Tunisia event: What can independent South Sudan learn from it?
By Zechariah Manyok Biar
January 19, 2011 — Wise people learn from both good and bad events. The independent South Sudan would do well if we learn something from what happens in other countries. The current event in Tunisia in which President Zine Abidine Ben Ali was ousted this month by persistent mass demonstration is something that we can learn from.
What angered Tunisia citizens was the lack of jobs in the country. On December 17, 2010, a 26-year-old computer science graduate Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire because the police ordered him to stop selling vegetables on the street and he had not been able to find a job in his profession. He died after from his burns, causing almost spontaneous public uprising against President Ali until he fled the country this month.
Not only in Tunisia does unemployment turn the public against their leaders, high unemployment in the United States contributed to Democratic Party’s lost of many seats to Republican Party in the midterms elections in November last year. Polls showed that voters rejected the Democrats because they were the party in power and voters wanted change. In swing states, for example, about 9 in 10 voters said they were very or somewhat worried about the direction of the economy and voted for Republican by more than two to one voters.
The swing states voted for the Democratic Party in 2008 in large numbers because they were optimistic that President Obama would be able to make their economic life better. According to CBS News report on November 3, 2010, “Exit polls that year (2008) showed that among the 48 percent of voters who thought the economy was poor, 65 percent preferred Mr. Obama to McCain for president. Similarly, of the 55 percent of voters who were worried that the current economic crisis would harm their family’s finances in the next year, 65 percent voted for Mr. Obama.”
Those who were discontented with President Obama and the Democratic Party in November, 2010 still understood that President Obama’s administration had stopped the recession. The only problem was that unemployment rate was between 9.4 and 9.9 percent. That was between 14.5 million and 15.2 million unemployed people out of more than 300,000 million people in the USA.
The unemployment rate that resulted in the uprising that ousted the president in Tunisia is 13.30 percent. You may think that Tunisia is badly off when you compare its unemployment rate of 13.30 percent to 9.4 percent of the US, but wait a minute. The unemployment rate of Sudan is 18.7 percent. But if you break it down to regions, South Sudan would be badly off. That means our leaders have a lot of work to do if they are to meet the current high expectations of Southerners.
Many Southern Sudanese who voted for secession last week believe that things, including economic situation, will change for better in the independent South Sudan. In order to meet this high expectation, our Government should now turn its attention to job creation to avoid the Tunisia event in the future in the independent South Sudan.
The challenge is that we seem to have inferiority complex in South Sudan where we think that a foreigner knows better than the national without comparing what a particular foreigner knows with what a national of similar qualification knows. This inferiority complex often results in the giving away of jobs that can easily be done by nationals. This behavior should be reduced if we are to create jobs for our citizens.
In order to create jobs for our citizens, any business that can be done by our nationals should be awarded to them. Only technologically sophisticated businesses should be given to foreign companies who have expertise and facilities for the operation of such businesses.
But still our citizens should be given the priority of employment in areas of jobs that they can do in those technologically sophisticated businesses. Employment of foreigners should be limited to areas where we need expertise that we do not have.
Most importantly, businesses that carry national pride as well as businesses that have security implications must be awarded to nationals, however sophisticated they could be. Foreigners can be used as consultants and trainers in such businesses.
The only usefulness of investors is job-creation. Something less than a job-creating business for nationals is useless. The other usefulness of investors is the paying of taxes, which can still mean the creation of jobs in developmental activities.
All in all, in order to avoid the event that resulted in the ousting of President Ali of Tunisia, job-creation should be the priority in the independent South Sudan. Foreign investors must make sure that they employ more locals than foreigners. Foreigners should be employed only in areas where the needed expertise is not found in South Sudan. Contracts that can be performed by our citizens should be awarded to them. Only technologically sophisticated businesses should be awarded to foreigners who have expertise and facilities to perform them.
Zechariah Manyok Biar, BA. Edu., MACM, MSSW. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org