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Banking for beginners in South Sudan

Independent for just under two years, South Sudan still suffers from pervasive insecurity. Commercial banks have sprung up in the capital, selling themselves as a safe place for people to keep their money. But how are they making bumper profits when they are often little more than a place for deposits?

South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir receives new South Sudan pounds in 2011 at the Central Bank of South Sudan in Juba
South Sudan’s president Salva Kiir receives new South Sudan pounds in 2011 at the Central Bank of South Sudan in Juba 

Ivory Bank was the first ever South Sudanese bank. Established in 1994 in Khartoum, it was restricted to providing Islamic banking products under the regulations in force in the then undivided republic of Sudan. "The bank’s main aim was to serve and help the under-represented people of South Sudan that were essentially trapped in the north," says Bruna Siricio Iro, deputy managing director of Ivory Bank. "There was nowhere else for us to bank." Eleven years later, once the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) had been signed, Ivory Bank was instructed by the government of South Sudan, the majority stakeholder, to relocate its headquarters to Juba in the south and transform itself into a conventional bank.

"We didn’t have a real base for some time once the CPA was signed, even once we gained independence in July 2011," says Iro.

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