Ex-World Bank official tapped to fix Sudan’s ravaged economy

Fixing economy of Africa’s third-largest country will be a major challenge for Abdalla Hamdok’s government.

Sudan transitional government announcement
Ibrahim Elbadawi has spent at least two decades at the World Bank [Ebrahim Hamid/AFP]

A former World Bank economist was named Sudan’s finance minister, as a transitional government begins its task of rebuilding the country after decades of mismanagement under ousted President Omar al-Bashir.

Ibrahim Elbadawi, who’s worked at the Washington-based lender for at least two decades, was among ministers named Thursday by Sudan’s new premier, Abdalla Hamdok.

The country will also have its first-ever female foreign minister, Asma Abdullah, as part of the three-year administration meant to divide powers between pro-democracy activists and the military that overthrew Bashir in April after months of deadly protests.

Fixing the economy of Africa’s third-largest country, ravaged by corruption, sanctions and one-man rule, will be a major challenge for Hamdok’s government.

It’s inheriting a battered banking sector, annual inflation at over 40% and shortages of everything from fuel to flour and banknotes – a situation that in December sparked the unrest that eventually unseated Bashir.

Hamdok, a former United Nations economist, told Reuters last month that Sudan will need as much as $10 billion in aid to cover its import bills and stabilize the currency.

His government is lobbying the U.S. to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, where it was placed in 1993 after becoming a haven for a time for extremists including Osama bin Laden.

Sanctions lifted

Officials have said the continued designation meant that the lifting of two-decades-old U.S. sanctions in 2017 brought scarce economic benefits for the country already crippled by the loss of three-quarters of its oil reserves on South Sudan’s secession in 2011.

The International Monetary Fund projects the economy will contract 2.3% this year.

A Sudanese court on Saturday accepted corruption charges against Bashir, who’s accused of laundering millions of dollars in foreign currencies.

Bashir told the court he’d received $25 million through his office manager from Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman, and the money was used for donations, including for a military hospital and university. The Saudi government’s Center for International Communication didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment.

Elbadawi first worked for the World Bank 1989, returning in 1999 as the lead economist for a research group on development, according to a copy of his resume posted on the website of the Egypt-based Economic Research Forum. Foreign Minister Abdullah is a former diplomat.

Hamdok also named Adel Ibrahim as energy minister and Al-Turaifi Idris as interior minister.

Source: Bloomberg