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Sudan: Banks Seek Global Connections

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Sudanese banks are taking steps to re-establish relationships with foreign financial institutions after the US removed Khartoum from its list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

The process may be slow, experts say.

Restoring international banking relations would give vital support to the economy still in crisis after more than 18 months of political transition since the ouster of former president Omar al-Bashir.

Sudanese banks had been banned from correspondent relationships involving dollars, and have had difficulty dealing in other major currencies for nearly 20 years.

Importers rely on brokers, with high charges, mainly in Dubai, to obtain foreign currency, incurring an additional cost to local consumers and exacerbating inflation. Sudan’s inflation has exceeded 260 per cent by last month.

Large foreign banks began to withdraw gradually from 2000, as the US cracked down on dealings with Khartoum.

The US formally lifted economic sanctions on Sudan in 2017, but continued to classify it as a state sponsor of terrorism, partly due to its suppression of the rebellion in Darfur and the hosting of then Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the 90s.

Now foreign banks can re-establish banking relationships, and are only concerned that they may be subject to secondary sanctions in place against individuals with links to the Darfur war.

Sudanese economist Abu Al-Gasim Ibrahim told The EastAfrican that stopping banking transactions with Sudan was a major obstacle to the private sector. He said small banks in Sudan lost clients because they could not afford the hefty broker charges.

Mohamed El-Mahy, a banker Khartoum said, “Restoring international banking relations will certainly be of very great value in terms of reducing costs as well as time to conduct transactions.”

He said that the first steps of Sudanese banks would be to communicate with former correspondent banks in Europe and the US.

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