sharia law. Between 2009 and 2014, many people were sentenced to 40–100 lashes. In August 2014, several Sudanese men died in custody after being flogged. 53 Christians were flogged in 2001. Sudan's public order law allows police officers to publicly whip women who are accused of public indecency. Crucifixion is a legal punishment. In 2002, 88 people were sentenced to death for crimes relating to murder, armed robbery, and participating in ethnic clashes, Amnesty International wrote that they could be executed by either hanging or crucifixion.
On 19 December 2018, massive protests began after a government decision to triple the price of goods at a time when the country was suffering an acute shortage of foreign currency and inflation of 70 percent. In addition, President al-Bashir, who had been in power for more than 30 years, refused to step down, resulting in the convergence of opposition groups to form a united coalition. The protests continued after the overthrow of his government on 11 April 2019, when President al-Bashir was arrested and a three-month state of emergency was enacted. Over 100 people died in early June in clashes between pro-democracy protesters and state security forces, resulting in Sudan's suspension from the African Union. Sudan's youth had been reported to be driving the protests. The protests came to an end when the Forces for Freedom and Change and Transitional Military Council signed the July 2019 Political Agreement and the August 2019 Draft Constitutional Declaration.
The transitional institutions and procedures included the creation of a joint military-civilian Sovereignty Council of Sudan as head of state, a new Chief Justice of Sudan as head of the judiciary branch of power, Nemat Abdullah Khair, and a new prime minister. The new Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok, a 61-year-old economist who worked previously for the UN Economic Commission for Africa, was sworn in on 21 August. He initiated talks with the IMF and World Bank aimed at stabilising the economy, which was in dire straits because of shortages of food, fuel and hard currency. Hamdok estimated that US$10bn over two years would suffice to halt the panic, and said that over 70% of the 2018 budget had been spent on civil war-related measures.
Khartoum is a major trade and communications centre, with rail lines from Egypt, Port Sudan, and Al-Ubayyiḍ, river traffic on the Blue and White Nile rivers, and an international airport.Besides acting as a trading centre, Khartoum also produces textiles, gums, and glass and serves as a printing and food-processing centre. An oil pipeline between Khartoum and Port Sudan was completed in 1977.
After the signing of the historic Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement , the Government of Sudan began a massive development project.In 2007, the biggest projects in Khartoum were the Al-Mogran Development Project, two five-star hotels, a new airport, Mac Nimir Bridge and the Tuti Bridge that links Khartoum to Tuti Island.In the 21st century, Khartoum developed based on Sudan's oil wealth . This has changed as major economic developments take place in other parts of the country, like oil exploration in the South, the Giad Industrial Complex in Al Jazirah state and White Nile Sugar Project in Central Sudan, and the Merowe Dam in the North.Among the city's industries are printing, glass manufacturing, food processing, and textiles. Petroleum products are now produced in the far north of Khartoum state, providing fuel and jobs for the city. One of Sudan's largest refineries is located in northern Khartoum.The Souq Al Arabi is Khartoum's largest open air market. Al Qasr Street and Al Jamhoriyah Street are considered the most famous high streets in Khartoum State. Afra Mall is located in the southern suburb Arkeweet. The Afra Mall has a supermarket, retail outlets, coffee shops, a bowling alley, movie theaters, and a children's playground. In 2011, Sudan opened the Hotel Section and part of the food court of the new Corinthia Hotel Tower.
Sudan has featured prominently in the news the past few months. Among the reasons for this phenomenon, was the USA lifting sanctions against the country, although it still kept Sudan on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE have all reached out to Sudan in one form or another. The latest news involved Sudan experiencing a serious cash-flow problem, to the extent that it is trimming its foreign diplomatic services quite seriously.
In spite of the challenges that Sudan is experiencing in the financial services sector, the country presents numerous investment opportunities, several in the financial services sector. Many of these opportunities require funding. This is where Sudan needs serious development. Some of the opportunities can be difficult to tap into given the lack of liquidity, and the challenges in the political sphere are an additional deterrent to investors as well. Still, for the keen investor there is a wealth of opportunity to unlock.
From the World Bank’s ease of doing business index for 2018, it is clear that Sudan is not the easiest place to do business. Ranking globally at 170 out of 190 countries, there is scope for a lot of improvement. Figure 1 below provides a breakdown of the elements that constitute the rankings. These are issues that need urgent reforms to entice foreign investors into the country. Another macro ranking that is of concern, is Sudan’s position on the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International. Of the 180 countries on the index, Sudan only came in at 175, which is a serious indictment against the Sudanese leadership. It has not succeeded in the five years since 2012 to bring about meaningful change. Together with the rather bleak picture from the ease of doing business index, this low ranking on the corruption index is a source of serious concern. See Table 1 for information on Sudan’s corruption reality.
According to Chambers and Partners, Sudan is a country of great economic potential. It has a strategic location, gold reserves, oil & gas fields, other mineral resources, a favourable climate, as well as excellent irrigation and soil conditions.
Sudan’s National Investment Encouragement Act of 2013 promotes foreign direct investment and prohibits discrimination against foreigners in investments. The act defines three types of investment projects: national, strategic and state. Sudan has put in place an open investment legislative framework with several laws and regulations that are modern and based on best practices. The act also establishes the National Investment Council, chaired by the president of Sudan. The focus and objective of this council is to facilitate investment in all sectors of the Sudanese economy. The act allows foreign and domestic private entities to establish and own business enterprises and to repatriate capital and profits.
Natural resources/mining: Natural resources, especially gold, oil, gas, chrome, manganese, zinc, aluminium, cobalt, and nickel. Gold production in Sudan reached 22.3 tonnes in 2016, ranking it as one of the top producers in Africa.Agriculture: With the Nile river running through it, Sudan has more than 150 million hectares of arable land. The climate is suitable for all types of crops, and water irrigation is readily available and/or natural. Sudan specialises in cereal production , crops , and tropical fruit and vegetables.Livestock: Sudan is highly regarded in both the Middle East and Africa for its livestock and animal resources. The country has national animal resources, which include cattle, camels, sheep, goats, poultry, horses, and an annual stock of more than 110,000 tonnes of fish. The most important animal products in Sudan are milk, meat, poultry, skins, fur and wool.
Transport: As Africa’s third-largest country and bordering seven countries, Sudan offers great opportunities for investment in the transport sector. The weakness in the transport network remains one of the greatest constraints to the economy.
Industry: Investment opportunities in industry in Sudan include the following sub-sectors: agri-processing, food, spinning and textiles, leather, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, oil and soap, engineering, building materials and refractories, and printing and packaging.
Nevertheless, in spite of the mentioned challenges and constraints, potential investors were already moving into Sudan from the Gulf, Asia, Europe and South America in March 2017, some of them well before this time.
China has invested in various aspects of the industry until it now controls as much as 75% of the Sudanese oil industry. Sudan currently produces 133,000 barrels of oil per day – a fraction of what it produced before the south of the country seceded in 2011, taking most of the country’s proven oil reserves with it. Today, Chinese companies are looking for new oil deposits in Sudan as increasing oil production is one of the government’s priorities. While China started in oil, they now have other interests in trade, mining, and construction as well. Within the oil industry today, most of the engineers and technical experts in Sudan and South Sudan are Sudanese. They were trained in China. Sudan is the only country in Africa where, over time, more locals have been employed by Chinese companies .
Saudi Arabia and the Saudi private sector are currently investing in maritime transport in Sudan, benefiting from the strategic situation of Sudan, to construct new harbours and ports at the Red Sea. The development of all transport units, particularly maritime transport, and the construction of new ports and harbours are deemed as very important.
The UAE agreed in the beginning of 2017 to provide the Central Bank of Sudan with a $400m deposit as a reserve. In addition, the Sudanese government had formed a joint business council with Bahrain to promote investments. A Saudi company was financing an industrial estate north of Khartoum with $150m.
Qatar has also been positioning itself in a meaningful way in Sudan.
Sectoral investment opportunities in Sudan
Infrastructure development in Sudan has a national focus and is directed in five-year plans. Based on results of the first Five-Year Plan , Sudan has already invested heavily in infrastructure development, with total government spending on infrastructure of SDG 5.4bn . Key areas of investment included transport, water supply and sanitation, electric power and communication networks.
However, the country’s growing infrastructure needs are beyond the budget capacity of local and central governments. This is not unique to Sudan and is the case for all of Africa. In 2014, the country’s overall budget deficit amounted to SDG 4.4bn . In order to bridge the funding gap, long-term funding provided by commercial banks and the private sector through public-private partnerships was essential.
Investment in infrastructure will be important as Sudan looks to increase the competitiveness of domestic trade and facilitate national integration. Currently, areas with poor infrastructure are isolated, resulting in high costs of goods and services and limited investment from reluctant capital providers.
Backed by government initiatives, Sudan’s banking sector has several growth opportunities to stimulate current economic development through infrastructure enhancement. The role of banks in financing infrastructure projects needs to be increased. Banks therefore need attractive and innovative infrastructure financing tools and clear marketing strategies. Currently, infrastructure projects are complex and have several distinct phases that require different banking instruments. To capture the potential growth of infrastructure financing, banks in Sudan should design products for each distinct phase of an infrastructure project, including planning, construction, and operations.
In the agriculture sector, Sudan has a lot of uncultivated arable land. According to foreign investors in agriculture, should Sudan have a sound strategy and an effective agriculture structure, it would be able to not only feed itself, but the entire MENA region. As it is, Africa as a whole is a potential target market, given that the continent is a net importer of food to the tune of $35bn annually.
Tackling the agriculture sector is a key priority as its growth is directly linked to improving Sudan’s infrastructure environment. Today, agricultural lands are not well utilised in Sudan mainly due to inadequate roads, insufficient water supply, and a lack of electric power in these isolated areas.
After the South Sudan secession in July 2011, Sudan changed the focus of its economic plan to revive the agriculture sector given that southern oil production accounted for over 75% of the country’s total production . The agriculture sector employs 80% of the country’s workforce and accounts for nearly one third of GDP. In general, the agriculture sector represents a business line that banks should focus on, especially with regards to financing trade, working capital, and capital expenditures.
Khartoum is home to the largest airport in Sudan, Khartoum International Airport. It is the main hub for Sudan Airways, Sudan's main carrier. The airport was planned for the Southern outskirts of the city; but with Khartoum's rapid growth and consequent urban sprawl, the airport is still located in the heart of the city.Khartoum has rail lines from Wadi Halfa, Port Sudan on the Red Sea, and El Obeid. All are operated by Sudan Railways. Some lines also extended to some parts of south Sudan Architecture of Khartoum cannot be identified by one style or even two styles; it is as diverse as its culture, where 597 different cultural groups meet. In this article are 10 buildings of Khartoum to showcase this diversity in buildings’ shapes, materials, treatments. Sudan was home to numerous ancient civilizations, such as the Kingdom of Kush, Kerma, Nobatia, Alodia, Makuria, Meroë and others, most of which flourished along the Nile. During the pre-dynastic period Nubia and Nagadan Upper Egypt were identical, simultaneously evolved systems of Pharaonic kingship by 3300 BC.In response to the worldwide deterioration of the environment and the increase in pollution levels, there has been a strong movement towards sustainable architecture across the globe. This movement has received attention and concern from governments as well as private sectors. In the past decades, Sudan has seen a huge surge in infrastructure and technology, which has led to many new and innovative building concepts, ideas and construction techniques. There is now a constant flow of new projects arising, thus leading to a new, transformed, modernised form of architecture.
It is almost a quarter-century since Omar al-Bashir appointed himself President of Sudan. In that same year, 1993, America deemed al-Bashir’s government a state sponsor of terror – a label it shares with Syria and Iran. Sanctions that prevent Sudan’s banks from making international transfers, and which prevent American businesses from dealing in the African country, have endured ever since.They may soon be dropped, ending the isolation of one of the world’s largest countries by area. And while debate rages as to whether al-Bashir has done much to earn the move, a small but energetic entrepreneurial community could be set to win big.The Sudanese Pound, introduced after the south’s split, suffers from a 20% inflation rate. However economic growth has rallied steadily in recent years, from just 1.6% in 2014 to 3.1% last year. Sudan’s GDP per capita is just $2,415, hit hard by the sanctions and the loss of 75% of its oil production revenue when South Sudan seceded in 2011.
Eighty percent of Sudanese citizens therefore rely on agriculture for their income. And while droughts and bad yields are all too commonplace, it is a sector which has received plenty of tech-based focus – as a countrywide entrepreneurial spirit begins to reap its own rewards.The International Atomic Energy Agency has supported a nuclear technology drip irrigation project that began operation in 2015. DAL, Sudan’s largest agriculture corporation, has woken up to cutting edge technology, as it attempts to counter Sudan’s harsh and hot weather. Startup Weekend, the influential global tech workshop, first traveled to Khartoum in 2014, and held its most recent event in the city last November. The Sudan Startup Hub is the first coworking space in Sudan. It is home to large NGOs and corporations like the UN, MTN and Zain. But it is also an attempt to torment entrepreneurialism in Sudan – and has been proactive in encouraging women to join its growing freelance economy.
Ahmed El Murtada is Middle East regional director at Startup Grind. He also works with the University of Khartoum’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Community , one of Sudan’s loudest startup cheerleaders. El Murtada sees technology as a vital way to diversify and expand Sudan’s economy. Infrastructure, El Murtada adds, does little to help. Power shortages hamper online ventures. And an Internet penetration of just 26.4%, and mobile subscriptions at just 70% of the population, mean that entrepreneurs must get creative if they are to solve Sudan’s many issues sitting in front of a laptop. Companies have, slowly, begun to see Sudan as a potential marketplace rather than political hot potato. The Trump administration has indicated that it will drop sanctions soon. Many locals hoped they would be dropped altogether by this month. That may still happen. But the President has maintained that Khartoum must show its commitment to peace if the sanctions lift is to hold. «The Sudanese government knows that my administration will hold them responsible for any breach of obligations which came through strong bilateral ties and effective monitoring,» wrote Trump.
In anticipation of the sanctions lift, Sudan has already courted tech. The Korea International Cooperation Agency, a training center, will soon be inaugurated in Khartoum. Korean multinationals such as Daewoo, LG, Hyundai and Samsung already operate in the country. If and when the sanctions are lifted, El Murtada sees a country with much to contribute to the digital economy – especially with regards to beta testing, «because of its diverse population of more than 40m, which is composed of Africans, Arabs and expats. The country also has 853 kilometers of coastline and access to the Red Sea through Port Sudan, main port city». Sudan «continues to face countless social, economic and political challenges,» he adds. «However, this has not dampened the spirits of young Sudanese people, who are trying to use these structural challenges as a motivation to produce home-grown solutions in their budding startup ecosystem».
Social Wellness and Human Resources
Khartoum is one of the largest Muslim cities in North Africa. Sunni Muslims, which make up 70 of Sudan's population, are concentrated in the north of the country; Christians make up five percent and are mostly in south and Khartoum; while 25 percent follow indigenous beliefs. Khartoum has Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Coptic cathedrals, Greek and Maronite churches, and several mosques.
Black people make up 52 percent of Sudan's population, Arab 39 percent, Beja 6 percent, foreigners 2 percent, and others 1 percent. Sudan has faced large refugee influxes from neighboring countries, primarily Ethiopia and Chad.
Arabic is the official language. English is widely spoken, and is an official language. More than 100 languages and dialects are identified, including Nubian, Ta Bedawie, diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic languages. A program of "Arabization" was in progress in 2008.
Khartoum is the location of the University of Khartoum, founded as Gordon Memorial College in 1902 and renamed in the 1930s, Juba University, which is the only university in Sudan to maintain English as language of instruction, Computerman College, Al Neelain University, Sudan University of Science and Technology, Bayan Science and Technology University, the Academy of Medical Sciences and Technology, Omdurman Islamic University, Ahfad University for Women, the Academy of Medical Sciences and Technology, and the Comboni College for Science and Technology.