New Roads Through Sudan
Northern Sudan is going through a boom in infrastructure development, a large part of which is due to Chinese investment. There is a brand new road that follows the Nile from Wadi Halfa, south through Dongola and onto Khartoum, the freshly painted lines marred only by occasional drifts of sand that blow over it from the desert through which it cuts. A couple of years ago, this same route consisted of only a dirt track that is still visible as one speeds over the black asphalt.
Around the towns en route, huge billboards proclaim the partnerships between the Sudanese government and Chinese contractors for the neighbouring bridges and dams. It is the Sudanese who are responsible for the majority of construction of the roads, with the oil-wealth from the Southern oil-fields; the Chinese are more involved in the dams and bridges, the images of which are plastered all over NCP advertisements, encouraging support in the up-coming elections. The NCP are keen to promote the development for which they are responsible.
Near Karima, a billboard detailed the Merowean “Friendship” Bridge project, costing $25M. Funds had been “donated” by the Chinese National Petroleum Cooperation, it was managed by Sudanese companies, but sub-contracted out to Chinese constructors. The links between China & Sudan are strong; China funds construction of bridges & dams, in (implicit) return for drilling rights in the south, as well as contracts for Chinese construction companies and workers.
The investment in the road system will also aid the logistics of moving the huge amount of Chinese imported products into the country, thus increasing the opportunities of consumerism. The new roads have halved, if not reduced to a third, journey times, as well as reducing the petrol costs for operators running these routes. The price of bus-tickets, however, has remained the same.