Dancing at the mouth of the grave: 10 quick things about South Sudan

Four years following the euphoria of self rule, the state of the failed nation makes for grim reading.

A PEACE deal has been signed between warring South Sudan rivals, and with president Salva Kiir already expressing reservations about the agreement, there are concerns that it may not hold, much like at least seven others that preceded it.

From the high of independence just four years ago, sentiment around the country is now muted following nearly two years of ruinous civil war.

We looked through some World Bank data, among other lists, for some numbers on the young nation that has been struggling to anchor the gains from its nationhood:

1: It is the most oil-dependent country in the world, with the commodity accounting for almost all its exports, and 60% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Analysts estimate that using current oil reserve estimates, there will be a steady reduction in output, with production almost negligible by 2035.

2: With the crash in oil prices, the economy has quickly fallen into a deficit, that currently stands at 10% of its GDP. Such has been the shortage of hard currency that even the parallel market has depreciated. The country’s only brewery, run by drinks giant SABMiller, is considering closing its doors, blaming basic shortage and lack of hard currency. Once seen as a symbol of freedom, it was the largest single investment in the country outside the oil industry.

3: Some 85% of its population is engaged in non-wage work—with agriculture accounting for 78% of its citizens. These are among the most hurt by the current conflict that may have cost up to 15% of its $13billion GDP in 2014, with inflation last measured at 47.3% in 2011.

4: With a nominal per capita GDP of $1,081 fuelled by oil, its citizens would theoretically be the 30th richest in Africa, ahead of countries such as Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda. But the incidence of poverty has actually worsened since independence, from 44.7% in 2011 to more than 57.2% in 2015.

5: While its population estimate ranges from 8 million to 12 million in the absence of a proper census, it has a very young demography, with two thirds of its population aged under 30 ,and has a median age of 18.6.

6: Just 27% of population aged 15 years and above is literate, according to UN data. There is also a significant gender disparity among these, with 40% of males literate, but just 16% of females having the same ability.

7: It has among the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, at 730 deaths per 100,000 live births (45 times the average in developed countries and that’s progress as it once was over 2,000), and also one of the highest rates of child marriage, at 52%. Interestingly, it maintains a sex ratio of 100 males for every 100 females.

8: Since independence it has aggressively sought to gravitate away from Sudan (Khartoum), and into the arms of the East African Community. It is currently looking to integrate its transport and oil infrastructure with Kenya and Uganda, and has modelled its education system completely after the former’s, with a plan to introduce Kiswahili in its lingua franca.

9: South Sudanese aircraft are among the most risky in Africa today—in 2014, just three years into independence it had already notched up 42 fatal accidents, claiming 130 lives—10% of the fatalities caused by cargo airplanes—though this is gradually coming down as civil aviation infrastructure improves. 

10: It has some of Africa’s—and the world’s— most famous basketball players, including Manute Bol, Luol Deng and Deng Gai—who all played for American NBA teams.

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