Sudan - Country Commercial Guide
Distribution and Sales Channels

Discusses distribution network from how products enter to final destination, including reliability of distribution systems, distribution centers, ports, etc.

Last published date: 2021-02-13

Overview

Sudan’s distribution system is heavily reliant on overland truck transportation.  Sudan has a widespread national road network which connects the different states of Sudan.  This road network’s total length is approximately 30,000 kilometers, of which only 20 percent is paved.  A 2017 University of Khartoum study rated 43 percent of the paved roads in good condition, 33 percent in fair condition, and 24 percent in poor condition. 

Sudan has 4,725 kilometers of narrow gauge, single-track railways that serve the northern and central portions of the country.  The main line runs from Wadi Halfa on the Egyptian border to Khartoum and southwest to El-Obeid via Sannara and Kosti, with extensions to Nyala in southern Darfur and Waw in Western Bahr al Ghazal.  Other lines connect Atbarah and Sannar with Port Sudan, and Sannar with Ad Damazin.  A 1,400-kilometer line serves the al Gezira cotton-growing region.  Service on some lines may be interrupted during the rainy season.

Port Sudan is the primary entry and exit point for foreign trade.  The port handles all types of cargo, including break bulk, dry bulk, liquid bulk, and containers.  Port Sudan contains an international airport and is connected to Khartoum by a paved roadway.  The 1,600-kilometer Greater Nile Oil Pipeline connects Port Sudan with the oil fields of South Sudan.

Sudan has 27 airports, with its largest international airports in Khartoum and Port Sudan.

Using an Agent or Distributor

It is advisable to obtain a local partner to advise on local market conditions and to assist in navigating the Sudanese governmental bureaucracy.  The World Bank publishes a useful guide outlining the steps needed to open a business in Sudan:

https://www.doingbusiness.org/content/dam/doingBusiness/country/s/sudan/SDN.pdf

Establishing an Office

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Sudan has put in place a relatively open investment legislative framework and many laws are in line with good practices.  However, their implementation is often impeded by the absence of secondary legislation, insufficient institutional capacity, and lack of coordination between different levels of government.  Sudan’s investment authority lists the process by which businesses must register to operate in Sudan at:

 http://www.sudaninvest.org/English/Default.htm

The website outlines procedures for companies that seek to invest, including forming and ending relationships and license applications.  There is no online business registration process.  According to the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business 2020 Report, starting a new business in Sudan takes 34 days.  A foreign company seeking to start a business must:

  • Apply for registration with the Commercial Registrar and reserve a company name
  • Notarize the memorandum and articles of association
  • Notify the taxation chambers
  • Register with the Commercial Registrar
  • Apply for a tax identification number with the taxation chambers
  • Register for VAT with the taxation chambers
  • Register with the labor authorities
  • Enroll employees in social security with the Social Insurance Fund
  • Obtain a company seal from the Sudan Currency Printing Press Company

Sudan’s Investment Law (National Investment Encouragement Act, 1999, Amended (2013)) sets the standards for business conduct and obligations.  The law and its executive rules are applied to both Sudanese and foreign investors.  The investment authority maintains oversight for “responsible business conduct” and provides information on regulations, services, and the various departments to which the investor could contact on its website:

http://www.sudaninvest.org/English/About-Ministry.htm.

The investment authority also developed a “one-stop shop” for information on land, customs, taxes, commercial registration, and agriculture, among others. 

Franchising

Franchising opportunities are available in Sudan.  In 2017, Wayback Burgers opened its first restaurant in Sudan, followed by KFC and Pizza Hut in 2018.  Branded U.S. companies have started exploring franchise operations in Sudan.   

Competition was fierce for the Pizza Hut/KFC rights, with five large Sudanese companies involved in the bidding.  Participants in the bidding acknowledged that a successful bidder required significant resources in order to maintain an efficient supply chain capable of importing quality, refrigerated, and fresh food products.  The local franchisee, who also is the local Pepsi distributor, noted that obtaining sufficient U.S. dollars to pay for imports is an existing operational challenge.

The local Pizza Hut/KFC franchisee noted that it would open restaurants only in the Khartoum region, noting that accessible commercial centers such as Wadi Medani or Port Sudan would not be profitable.

Direct Marketing

Sudan’s communication system is aging, with limited internet, telecommunications, and mail service throughout the country.  Road networks in most of rural Sudan are primitive.  Direct marketing would be very challenging in Sudan. 

Joint Ventures/Licensing

U.S. Legal Requirements

Pursuant to Executive Order 13761, section 908(a)(1) of the Trade Sanctions Reform Act (TSRA) (22 U.S.C. 7297(a)(1)) has been waived with respect to Sudan.  That waiver removed restrictions on export assistance that limited U.S. Embassy Khartoum’s ability to provide the kind of support that the Embassy and the Foreign Commercial Service typically provided, including: business matchmaking services, market research on specific products or services, export advocacy, and provision of information concerning business opportunities.  See, e.g., 15 U.S.C. 4721.  American investors interested in understanding more about the 2017 lifting of U.S. sanctions on Sudan are encouraged to visit the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s website

Sudan Legal Requirements

Despite the legal protections guaranteed under Sudan’s National Investment Encouragement Act of 2013, there are foreign investment restrictions in the transportation sector, specifically in railway, freight transportation, inland waterways barge service, and airport operations.  Most telecommunications and media, including television broadcasting and newspaper publishing, are closed to foreign capital participation.  Foreign ownership is also restricted in the electrical power generation and financial services sectors.  In addition to those overt statutory ownership restrictions, a comparatively large number of sectors are dominated by government monopolies, including those mentioned above.  Such monopolies, together with a high perceived difficulty of obtaining required operating licenses, make it more difficult for foreign companies to invest.  The CLTG is reviewing these regulations, signaling a desire toward commercial legal reform to better attract foreign direct investment.  Several cabinet ministers have expressed an openness to Public-Private Partnership (PPP), build-operate-transfer (BOT), and build-operate-own-transfer (BOOT) arrangements.   

Sudan’s investment authority lists the process by which businesses much register to operate at:

http://www.sudaninvest.org/English/Default.htm

The website outlines procedures for companies that wish to invest, including forming and ending relationships and license applications.  There is not an online business registration process. 

Sudan has not undergone any third-party investment policy reviews (IPR) through the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), or the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in the last five years.  UNCTAD’s last IPR of Sudan was in 2015.  The last International Monetary Fund (IMF) Article IV Executive Board Consultation was on February 21, 2020.  The IMF concluded that regime change “created a window of opportunity for fundamental reforms to address major macro imbalances and lay the groundwork for inclusive growth.”  The IMF noted there exists broad agreement between the government and the IMF about Sudan’s reform priorities but found “the authorities have yet to put together a fully coherent and viable plan that enjoys broad public support and can plausibly attract adequate donor financing.”  In September 2020, the IMF approved a Staff Monitored Program (SMP) for Sudan.  The 12-month SMP will support the government’s reform efforts aimed at stabilizing the economy, improving competiveness, and strengthening governance.     

Sudan has a formal private sector, led by several business associations, one of which (U.S.-Sudan Business Council) is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  These business groups are dominated by several large, often family-owned industrial, agricultural, and consumer product conglomerates.  U.S. companies often develop joint partnerships and licensing agreements with these groups, whose experience with the regulatory regime and local market knowledge prove beneficial.

Many Sudanese corporate leaders studied in the United States and Europe and are fluent in English.

Express Delivery

Express delivery companies provide service to Sudan.  DHL, TG Express, and Parcel Force are among the companies that ship to Sudan.  DHL standard delivery from the United States to Khartoum takes three to four days, with longer times for more remote regions of the country.  Persons seeking to ship to Sudan should visit the selected courier’s website for information on relevant customs procedures, including de-minimis amounts.

Due Diligence

Companies should perform appropriate due diligence on their business partners and agents.  The Department of Commerce’s International Company Profile (ICP) service is a background check on the reliability of potential trading partners.  Along with a recommendation from on-site Commerce personnel, an ICP report includes the following information on a prospective client: principal owners, year established, size, sales, financial information, trade references, general reputation, type of organization and territory covered and a personal visit by an officer in order to give a professional opinion on the company.

A U.S. exporter can obtain this information, as well as detailed answers to specific questions about the prospective partner, in a confidential report.  In addition, commercial officers at the U.S. Embassy will provide a recommendation on the suitability of the profiled company as a business partner.

For more information on the ICP, please visit:

www.trade.gov