Understanding Land Investment Deals in Africa: South Sudan

On July 9, 2011, the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) became the world’s newest nation. Despite the significant strides that South Sudanese have made since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, South Sudan remains one of the least developed countries in the world. In order to meet its developmental challenges, the government of South Sudan has begun promoting large-scale private investments as a shortcut to rapid economic development. However, recent data about the rate at which the government is leasing land to foreign and domestic companies has led some observers to question whether the government’s strategy can deliver on its promises. According to a recent study, in just four years, from the start of 2007 to the end of 2010, private interests sought or secured 5.15 million hectares (ha) of land in the agriculture, biofuels, forestry, carbon credit, and ecotourism sectors—equivalent to more than eight percent of South Sudan’s total land area.1 As currently conceived, these land deals threaten to undermine the land rights of rural communities, increase food insecurity, entrench poverty, and skew development patterns in South Sudan.