As South Sudan‘s war drags into the beginning of its second year, campaigners are warning of the economic risks of a prolonged conflict, hoping to press the region into action during the African Union meetings at the end of January after months of failed peace talks, the FT’s Katrina Manson writes:
According to a study by Frontier Economics, a UK-based consultancy, the war could cost $158bn over two decades, even if oil production comes back at full capacity 10 years from now. Humanitarians also say they need $1.8bn to reach more than 4m people in 2015 alone. Two million people have already fled the fighting, which has killed tens of thousands.
The authors reckon:
At a minimum, if fighting were to cease at the end of 2015, the country would lose nearly $22 billion in real GDP over a five-year period. But at its worst, if intense fighting were to occur over the next five years, South Sudan would lose $158 billion in real GDP growth – a staggering 1328% loss – over a 20-year period.
The report, published in association with the Centre for Peace and Development Studies at the University of Juba and the Center for Conflict Resolution in Uganda, models the cost of the war by attempting to calculate how far different conflict scenarios would deviate from otherwise positive growth prospects in the oil-exporting country of 12m people.
The aim of the report launched today, ahead of next week’s African Union Summit entitled, “South Sudan: the Cost of War,” is to focus the minds of political leaders on the stakes of failing to bring immediate and lasting peace to South Sudan and present recommendations for swift action to speed an end to the protracted conflict.
A central finding of the report is the urgent need for early action. The costs of conflict to South Sudan, its neighbours and the international community are very likely to accelerate the longer the war persists.
The price of not finding peace in South Sudan now could be $158bn over the next two decades. And if the fighting flares up again as many predict, South Sudan risks becoming a failed state or even being the epicentre of a full blown regional conflict dragging in its neighbours.
South Sudan’s immediate neighbours have the most gain from peace being restored and they need to lead more concerted and decisive international action. Doing so could save them up to $53 billion if the conflict were resolved within one year.
If there was a concerted global effort to restore peace this year (rather than in 5 years’ time), the international community would have $30 billion to invest in rebuilding hospitals, schools and livelihoods – rather than for endless humanitarian aid and paying UN blue helmets to keep people alive.
Persisting with the current level of political engagement is not an option. Without a swift end to the fighting, South Sudan runs the risk of becoming a failed state and the epicentre of a full blown regional conflict. African states should take the lead to foster peace in South Sudan, including by: taking collective action against individuals who stand in the way of peace, insisting on an inclusive approach to peace negotiations and ensuring that the AU Commission of Inquiry Report on South Sudan is released at the AU Summit in Addis Ababa later this month to bring justice to the survivors of the conflict.