7- Doing business
Sudan has fragile and primitive energy, transport and communications infrastructures which have been in steep overall decline since the 1970s. The efficiency and activity of, for example, Sudan Railways - once the largest in Africa - has fallen to about one-tenth of what it was in the 1960s and early 1970s. Electricity cuts are so widespread that Dongola, capital of Northern province, has electricity for some two hours per week, and even Khartoum only gets electricity 70% of the time.
 Skills shortages

Millions of Sudanese, including most of its skilled technical workers, are outside the country. Some have left in search of better-paid employment, others because of political differences with the government. A failing education system means that there are difficulties recruiting local staff above minimum standards.

The Kenana sugar project - the world's largest - was conceived and executed as self-sufficient, with foreign management and the construction of schools, clinics, roads and power stations. Nonetheless, it encountered numerous costly unforeseen delays and took far longer than anticipated to generate revenue. Problems continue: in 1998 it dismissed all its Sudanese engineers after they went on strike.

Even a project as hermetic as Kenana employs some local staff, if only as drivers and cleaners, so interface with Sudanese political and social conditions can never entirely be avoided - although in the 1970s China did built Khartoum's Friendship Hall from start to finish, importing labourers who worked around the clock.

 Skeletons Of White Elephants

Sudan is littered with the relics of grand projects from the 1970s that became white elephants: factories for fertiliser, sugar and textiles that failed for lack of adequate infrastructure or sensible initial planning. When foreign hard currency is on offer, decision-making is prone to become distorted. A project's technical merits take second place to a combination of wishful thinking and "keeping the customer satisfied" with unfulfillable promises. When power-brokers such as politicians become involved, the aim is usually to secure as big a slice of the profit as possible for their particular supporters. Concrete realities are a secondary consideration.

"Gigantic cost overruns are legendary in Sudan" (Africa Confidential)

An added complication today is the religious factor: disagreements over technical feasibility can be regarded by loyalists of the ruling National Islamic Front as holy arguments - with security implications.

8 - Chevron and Nimeiri