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Bans, closures of business begin to bite South Sudan

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EAST AFRICA 18 APR 2020

The restrictions imposed by the South Sudanese government to contain the spread of Covid-19 have begun biting its people.

South Sudan was among the last countries in sub-Saharan Africa to report a case of the coronavirus. To date, the country has reported four cases since a 29-year-old UN employee, who had travelled from the Netherlands through Addis Ababa to Juba tested positive for the virus.

It took that one case for President Salva Kiir to ban public gatherings and ask all non-essential businesses to close.

However, the directives did not go down well with some.

Awer David Garang, who operates a mobile money shop, said he used to make $200 in profits a day, but now describes the pandemic as an extreme horrible season.

“Due to the closure of businesses, I now receive less than 15 customers in a day, compared with before when I used to served more than 60 customers in a day.”

Taban Sulieman, the chief executive of JJ and Sons Hardware, says since the closure of non-essential businesses, he has not opened for work and the future of his business seems dark, if there will be no government policies to assist them.

“Can you imagine importing goods worth $100,000 and they just stay in the store yet the dollar is fluctuating day and night.”

“When we open in future, at what rate will I sell out my goods? The most difficult part is my 21 employees who lost their jobs. I am imagining how they are living with their families now,” he lamented.

Meanwhile, a manager at one of Juba’s popular hotels, who asked not to be mentioned, said he is worried by losses incurred due to Covid-19.

Addressing the press on Wednesday in Juba after meeting First Vice President Dr Riek Machar who doubles up as the deputy chairperson of the High Level Taskforce on Covid-19, secretary general of the defunct Jubek State, France Lula says the closure of non-essential shops has resulted in low city tax collections.

“We came here to update Dr Riek on the challenges faced by traders and City Council in regards to closure of non-essential businesses, whose taxes support the running of the city.

“With this rainy season coming, and with continued closure of business, the city is going face a number of hardships,” he stressed.

‘Not for us’

Prof Abraham Matook, an economist and the Vice Chancellor of Dr John Garang Memorial University noted that since majority of South Sudanese rely on casual work, the pandemic will affect people’s livelihoods.

“The country is already poor and people are earning their livelihoods on what they do daily, not a salary. There are no investors to fill the gap by establishing counter measures to tackle the negative impact of the pandemic.

This places the lives of local population at high risks.

“In South Sudan, the situation is totally different compared with other countries, for example a lock-down imposed in the future, will mean that the livelihoods of people will be affected, and once this is so, the economy will not be productive and this will lead to rising unemployment and loss of lives as well,” he argued.

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