Libya and the Sudan: Rich Man, Poor Man

  • Rodney Wilson


At first sight it may seem strange to examine Libya and the Sudan together, as the differences between the two states are more readily apparent than the similarities. Libya, blessed by its new oil wealth, enjoys a per capita GNP of $4275, the highest in Africa, whilst the Sudan, with a per capita income of $290, must be counted amongst the poorer countries of the continent.1 What the Sudan lacks in financial resources it makes up for in manpower, however, as it is the second most populous Arab-ruled state, with almost 18 million inhabitants, although one-third of these are non-Arabs.2 Libya’s population, in contrast, is under two and a half million, most of whom are still nomadic pastoralists, rather than being settled cultivators as in the Sudanese case. The Nile Valley is in fact one of the oldest areas of settled agriculture in the world, and Sudan’s economic links with the outside world, like Egypt’s, date back to the development of cotton production for export in the nineteenth century. Libya’s commercial links with the outside world are much more recent, for although it was colonised by Italy, domestic agriculture was relatively unimportant, and it is only in the last twenty years since the growth of the oil economy that the country has emerged as a significant trading nation.


Eastern Bloc Arab State Nomadic Pastoralist Agricultural Project Sudanese Government 
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  1. 1.
    Figures from OECD, Development Co-operation (Paris, 1976) Statistical Annex, Table 46, p. 270.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Ministry of Planning and Scientific Research, Libyan Arab Republic, The Plan of Economic and Social Transformation 1976–1980, (Tripoli, 1976) p. 39.Google Scholar
  3. For accounts of what Libya’s non-oil sector has developed from see Rawle Farley, Planning for Development in Libya: The Exceptional Economy in the Developing World (New York: Praeger, 1971) Chapter 7, p. 132 ff.Google Scholar
  4. Also the IBRD report, The Economic Development of Libya (Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 1960) Chapter 8, p. 130 ff., Chapter 9, p. 179 ff.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
    See Bank of Sudan, Sixteenth Annual Report (Khartoum, 1975) Appendix 2, Table 3, p. 101. For a recent study of the structure of the Sudanese economy see F. A. Lees and H. C. Brooks, The Economic and Political Development of the Sudan (Macmillan, 1977).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Market Study: Sudan (London, May 1977) p. 13.Google Scholar
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    For details of recent infrastructure improvements see Middle East Economic Digest, Special Report on the Sudan, (26 August 1977) pp. 5–7. An historical account of the importance of Sudanses trade with its neighbours is given by P. F. Martin, The Sudan in Evolution: A Study of the Financial and Administrative Conditions of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (New York: Negro University Press, 1970), p. 100 ff.Google Scholar
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    Unfortunately not all of the aid inflows have been coming on schedule, which may delay the plan. See Peter Kilner, ‘Sudan: Devaluation and Spending Cuts Loom as Aid Inflows Falter’, Middle East Economic Digest, vol. 21, no. 40 (7 October 1977) pp. 3–5.Google Scholar
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    For details of some of the delays see James Buxton and Margaret Reid, ‘Lonrho’s Kenana Project: The Crumbling of an Ambitious Dream’, Financial Times (24 May, 1977) p. 6. Sudan’s existing agricultural schemes such as that in the Gezira had taken years to develop, unlike Kenana. For a history of this earlier scheme see A. Gaitskell, Gezira: A Story of Development in the Sudan, (Faber & Faber, 1959) Part 2, p. 99 ff. especially.Google Scholar
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    For a history of the company, and the Tiny Rowlands financial empire, see Suzanne Cronje, Margaret Ling and Gillian Cronje, Lonrho: Portrait of a Multinational (Julian Friedman, 1976) Chapter 7 discusses the ‘unacceptable face’ (p. 134 ff.), while Chapter 9 p. 178 ff., deals with the Sudan.Google Scholar
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    For a complete list of industrial projects, and brief details, see Ministry of Information and Culture, The First of September Revolution Achievements 1969–1974:5th Anniversary (Tripoli, 1974) pp. 64–9.Google Scholar
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    Arab Fund For Economic and Social Development, Investment Services and Promotion Unit, Tabulated Summary of Investment Laws in Arab Countries: Sudan (Kuwait, 1977) p. 1.Google Scholar
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    CBI, Market Study: Sudan, p. 35. A survey has been carried out of small industrial establishments and their attitudes towards these laws. See K. A. Hammeed, Enterprise: Industrial Entrepreneurship in Development, (Sage Publications, 1974). Chapter 3 gives details of establishments covered by the survey (p. 56 ff.).Google Scholar
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    Middle East Economic Digest, Special Report on Libya, p. 12. For a detailed acount of Libya’s labour laws see M. A. Nafa, Libya: Company and Business Law (Arab Consultants, 1976) Chapter 5, p. 208 ff.Google Scholar

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© Rodney Wilson 1979

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  • Rodney Wilson

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