Much of the pledged amount will be used to fund an ambitious $1.9 billion cash transfer programme to Sudan's neediest families, around 80 percent of the population, over the course of two years.

FILE PHOTO: Customers queue to buy bread at a bakery in Khartoum, Sudan, February 19, 2020.
FILE PHOTO: Customers queue to buy bread at a bakery in Khartoum, Sudan, February 19, 2020. (Reuters)

Western and Arab countries have pledged a total $1.8 billion in aid to Sudan in efforts to help the struggling African nation, one year after pro-democracy protesters forced the removal of the country's longtime autocratic ruler, Omar Al Bashir.

The pledges from 40 countries and institutions came during a video conference hosted by Berlin, which marks the formal launch of the international community’s financial support for Sudan’s democratic transition after three decades of punitive sanctions and isolation under Al Bashir.

“We are extremely delighted and satisfied this response,” said Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a former economist with the United Nations, on Thursday. 

"For 30 years, we have longed for this."

Although the conference presented an unprecedented amount of international support, pledges fell far short of the $8 billion Hamdok had previously said Sudan will need to rescue its plunging economy.

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Worsened conditions

Sudan's interim government has been grappling with an economic crisis since it took office last year, also navigating a treacherous transition to civilian rule. 

On top of that, the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated Sudan's economic despair, throwing millions of casual labourers out of work.

Two-thirds of the country’s more than 40 million people live in poverty, and the government has inherited a debt of 60 billion dollars and a rapid inflation rate, and badly needs an injection of funds from foreign donors. 

The nation’s currency, the Sudanese pound, is trading on the black market for double its official rate of 55 pounds to the dollar.

READ MOREUN warns world may pay 'terrible price' if it fails Sudan

International aid

The European Union pledged 312 million euros ($350 million), while Germany said it would give 150 million euros ($168 million), of which 118 million euros will go toward development aid, food security, vocational training, support for refugees and poor families, including in the war-torn region of Darfur. 

A further 32 million euros will go toward humanitarian aid and stabilisation programs.

“In return I expect the government to resolutely continue on its path of reform and work toward religious freedom and full equality for women,” said Germany’s development minister, Gerd Mueller.

France pledged a total of 100 million euros, or about $112, a mixture of previously announced aid and newly bolstered assistance. The United Kingdom also gave 166 million euros, more than $186 million.

Sudan's government faces steep challenges to transforming its economic system and meeting the demands of protesters who ousted Al Bashir last year, spurred by the soaring prices of staple goods and rising youth unemployment. 

The government is on the hook for billions of dollars in interest and principal repayments, which has crippled its economic activity and hindered its access to funds from international financial institutions.

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Turkey stands by Sudan

Turkey is committed to stand by the people and the government of Sudan in the transition process, the country’s top diplomat told the conference.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu expressed support for the transition of the country as well as its reintegration to the global economy.

“It has been almost a year since the signing of the Constitutional Declaration of Sudan. I had the privilege to witness this historic event,” Cavusoglu said.

He said that the lifting of sanctions also would help Sudan integrate itself into the global economy.

Cavusoglu noted that Turkey provided economic aid to Sudan for development projects as well as delivered medical supplies during the pandemic.

"Turkey provided Sudan with more than $9 million for development projects and humanitarian aid in 2019 and $6.5 million Dollars in 2020," he said, adding: “We will continue our ongoing projects in various fields from agriculture to education, from health care to banking."

“In response to the call of this conference, we will make additional cash and project-based donations,” the foreign minister said.

The collapse of Sudan's economy poses an existential threat for its political transition. The uprising that toppled Al Bashir in April 2019 led to a power-sharing deal between civilian appointees and the military. 

Pro-democracy activists have said that the military leaders have stalled in handing over power to civilian leaders.

READ MORESudan’s youth protesters await justice amid frail transition

Source: TRTWorld and agencies