Sudan Economics and Business


Abbreviated as SD by, Sudan is rich in natural resources such as oil and natural gas, but the country’s business is poorly developed. About 80 percent of the country’s labor force is employed in agriculture, of which the majority are in self-sustaining cultivation, while the industry is undeveloped. The main causes of the country’s development problems have been the struggles in the southern parts (now South Sudan), the vulnerability to price fluctuations in the world market and an undeveloped infrastructure as well as drought, floods and insect infestations. Furthermore, several major development projects have been suspended as a result of civil war, corruption and bureaucratic inefficiency.

Sudan GDP (Nominal, $USD) 2003-2017

In 1999, oil started to be extracted in Sudan. The oil has attracted foreign investors to the country and also contributed to large export revenues. However, a large part of this revenue has been spent on military costs. When South Sudan became independent, Sudan got rid of 3/4 of its known oil resources.

Note: the capital city of Sudan is Khartoum with a population of 5,830,000 (including suburbs, UN estimate 2020). Other major cities include Nyala with a population of 922,500, Port Sudan with a population of 483,500, El-Obeid with a population of 481,350, Kassala with a population of 364,000 (UN estimate 2020).


Agriculture is the country’s most important industry and accounts for 40 percent of GDP and 80 percent of employment. About 1/3 of the country’s total area is considered suitable for agriculture, but the area cultivated varies depending on fluctuating rainfall. Only the Nile’s beaches are cultivable in northern Sudan’s desert areas. The majority of the agricultural industry is engaged in self-sustaining agriculture.

Durra, which is grown mainly in the south, is the most important staple food and cotton, together with sesame seeds, is the most important export crop. Other important crops are millet, sugar cane, legumes and peanuts. The Gezira project, located between the White Nile and the Blue Nile south of Khartoum, is one of the world’s largest irrigation projects. It covers the country’s commercially most important agricultural area, of which a large proportion is leased out to foreign companies.

Livestock breeding (camels, sheep, cattle and goats) is a significant food and live animal and meat exported to the Arab countries.

Natural Resources

The mining industry is poorly developed, but deposits have been made from oil in southwestern and central Sudan and from natural gas by the Red Sea. Gold is mined in the northeast by the Red Sea and chrome in the Ingessana Mountains at the border with Ethiopia. Furthermore, uranium deposits have been made in the west at the border with Chad and the Central African Republic. The country also has assets of plaster, iron, mica, marble and salt. Sudan began extracting oil in 1999, but it was only after the civil war in southern Sudan ended in 2005 that oil production seriously expanded. The years before the country was divided, Sudan was Africa’s sixth largest oil producer. Several foreign companies are involved in the mapping and exploitation of Sudanese oil, including China’s major interests in the oil industry. Port Sudan has been developed into the country’s oil refining center and the city is connected to the oil fields via a pipeline. How the revenue from oil extracted in South Sudan, but exported through Sudan, should be distributed is still a matter of dispute between the countries.

The commercial utilization of the existing forest is limited. Primarily, the forest is used as fuel and for the collection of rubber arabic, an important export commodity. A large part of the electricity generation comes from hydropower, the rest from thermal power plants.


The industry, which was nationalized in 1971, has suffered from inefficiencies and low capacity utilization. The manufacturing industry is concentrated in the Khartoum area, while the oil industry is mainly located in Port Sudan. The most important industries are oil-related industries and food and textile production. Private investment has been encouraged partly through the sale of state-owned enterprises and partly through the establishment of free-trade zones.

  • COUNTRYAAH: Find major trading partners of Sudan, including major exports and major imports with latest trade value and market share as well as growth rate.

Foreign trade

Sudan has for a long time had a negative trade balance. During the 1980s, the export value was just under half the import value. But thanks to oil exports, the country had surpluses in the trade balance during the 1990s. After the division in South Sudan and Sudan, the country has lost large parts of its oil exports and now gold is the most important export commodity. Similarly, the trade surplus has turned into a deficit. The United Arab Emirates and Egypt are the most important export markets. Imports mainly comprise food, industrial goods and machinery. The most important trading partners are the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and India.

Sudan Economics and Business

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