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World

US treasury chief inks Sudan deal after blacklisting lifted

  • The signing came after the United States on December 14 formally removed Sudan from its crippling blacklist.
06 Jan 2021

KHARTOUM: US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, on an unprecedented visit to Khartoum, signed an initial agreement Wednesday giving Sudan access to $1 billion in financing from the World Bank, the government said.

Sudan's acting finance minister Hiba Ahmed and Mnuchin "signed a memorandum of understanding in Khartoum to provide a same-day bridge financing facility to clear Sudan's arrears to the World Bank," her office said.

"This move will enable Sudan to regain access to over $1 billion in annual financing from the World Bank for the first time in 27 years," it said in a statement.

The signing came after the United States on December 14 formally removed Sudan from its crippling blacklist.

It opens the way for debt relief and investment in a country going though a tough political transition and struggling under a severe economic crisis exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sudan's delisiting was part of an agreement for the mainly Arab country's normalisation of its relations with Israel.

The northeast African country agreed to the normalisation deal with Israel in October but said it would only come into force after its approval by a yet-to-be-formed parliament.

Mnuchin, on "the first such visit to Sudan", according to Khartoum, was scheduled to meet both head of state General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.

Their talks would focus on Sudan's deteriorating "economic situation, US aid to Sudan and debt relief," the government said.

Sudan is struggling with a chronic hard currency shortage and galloping inflation that have hit the purchasing power of all social classes.

Its external debt is estimated at around $60 billion.

Sudan has been undergoing a rocky transition since the army toppled veteran president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019 following months of mass protests against his rule.

The joint military-civilian administration charged with overseeing the transition has sought to end the country's international pariah status by forging closer ties with the US.

On Wednesday, the US treasury chief also met with Sudan's water minister to discuss the long-running dispute with Egypt and Ethiopia over Addis Ababa's gigantic Nile dam.