In conjunction with the New Year celebrations where most countries hope for a better future, the Republic of Sudan commemorates its National Day on the 1st of January every year. The country split into two in July 2011 after people in the South voted for their independence to establish a new country named the Republic of South Sudan. The larger area of the original country, with its capital Khartoum, is still recognised as one of the resource-rich African countries. It is also a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation since its establishment in 1969. The country’s position and its natural resources were the reason for most invaders to the region. The following presents the economic, social and cultural profile of Sudan as the country celebrates its 61st National Day.
Sudan’s 18 states are home to about 580 ethnic groups who speak hundreds of different languages and dialects.
Historically, the region known today as the Sudan (short for the Arabic bilad as-sudan, land of the blacks) has been linked with or influenced by Egypt, its immediate neighbour to the north. But it also has a strong identity as the eastern end of the great trade route stretching along the open savannah south of the Sahara. The region of Sudan has seen continuous conflict between ruling parties, representing a number of civilisations. This has created a diversified culture which is reflected in the behaviour and traditions of the people until today. Islam came to Sudan from Egypt in the year 652 and since then more people, especially in the northern part, have entered the faith. A number of Sudanese contributed significantly to the development and dissemination of knowledge based on the teachings of the Holy Quran.
|Area||1,882,000 sq. km|
|Major Language (s)||Arabic, English|
|Major Religion (s)||Islam|
|Life Expectancy||Male:65.01 years ; Female:61.98 years|
|Currency||Sudanese Pound (SDG)|
|Literacy rate||Youth 70.87%, Adults 58.60%|
|GDP Per Capita||USD 2,081.15 (2014)|
The economy in Sudan is dependent on oil production and agriculture as the two basic elements. While oil production has helped boost the country’s economy since 1999, the secession of South Sudan in 2011— which controlled almost three-quarters of the reserves—made Sudan struggle to stabilise its economy and make up for the loss of foreign exchange earnings. Agriculture, however, employs nearly 80 per cent of the workers in the country. Sudan is the world’s largest exporter of gum Arabic, producing 75–80 per cent of the total output. Trying to face the challenge of reduced oil production, the government introduced programmes to develop non-oil sources of revenue such as gold mining, while carrying out an austerity program to reduce expenditures.
Sudan’s intra-OIC trade activities have increased since 2011 as the country tries to leverage on its Arabian and Islamic status. The main trade partners are Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
GDP per capita has increased exponentially from USD 391 in 1999 to USD 1928 in 2010 before going down as South Sudan’s secession was announced. The figure started to go up again, reaching USD 2081 in 2014, according to the Statistical, Economic and Social Research and Training Centre for Islamic Countries (SESRIC). Sudan’s intra-OIC trade activities have increased since 2011 as the country tries to leverage on its Arabian and Islamic status. The main trade partners are Egypt, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Sudan’s main exports include gold, oil and petroleum products, cotton, sesame, livestock, groundnuts, gum Arabic and sugar. Its list of imports includes foodstuffs, manufactured goods, refinery and transport equipment, medicines and chemicals, textiles and wheat.
The status of education in Sudan is rather interesting and it is linked to the overall controversial situation in the country. While literacy and enrolment rates are considerably low compared to other countries, especially OIC members, Sudan is home for renowned scholars whose academic research and scientific findings are globally recognised. Enrollment rate in all levels of education (preschool, primary, secondary and tertiary) has steadily been increasing. The right of enrollment was given to female students a long time ago, even though for a while it was confined to studying the Holy Quran and the Islamic teachings. After independence, more schools were established for girls offering diversified programmes including academic and vocational education.
Since the 1970s reforms to make education effectively compulsory have been launched in Sudan, with improved focus on technical and vocational education.
Speaking of higher education in Sudan, there are many universities where students from different corners of the world used to come to get their educational certifications. Most of those students are from Arabian and Islamic countries. Just to name a few, these universities include the University of Khartoum, Sudan University of Science and Technology, International University of Africa, Ahfad University for Women, Omdurman Islamic University and Neelain University. However, fewer numbers of students currently travel to Sudan for education. At the same time, many Sudanese students travel abroad to gain degrees. Hence, the government of Sudan is required to restore the reputation of its educational institutions locally and internationally.
Culture and traditions
In Sudan, over three-quarters of people follow the Islamic faith and most are Sunni Muslims. The second largest religious group in Sudan follows Christianity. Religious beliefs guide the behaviour of people and how they act in, and react to, different situations. They also identify each group’s dress code and daily practices. For example, Muslim women follow the tradition of covering their heads and their entire bodies. They wrap themselves in a thobe, a length of semi-transparent fabric that goes over other clothing. Men also cover most of their bodies with a light, loose-fitting, white robe or jalabiya. They also cover their heads with either a small cap or a turban. Head covering serves to protect the people from the sun and heat as well as honor their religious beliefs.
Even though they are guided by the same principles for dress code to those in other Muslim countries, it is easy to identify Sudanese men and women by the way they are dressed.
Sudan has a great and unique tradition of music. From early Sudanese resistance poets like Mahjoub Sharif who fled from imprisonment and the traditional ceremonies of cultural groups, to western influences like bagpipes and military march music, the cultural mix is mesmerizing. Today, the country’s music is still an eclectic mix of indigenous sounds and languages developed into western style hip-hop and folk music and it can easily be distinguished from other forms of music in other countries. The Sudanese cuisine has also been influenced by its history and geographic location close to the Middle East, demonstrated by an ingredient list that includes cardamom, cinnamon, green peppers and apricots. Famous foods are Goraasa be dama, Tamia, Kisra, Ful and Moukhbaza.
Nature and wildlife
Sudan is rich in natural sceneries and wildlife, but most of the natural plants and wild animals are threatened by misconduct practiced by individuals and groups. Large areas of Sudan’s natural plants have disappeared following hundreds of years of livestock grazing. The country’s wildlife is also threatened by hunting. Over 20 mammal and nine bird species are endangered. Desert animals such as the Tora hartebeest, Sahara oryx and the slender-horned gazelle (Gazella leptoceros) are now extremely rare or extinct in the wild. Nevertheless, the main feature of Sudan is the Nile, which actually combines two rivers namely the White Nile and the Blue Nile. The White Nile travels from Lake Victoria in Uganda, which is fed by other rivers further south, while the Blue Nile starts at Lake Tana in the highlands of Ethiopia.
Though it’s called the Blue Nile, this river is more of a muddy brown. It’s the waters of the White Nile which are green-blue. The two different colours can be seen distinctly, almost as a line, where the rivers come together at Khartoum.
Tourism has been badly affected by the continuous conflict in Sudan. It remained one of the least visited in Africa. However, recent investment in infrastructure and tourist attraction sites boosted the tourism industry in Sudan. Until 2004, the number of arrivals averaged at 50–60 thousand tourists every year. Since then, the number has increased rapidly to reach 684 thousand arrivals in 2014. In the same year, the government spent USD 439 million and received USD 967 million from the tourism sector, which amounted 22 per cent of the total exports.