Mohammed left Sudan for Egypt with his wife and two daughters a couple of years ago for work. The 40-year old is not optimistic about the situation in Sudan. “I do not think things will change soon. My dream is to find a good job in some nearby [Gulf] country like Saudi Arabia or Qatar [where] I would be able to provide for my family from one salary,” he said.
The country’s ailing economy has suffered from 20 years of US sanctions, from losing three quarters of its oil revenue to South Sudan when the latter seceded in 2011, and from the failed policies of President Omar al-Bashir.
Since Washington removed the economic sanctions in October, the Sudanese pound has plunged against the dollar. In January, inflation in Sudan jumped to more than 52 percent from 32.15 percent in December.
The average wage in Sudan is $200 a month. The cost of other basic daily products has also hiked in the last few months.
Saleh, a medical engineer who works in one of Khartoum’s main hospitals, explained how the country has lost many of its most skilled professionals to other countries.
“Many of my colleagues are good doctors. Sudan was well known for the highly educated medical staff. Most of those are working in Egypt now, but also in rich countries like Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states.”
Yet for some, the capital Khartoum is an escape from a worse fate. Youssef, a Christian who used to live in the south of Sudan before moving to Khartoum recently, said he and his family were happy living in the capital.
“We feel good here. There are not any problems with our neighbours. People here are good, my wife and kids are also here and we feel safe.”
South Sudan has been ravaged by civil war since 2013. Many have fled to the north to escape the conflict. More than a third of the population of 12 million have been displaced by the war, which has left tens of thousands of people dead.
Youssef, who is a day labourer without a permanent job, said he had no intention of returning to the south. He currently makes an average of $9 a day, which is higher than the usual daily rate of $5 a day in other parts of the country.
“I want to live here. Khartoum is a better place and I have more chance to find a job. I am not planning to go back there.”
*Names have been changed for security reasons.
Joe Gill and Jerzy Wierzbicki