By Mohammed Amin
KHARTOUM (AA) - U.S. sanctions on Khartoum, imposed two decades ago, were officially lifted Thursday, allowing trade to resume between Sudan and the U.S.
A license issued by the U.S. Office for Foreign Assets Control will allow goods to be freely traded between the two countries, while restrictions on bank transactions will also be lifted.
On Wednesday, Sudan’s central bank -- for the first time since 1997 -- received an international bank transfer from the U.S.
“In the first sign of Sudan’s economic recovery, two Sudanese banks have received dollar-denominated money transfers,” the central bank said in a statement.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Sudanese businesspeople said the lifting of the sanctions would have a positive impact on living conditions, but they also urged the government to take additional steps for achieving full economic recovery.
Mohamed Ahmed, a trader in the city of Omdurman, described the end of the sanctions as a “very positive” development.
“It will create more jobs and bring more foreign investment, which is sure to improve the country’s economic situation,” he said.
Nihal Ahmed, a shop-owner, hopes to see the return of international airlines to Khartoum after their operations were suspended two years ago.
Musa Osman, another trader, likewise voiced optimism for Sudan’s short-term economic prospects.
“Expectations are high,” he told Anadolu Agency.
Sudanese Finance Minister Mohamed Osman al-Rikabi also looks forward to an era of post-sanctions economic recovery.
Speaking in Khartoum on Wednesday, al-Rikabi said the removal of sanctions would serve to raise Sudan’s profile among foreign investors.
“It will lead to an increase in Sudan’s economic growth rates, thus attracting more U.S. and international investment,” he asserted.
Ali Saeed Ali, a spokesman for Sudan’s Communist Party, however, challenged Washington’s assertions that Sudan’s human rights record had improved.
He also voiced doubt about the country’s prospects for economic recovery in the short term.
“The government is pumping out propaganda aimed at convincing the public that the [economic] situation has already improved,” he said.
“When in reality,” he added, “Sudan remains on the road to collapse.”
Sudanese economy expert Asim Ismail, for his part, said Khartoum was upbeat about ending two decades of international isolation and regaining access to global financial markets.
“But the national economy still faces myriad problems, especially those pertaining to corruption and low levels of national production,” he told Anadolu Agency.
“Meanwhile, Sudan’s investment environment remains primitive,” Ismail added. “There’s no legal framework and the country lacks adequate infrastructure.”
Sudan has been badly affected by 20 years of U.S. sanctions, which caused several sectors of the economy -- especially the transport sector -- to collapse.
Sudan also suffers from a lack of hard currency, high rates of inflation, and the cost of long-running conflicts in the Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions.
The country took a major hit in 2011 when South Sudan declared independence -- a move that ultimately cost Sudan more than 70 percent of its national oil revenue.