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What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Sudan?

Sudan is the third largest country in Africa with a total area of 1,882,000km2 and 42.8 million inhabitants. The country is sparsely populated and shares international borders with Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Central African Republic, Chad, and Libya. The River Nile traverses the country from south to north providing a crucial water source, while the Red Sea washes close to 900km of the eastern coast, making Sudan a sea bridge between Africa and the Middle East.

Sudan is both an African and Arab country, with Arabic being the most widely spoken language. Over 97% of the population are Sunni Muslims with a small Christian minority.

The 2019 revolution, predominantly led by women and youth, has presented the people of Sudan with the unique opportunity to transform their nation. In so doing, they will need to address the multiple development challenges Sudan faces, with its fragile environment (with drought and desertification reflected in vulnerability to climate change), limited basic services, and history of exclusionary development and conflict.

History and Government

Sudan has a decentralized governance structure with three levels: Federal Government, State Governments, and Localities. Since gaining independence on 1 January 1956, Sudan has alternated between democratic and authoritarian leadership. During this time, Sudan experienced only 11 years of relative peace, between 1972 and 1983.

From 1989 to 2019, former President Omar al-Bashir ruled as President, a period which included the secession of the Republic of South Sudan in July 2011, after a lengthy internal conflict, until his removal during the 2019 revolution.

Following the revolution, Sudan has embarked on a transition to peace and democracy under a civilian-led Transitional Government and Cabinet, headed by a civilian Prime Minister, and a collective civilian/military Head of State, the Sovereignty Council.

Sudan’s modern history is also marked by the 2003 eruption of conflict in Darfur. Several agreements made inroads to peace, alongside the 2007 deployment of the joint African Union and United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). Working to end this conflict, and other tensions across Sudan, the new Government is progressing towards what is hoped will be lasting peace.

A milestone in this transition was the Juba Peace Agreement, signed in October 2020 by the Transitional Government and the leaders of a number of armed groups. As part of the Agreement, commitments were made on power and wealth sharing, the integration of forces into official ranks, political representation, economic rights and investment, and support for the return of displaced peoples. Towards this end, the Transitional Government is continuing its efforts to [TB1] secure comprehensive peace throughout Sudan.

After almost 13 years, 2021 will witness the departure of UNAMID and the arrival of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). Headquartered in Khartoum, UNITAMS will work closely with the Transitional Government and the people of Sudan in support of the transition, alongside other United Nations entities.

Sudan’s Economy: Opportunities and Challenges

Sudan is rich in arable land, natural resources, a young workforce, and agricultural opportunities, however, the secession of the oil-rich South in 2011 initiated a declining economic trend. IMF figures indicate that GDP halved between 2011 and 2019. The 75% decline in oil income resulted in both a trade and fiscal deficit which led to a substantial devaluation of the currency and rising inflation.

Sudan’s economy has been in recession since 2018, with a decline experienced across all the components of GDP. Per capita GDP declined from USD1,125 in 2017 to USD780 in 2019, with real GDP estimated to have shrunk by 8.2% in 2020 due to the combined impact of COVID-19, natural disasters including floods, and intermittent shortages of key commodities like fuel. Poverty has risen as a result and, exacerbated by COVID-19, there is general consensus among observers that this is now widespread.

In response to the economic concerns of the population, the Transitional Government is moving ahead with significant economic transformation, prioritising harnessing the country’s natural wealth to fund development, addressing inflation and parallel foreign currency exchange rates, and tackling historic economic distortions, notably subsidies on fossil fuels.

In support of these aims, in September 2020 the Transitional Government agreed to an IMF-managed programme that foresees the removal of fuel subsidies, the unification and liberalization of the foreign exchange rate, and increased revenue mobilization efforts to reduce the fiscal deficit and create conditions for the increased allocation of funds to priority sectors, including a joint Transitional Government/World Bank/WFP social protection programme.

Sudan’s exports are dominated by gold, sesame seed, livestock, crude oil and groundnuts, and  accounted for 82% of all exports in 2019. Historically, agriculture has remained the main source of income and employment in Sudan, employing or providing livelihoods for more than 60% of the population.

However, neglect of traditional smallholder agriculture and nomadic animal husbandry saw the sector’s share of GDP dip in recent years years. This trend, combined with the exodus from the conflict- or poverty-affected areas of the country, has contributed to a high rate of unorganized urbanization in and around the larger cities.

Moreover, despite its massive agricultural potential, Sudan struggles to meet its own staple food needs and has seen its natural resources significantly affected by climate change, deforestation, soil desiccation and diminishing soil fertility and water tables.

Finally, Sudan’s rich endowment of natural resources, including natural gas, gold, silver, chromite, manganese, gypsum, mica, zinc, iron, lead, uranium, copper, kaolin, cobalt, granite, nickel, tin, and aluminum offer significant economic potential. However, these resources have yet to be fully realized.

Sudan is a northeastern African state that is surrounded by South Sudan, Libya, Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Red Sea. It is the third-largest African nation by land area and the newest country in the world. Some of the primary natural resources which contribute to Sudan’s GDP (gross domestic product) include:


Extensive petroleum exploration in Sudan started in the mid-1970s, and this resulted in the discoveries of oil in the Upper Nile region. Sudan began exporting oil in October 2000, and currently petroleum export is one of their important industries which accounts for up to 80% of their total exports. The primary Sudanese oil importers include India, Indonesia, South Korea, China, and Japan.


Sudanese gold is found in three geological formations: quartz-vein, Parenthesis Gossan, and Alluvial gold formation. The alluvial gold formation is mined along the River Nile and its branches while the quartz-vein formation is in the Blue Nile region, Obaidiya, and North Kurdufan. The Parentheses Gossan formation is mined in Eriab area which is situated on the eastern parts of mount Nuba. Gold production increased by over 1,200% from 7 tons in 2008 to over 90 tons in 2017. Hassai gold mine is the only Sudanese mine which produces over 90,000oz/year. Hassai gold mine also produces Iron ore and base metals.

Nile River

The Nile River is the longest river on Earth and a main north-flowing river in the northeastern parts of Africa. It is an international river whose drainage basin includes 11 nations. The northern part of the Nile flows through the Sudanese desert to the Large Delta. It is one of the dominant features in Sudan which stretches for about 4,130miles from Uganda to Egypt. A considerable percentage of Sudan is within River Nile’s catchment basin. The White Nile (originating from the Central African lakes) and the Blue Nile (originating from Lake Tana, Ethiopia) merge in Khartoum to create the river Nile. The Nile is the primary source of water in Sudan. Other tributaries of river Nile which flow through Sudan include Atbarah, Sobat, and Bahr el Ghazal rivers.

Chromium Ore

The estimated crude Chromium ore deposit in Sudan is about one million tons. Chromium deposits are found in the Red Sea Mountain region in the northeastern parts of the country, Nuba Mountains, and Inqasna Mountains. Chromite is mined at the Ingessana Hills, which has a reserve of over a million tons. The Ingessana Hills Mines Corporation produces over 10,000 tons of chromite ore annually, and its production doubled in 2014 from 30,870 tons to 61,334 tons.

Iron Ore

The iron ore reserves of Sudan are in Baljarawih and West Darfur (River Nile State), Abu Tolo Mountain (South Kordofan), and in the Red Sea hills. The iron ore reserves found in Wadi Halfa region and Baljrawih area are estimated to be over 2 billion tons.

Other Natural Resources In Sudan

Sudan has abundant natural resources, and this has boosted the country’s mining industry. Sudan is one of the African states which produces Manganese. Some of its significant manganese reserves are situated in the Albeodh desert and the Red Sea Mountains. Uranium and numerous other rare elements are mined in Butana, Red Sea, West and South Kordofan, and Darfur pit copper. Kaoline is found in the southern parts of the Nile River State and some parts of Khartoum. Gypsum reserve was identified in Mount Sagomhas and the Beraat area while graphite is in the Blue Nile. The asbestos fibers reserves at Gouge Zone-Bees reserve have been estimated to be over 53,500 million tons, but some have been mined already. The Asbestos ore in Iqasna was estimated to be over 6,650 million tons.


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