Gibreel Ibrahim once led a rebel group that fought to overthrow the Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir. As the nation’s chief financial officer, he is struggling to revive the battered economy and attract important foreign investment.
Ibrahim is a fulcrum of the transitional government, uniting civilians, the military and insurgent groups after Bashir’s overthrow in a 2019 riot. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, it is in the process of paying off the majority of the country’s US $ 60 billion foreign debt and the International Monetary Fund’s arrears.
Other challenges remain, including holding elections, loosening the military’s stranglehold on key industries, opening new lines of credit, and unlocking more revenue from Sudanese gold. Hamdok’s government must also disarm the ex-rebels and integrate them into the army, a process that requires money that it doesn’t have.
“The real challenge is to convince those who ruled the country for decades to accept the change and accept that they will receive a lesser portion of the resources,” Ibrahim said in an interview at his home in the eastern suburbs Capital Khartoum. “The military themselves are not happy when others come in.”
Annoyance is not just confined to the armed forces, public anger over the lack of fuel, bread and other staple foods, an inflation rate of more than 360% and a depreciating currency.
It will take time to turn the economy around and improve living standards, said Ibrahim, who is from the West Darfur region and also leads the Justice and Equality Movement. The rebel group was founded in 2000 by Ibrahim’s brother Khalil, who was killed in a government air strike nearly a decade ago and almost took control of Khartoum in 2008 before being repulsed.
The government aims to develop infrastructure, energy and mining projects to stimulate economic growth and create jobs. Finance officials are expected in Saudi Arabia this month for further talks on a proposed $ 3 billion mutual fund.
$ 10 billion investment
Governments will, according to Ibrahim, “create the joint investment mechanism and discuss the projects” that are of interest to both sides. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has expressed an interest in increasing the total pledge to $ 10 billion, the minister said.
Ibrahim also plans to attract private capital by selling stakes in some of Sudan’s 650 state-owned companies, 200 of which are military. Loss-making should be turned around and controlled more closely, he said.
Ibrahim estimates that around 80% of the gold mined in Sudan is smuggled abroad, which deprives him of important income and in some cases limits the ratio between taxes and gross domestic product to only 5%. He wants the government to become the main buyer of gold for artisanal and industrial miners, helping them expand the tax base and build the central bank’s reserves.
– With the support of Gina Turner