CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - As South Sudan's president was due to sign a peace pact on Wednesday, his transport minister was in South Africa to sign a deal he hopes will be part of a new inflow of infrastructure investment needed to develop the world's youngest country.
"Investors are willing, when the guns fall silent, they will come to invest," Transport Minister Kwong Danhier Gatluak told Reuters in Cape Town where he was signing an agreement with his South African counterpart which should, among other things, provide training for road engineers and air traffic controllers.
Back in South Sudan, regional African leaders gathered
as President Salva Kiir was expected to sign a peace deal to end a 20-month conflict with rebels.
South Sudan will need more than $10 billion to build and upgrade around 10,000 km of roads, Gatluak said.
The African Development Bank estimates there were about 35 meters of paved road per thousand residents in South Sudan, a nation of 11 million people, in 2011, compared to an average of 128 meters in Sub-Saharan Africa’s cities and 700 meters in the low-income countries of the developing world.
The first tarmacked road in the land-locked country "since Adam and Eve" was constructed with USAID funding in 2012, from the border of Uganda to Juba along 192 km, Gatluak said.
"Now we are constructing a road that links Juba and the rest of northwestern part of South Sudan that’s 441 km long, (at a cost of) around $700 million."
China is investing in the country and the World Bank has promised about $150 million to improve road connectivity in rural areas and increase access to markets, Gatluak said.
Beyond improving road, rail and river transport, Gatluak said he expected the first phase to upgrade Juba's main airport to be completed by September 2016, with China Harbour Engineering Company extending the runway by 700 meters.
"By September next year we would have done the first phase and will be able to accept much bigger aircraft," he said.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)